- What is a virtual event and why should you host one?
- Types of virtual events (with examples)
- Top 18 Virtual Event Best Practices
Brands that once relied on in-person conferences have now pivoted to virtual events. In fact, we see 93% of event marketers planning to invest in online experiences going forward. The odds of online events sticking around for the long-term are high, especially now that 90% of people are now wanting to work from home permanently.
Additionally, more businesses are offering employees long-term remote work. This is likely to change how we do business, including networking via online channels.
Whether you’re looking to invest in live or virtual events in 2022 and beyond, you’ll find the following 18 virtual event best practices helpful.
What is a Virtual Event?
A virtual event is a gathering organized by a business or person for the purpose of inviting groups of people to communicate and share ideas, insights, and experiences — but rather in a physical location, the event is held virtually. Virtual events are hosted on web-based platforms that enable thousands of attendees to connect.
This may include technologies for webcams, mic, one-on-one or group chats, Q&A, and polling.
Why Host a Virtual Event?
There are several reasons why hosting a virtual event is a good idea. For example, virtual events are ideal during times when people are unable to physically attend. For instance, maybe there’s a group of people from another country you’d like to invite. By hosting a virtual event, they can do so without wasting time or money on travel.
Benefits of Virtual Events
Aside from the convenience, there are other benefits of hosting a virtual conference:
- Save money on costs (for attendees and organizers)
- Enjoy more flexibility (i.e., switching dates or scaling up for a larger audience at the last minute are no big deal)
- Choose between different types of events (i.e., host a virtual town hall, thought leadership conference, sales kickoff, product demonstration, or another type of interactive event)
- Make connecting easier (everyone’s within reach at the touch of a button—no walking across large compounds or buildings)
- Collect feedback faster (i.e., using real-time polls during the virtual event sessions)
- Measure results better (gathering data about attendees is seamless—from how many people showed up and engaged to who opted in or out of getting a demo or making a purchase)
- Accelerate the B2B sales cycle (building relationships and influencing purchases)
This isn’t an all-conclusive list of the advantages virtual events offer, but it’s enough to get most on board with using them.
5 Types of Virtual Events
The idea of hosting an event online may seem foreign to some, so we put together a list of the main types of virtual events. This should give you an idea of how you can use the web to appeal to your target audience.
- Virtual Conferences and Summits (invite keynote speakers like Seth Godin from across the world)
- Webinars (host a real-time Q&A session with your audience)
- Online exhibitions and trade shows (maximize leads and profits by showing off your products/services)
- Online training and workshops (showcase your knowledge and expertise by offering web-based courses)
- Ask me anything or AMA (invite an expert that your audience gets to interview)
Some of the other forms of virtual events include podcasts, fireside chats, and virtual keynotes.
3 Examples of Virtual Events Hosted By Businesses
What do virtual events actually look like? In 2020, we saw an uptick in the number of businesses hosting virtual conferences. So we put together a list of the most notable online events. Let’s take a look.
1. Salesforce World Tour Event
Salesforce just so happened to be one of the first companies to pivot towards virtual events after COVID. Its online event, called World Tour, was a success. Roughly 80,000 viewers live-streamed the one-day event and a total of 1.2 million watched it across various social media channels. During the AppExchange Demo Jam, participants were able to showcase their apps for three minutes using a real-time demo. Afterward, the audience voted for a winner.
2. Microsoft Build
In 2020, Microsoft hosted a 48-hour event to replace its live event, which was going to be held in Seattle. After the pandemic hit, Microsoft decided to help its audience of developers to connect (especially now that it’s more difficult). The event was a success with more than 200K attendees, who got to see hundreds of sessions on timely topics like (AI, innovation, developer empowerment). Then the event was recorded, so anyone can watch (and rewatch) it anytime.
3. SBC Digital Summit
The SBC Digital Summit chose to go with a more interactive approach with its online event. It was a three-day virtual betting and gaming industry event. This involved using an advanced digital platform that offered many of the same benefits as a physical event.
When the attendees arrived in the virtual lobby area, they were given access to various rooms. In the Exhibition Hall, attendees could visit different booths, talk to exhibitors, and look at products. A Conference Auditorium was also available, where guests could listen to panel speakers and presentations. Then everyone could engage with one another in private or as groups inside of the Networking Lounge.
So if you’re wondering how to make events more interactive, then take a few notes from this event.
Here are the Top 18 Virtual Event Best Practices
Knowing how to manage a virtual event is vital to getting the best ROI. By following these 17 best practices for virtual events, you can ensure you’re doing whatever you can to make your virtual event a success. So let’s dive right in.
1. Test Your Technology in Advance
Make sure to check the technologies you plan to use – not once but several times – before the online event goes live. The last thing you need to happen is for the webcam, microphones, or software to act up. This will leave a bad impression on attendees and hurt the chances of people returning to future online events.
2. Have a Plan or Agenda Prepared
You don’t want to go into your online event without a solid plan in place. It’s critical to have structure for your virtual event so you can keep your guests consistently engaged. You can share the agenda with attendees so they’ll know what’s coming up next after each session. Also, be sure your speakers know when they’ll go live so no one misses their time slot.
3. Perform Lead Generation Early
What good is it to host a virtual event if no one shows up? Lead generation is critical to getting the word out about your online conference. You can use various channels to achieve this, such as social media, press releases, your blog, and email marketing (if you already have a list).
4. Add the Human Touch to Your Digital Event
Are you wondering how to make a virtual event stand out? Then you should try to recreate an in-person experience. Online events are a way to substitute in-person conferences, which you can do by making the gathering less cold and distant. The virtual world comes with all sorts of advantages you can use to make your event personable and unique.
