Updated: May 27, 2020
Shifting to virtual events is the obvious transition in the midst of the Coronavirus and thanks to modern technology there is no shortage of tools available to execute.
But, it goes beyond just throwing together a bunch of webinars and expecting to have a successful virtual event. You want it to be profitable for you, and engaging for your attendees.
These 10 tips will set you up with the high level knowledge of the key components that go into a successful, profitable and engaging event.
1. CONTENT IS NOT ENOUGH - YOU NEED CONTEXT
Content is the material you are presenting. Context is how you position your content with a storyline and purpose that will provide value to your audience.
There is no shortage of speakers looking for virtual stages and its not too difficult to round them up, schedule webinars over a couple of days and call it a conference. However, you need to actually curate the collective experience for your audience to deliver real value and impact.
This is where your overarching theme comes into play. It is important to highlight the connections between all of the sessions. This will encourage your audience to participate throughout the entire event, rather than just logging in for the specific speaker that attracted them to your event in the first place.
You can easily achieve this with brief opening and closing segments each day. Kick-off your event by highlighting one of the major underlying themes of the conference. Tee up the agenda for the day and comment on how the sessions are all interrelated.
Wrap up the day with an interactive recap segment. Open up the “floor” (chat) for shares. Ask your attendees to review their day. Start with simple questions (or even a poll) to increase engagement. Which speaker impacted you the most? What ah-ha moments did you have? What are some of the ways in which they are going to take action and apply what they learned?
2. NETWORKING & ENGAGEMENT OPPORTUNITIES
In-person events are built for engagement. One of the most common complaints about virtual events is that you do not achieve the same networking interactions that you would in person. Just because attendees can’t shake hands doesn’t mean there isn’t an opportunity to network. With some effort and planning, you can create quality interactions online.
Using virtual chat, live polling and QA features are the most common, and many technologies offer “virtual breakout rooms” and “networking roulette”, but when the sessions are over, so is the engagement. To keep the conversations going, create private Facebook and LinkedIn groups. It’s even better if you do this prior to your event so your attendees have the opportunity to interact with each other, and it will increase your level of engagement during the event. It also serves a dual purpose because both before and after the event, it provides you and your speakers with the opportunity to provide additional value to your audience.
Just because you build it, does not mean they will come. It is important to remind people to participate in chats and discussions. Post easy to answer questions that will encourage engagement. Every email you send to your attendees (both pre and post) should have a link to your group, and maybe even highlight some of the most active discussions to generate interest.
3. SET YOUR SPEAKERS UP FOR SUCCESS
Your speakers are honoring you by speaking at your event. You want to make the process as simple and easy for them as possible. Curating speakers, keeping track of content, schedules and deadlines can easily become a full-time job in and of itself. Before you start pitching, be prepared with a speaker on-boarding plan. Create a plan and write the copy that you will leverage after your speaker agrees, after they submit their basic information, after they
schedule their presentation, and for the days leading up to your event. Setting your speakers up for success requires a marketing plan in and of itself.
For your speakers make it as easy as possible to provide you with all the information you need. ContentSnare is an incredible tool that allows you to collect content and files from your speakers on time. You can even load your pre-written emails into the system and set a reminder schedule that will automatically send notifications based on the actions of your speakers.
4. ATTENDEES ARE COLLABORATORS TOO
Engage your attendees before the conference as collaborators. Consider having a “hot seat” session at your event. Identify which of your speakers has a unique skill that would provide tremendous value to attendees. Perhaps you have a speaker who is a master copywriter, Facebook advertising specialist, or a funnel expert. Allow registrants to submit their content, to be reviewed live at one of the sessions.
You can also offer “collaborative coaching” sessions. This is another live session where an attendee presents a challenge they are facing, and other attendees who have faced a similar challenge can provide advice. These make for great breakout sessions, and if you have a registration survey, you can strategically create breakout rooms that will group attendees with similar businesses or interests all in one space.