For instance, online events allow guests to engage with one another in group chats. Or they can collaborate in real-time, making your online event more engaging.
5. Don’t Overpack Your Virtual Event with Content
It’s easy to get carried away with including too much content in your online event. After all, you need to ensure the conference feels complete and information-packed. But this can turn into a snore-fest, leading to your guests clicking away from your live feed. So make sure your presentations aren’t too long and that you have a good mix of text, visual content, and engagement. Try some of these fun virtual event engagement activities to spice up your agenda.
6. Select the Right Speakers
The beauty of online events is that you can invite speakers from anywhere in the world. But this doesn’t mean that you should. There is such a thing as the wrong speaker – you know, a speaker that isn’t engaging. To avoid inviting the wrong speakers, you should ensure they’re comfortable with speaking to an online audience. You’ll find some are great in-person, but not so much in front of a camera.
7. Engage Your Audience by Sending Gifts
Company swag, corporate gifts, and other types of presents are great for engaging your audience. Most people like to receive free things, so try to find gifts that’ll resonate with your particular audience. For example, if you’re talking to a bunch of prospects, then swag gear may be ideal. However, if it’ll be a mix of prospects for you and your panelists, then opt for eGift cards for Amazon. Maybe even offer them as prizes for those who engage (i.e., answering questions, providing feedback, joining the chat, etc.).
8. Don’t Forget to Follow Up After
You hosted an online event and everything went smoothly. But this isn’t the end of your virtual event journey. Now’s the time to reach out to your attendees to tell them thank you. One way of doing this is by sending a thank-you gift with a handwritten note, or this secret to successful follow-up.
9. Choose the Right Virtual Meeting Platform
The technology you use for your virtual event is crucial to ensuring everything goes according to plan. Make sure to compare different virtual meeting platforms and read the reviews. Learn what other online event organizers are using successfully.
10. Bring Value, Not Pitches
This is especially essential if you told attendees your live event would have no strings attached. So to follow through on your promise, you should avoid making any pitches. Instead, focus on delivering value by enriching your sessions with expert speakers, interviews, master class series, and other content.
11. Don’t Focus Only On-Demand Generation
Yes, performing lead generation is essential to make your online event a success. But you don’t want to overdo it. Make sure you’re putting just as much time building value for the event as you do marketing it.
12. Facilitate Networking Capabilities
Remember, your online event should be just as much about networking as it is about consuming your content. So on that note, you want to use a platform that’ll enable guests to communicate with one another via webcam or chat.
13. Plan Breaks During the Event
If your online event will be longer than an hour, then having scheduled breaks is ideal. This will give attendees time to use the bathroom, grab a snack, and stretch. Breaks also help to keep your audience engaged. The breaks don’t have to be boring either — use gamification or do a short workout or stretches together.
14. Prepare Attendees for the Event
Don’t assume your event guests are web-tool savvy. Take time to prep attendees to ensure they get the most out of your event. Be sure to show them the tool’s features, such as virtual booths, vendors, rooms, and how to connect with other participants.
15. Use Influencers to Generate Leads
If you want to get the best turnout for your virtual event, then harness the influence of your guest speakers. It’ll be much easier to generate more leads if your guest speakers are known experts in their industry. You can also use affiliate marketers to help spread the word.
16. Use an Email Drip Campaign to Drive Attendees
Some people register for events and then don’t show up. People get sidetracked and forget — it can happen. So to help them remember and prepare, you can use an email drip campaign. The campaign will count down to the day of the event. Make sure to include relevant information to prep them in advance.
17. Get Attendees Involved in the Conversation
Knowing how to engage your audience can help make your online event memorable. One way to do this is to get the attendees to join the conversation. If you have a platform with real-time chat, then ask them questions or whether or not they have questions to ask.
18. Increase Attendance with Virtual Experiences
Whether you host a virtual happy hour or sponsor a cocktail-making class, these activities take advanced planning. During your event registration process, send eGifts to lock in your registrations. Then before your virtual event starts, send them a cocktail-making kit for one of your agenda breaks to spice things up. Watch your virtual engagement go up, while leaving a fun, memorable impression on your attendees. Bonus tip: Use virtual experiences to surpass your virtual event ROI goal by 570% like this Sendoso client.
How to Plan a Virtual Event with Sendoso
Hosting virtual events is a new way of networking with like-minded professionals. Now in a post-2020 era, we expect to see online conferences continue to grow.
This is easier to do when you have tools in place to plan and execute your virtual events. Sendoso is a Sending Platform companies are using to make their online events memorable and engaging. The businesses we’ve partnered with were able to use our platform to increase attendance rates and generate qualified leads.
Here’s how our process works:
- First, we’ll learn about your virtual event goals. Whether it’s increasing your attendance rates or generating qualified leads, we’ve done it all.
- Next, choose from limitless unique gift and sending options designed for your unique virtual event.
- Then, simply click to send from the tools you’re already using well before your event. This increases event registrations and generates excitement.
- Our Send Tracker will show you the progress of your send in every step, so you can time any further pre-event outreach perfectly. and connect with a follow-up perfectly.
- Finally, host your event. Send your attendees lunch with eGifts, send them fun with virtual cocktail-making classes, or leave them with lasting impressions with custom branded gift boxes based on your virtual event theme.
Conduct your follow-up campaigns (hint: we have best practices for these too), and then measure the effectiveness of your offline marketing efforts with our Analytics Dashboard.
Ready to start gifting? Request a demo today to learn more about our custom corporate gifting solutions!
This article was originally published on April 5, 2021. It has been updated for relevance.