5. CONSIDER STRATEGIC SPONSORS & PARTNERSHIPS
Not all virtual events have sponsors, though they offer a great opportunity to expand and generate revenue. Should you decide to have sponsors, make sure you have the time to pitch and deliver on all your promises. Sponsors add a level of complexity to your event and also provides tremendous value. If you decide to have sponsors, identify companies that sell products or services that would provide value to your target audience, and compliment the services that you and your speakers provide.
When you approach sponsorships from the right angle it provides an added benefit to your audience because you are presenting them with something that can help them move towards the goal you’re helping them achieve through your summit.
For the sponsors, virtual events are more cost-effective than in-person events and typically come with a lower sponsorship price point and the added benefit of in-depth tracking and segmentation via virtual venues.
Event technologies such as Hopin, HeySummit, Pathable, and Whova all have virtual event space and the opportunity for your sponsors to display their products and services, chat with attendees and generate high-volume, targeted leads.
6. OFFER AN ALL ACCESS VIP TICKET OPTION
The all-access pass is the primary way that virtual event hosts earn revenue. It provides your attendees with more freedom and lifetime access to the sessions and content from the event, and bonus downloads from your speakers.
Typically the all access pass is offered as an upgrade to the free ticket and is available for a discounted price leading up to the event. Once the event goes live, the price increases.
Offering life-time access to the content is great, but you want to over-deliver. Consider adding items like private sessions, hot seats, free calls, discounts, membership sites and discounts toward future events.
You will always advertise your event as a free event, but use the All-Access pass as an upgrade and promote in your email marketing followup.
7. MAKE CO-MARKETING EASY
Your speakers and sponsors will be your biggest asset in promoting your event. Think of them as an extension of your own marketing team and make it easy for them. Provide them with social media posts, pre-designed images, and even a suggested schedule for posting. You are likely to have a higher engagement and expand your reach if all they have to do is take 30 seconds to copy and paste on their social channels or even pass it off to their virtual assistant. Take it one step further and provide them with email copy to send to their lists.
Virtual events may be new to many of your stakeholders, so plan to practice. You will need to provide training on the technology to ensure your speakers are ready. If your speakers are delivering live, host a rehearsal that simulates the live event as much as possible (same computer, internet connections, etc.). If they are delivering on-demand, run the session while having them log in and answer questions through the chat. Even if you are completely comfortable with the technology, think through every potential interaction that may occur and make sure that everyone involved understands how to handle the technology in real-time.
9. ANTICIPATE STAFFING NEEDS
Just like a live event, a virtual event takes a village. You will need a team in place to handle logistics, content, speakers, sponsors, technology, ticketing, website, marketing, graphics, and the list goes on. A commonly overlooked staffing need is customer support. No matter how prepared you are for the live event you will still receive tons of questions. Chances are there will be questions that you have already answered before, and there will likely be technical support type questions. The questions will come in through live chat, email, Facebook groups, etc. Make sure that you are adequately staffed to respond to these questions immediately. Being prepared with a FAQ page will be helpful for the support team to quickly respond to your audience and reply to messages as they come.
10. STAY TOP OF MIND DURING YOUR EVENT
You have a plan to stay engaged with your audience both before and after the event, and it is just as important to have a plan to stay top of mind during the event. In a live setting, you have the advantage of a “captive” audience. Sure they can skip sessions if they need to, but the fact that they are physically present increases the likelihood that they will participate in most of the experience.
With a virtual conference, this is not typically the case. Even when people pay to attend, “life” gets in the way. Your audience is sitting behind their computer with no shortage of distractions. Additionally, recognizing that they can access the recordings after the session makes the excuse of “I’ll watch it later” far too easy.
You can not combat this issue entirely, though sending out frequent reminders will help. You are already sending out emails leading up to the event, but what about during your event? Consider sending emails and SMS messages with reminders for upcoming sessions, reminders to participate in discussion forums, reminders for prizes, awards, and any other experiential components you are offering during your event.
These are the high level basics. If you are stuck wondering where to start, what to do next, or are in the midst of planning, and spending hours creating all of the email, website, social, speaker and sponsor copy and want a shortcut, then check out the DONE-FOR-YOU VIRTUAL EVENT TOOLKIT.
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