Once upon a time, hosting a virtual event would have sounded like science fiction. But here we are, rapidly progressing with virtual event platforms that make that fiction a reality. And since we have the technology, we thought we’d throw in some of favorite virtual event best practices for hosting companies that are just getting started.
The idea of community is just as important today as it was 1000 years ago. Establishing interesting and dynamic spaces for community gatherings creates unparalleled opportunities with virtual events. Because virtual events are a great way to build, develop, and maintain communities, let’s take a deeper dive into virtual event best practices for hosts.
Learn how to host a virtual event by starting with a successful planning phase. From there we’ll share how to run an online event.
What is a Virtual Event?
With online, digital, or virtual events none of the attendees meet in person. The events happen online and allow participants to network, engage, and conduct business from anywhere in the world through various types of platforms. It’s a great way to connect people who otherwise might not be able to meet because of distance or cost.
Phase 1: Virtual Event Best Practices For Planning Your Online Conference or Webinar
These are the first steps to take as you plan a virtual event that you want to host.
1. Decide the Type of Event
The most important decision is choosing exactly what kind of event you’re planning to host. Are you planning a virtual trade expo? A virtual career fair? Is this more of a professional virtual conference? Or a smaller-scale webinar?
There are likely more possibilities than you realize so don’t limit yourself. Look for examples of how others are going virtual to spark your imagination. There are many types of virtual events that can showcase your product or service.
Deciding what kind of event you’ll host will lead you to establish clear objectives, expectations, and timelines for each step you need to accomplish.
2. Establish Your Timeline
Make sure to choose a date and time for the event when the most people in your community will be able to attend. Because attendees can join from anywhere in the world, keep time zones in mind. If you’re hosting a casual mixer, starting first thing Monday morning isn’t ideal. If it’s a formal informational event, then the Friday night after-work crowd may be difficult to include.
Set a date that gives you plenty of time to prepare. If you’re hosting a larger event, you may want several months to set it up. If you’re doing a simpler webinar, you may only need a few weeks.
3. Choose Your Location (Virtual Platform)
When choosing your location, you’ll need to focus on the best way to reach your audience. In this case, that means choosing the right virtual platform. There are many platforms out there. Choose one that fits not only your needs as the host, but also works well for your attendees. Research the many features and pricing options to determine what will provide the most value.
To see how we make it easy for hosts, check out our article on how our event apps have best practices built right in.
4. Bring in the Best Presenters
Whether it’s an informal dinner party or a large professional expo, everyone wants to feel welcome. Make sure that the content creators for the event are diverse. In order to draw as many people as possible, embracing a broad range of voices helps to ensure that many viewpoints and perspectives are offered.
Because you’re working online, you can bring in the best people from all over the world. Transportation and accommodation costs don’t exist so put all of your focus on recruiting superstars to attract attendees to your event.
5. Use Virtual Features To Their Full Potential
With the unique features that virtual events allow, plan to engage with your attendees like never before. Consider your options, such as polls that help group attendees by their interests, breakout sessions, live Q&As, one-on-one video calls, buttons for reactions like clapping, and commenting. All of these can help attendees see that you want them as involved as possible, leading to better engagement. On top of this, you can track all of it to analyze both your audience and the quality of your event.
6. Run a Promotions Plan
If you host it they will come! But only if you let them know about it. Give yourself plenty of time to promote your event. Be ready to send email notices and reminders, and advertise on social media.
A good rule of thumb is to have at least three months of solid promotional time. Giving monthly notices until one month before the event, then switching to weekly notices, and then daily social media posts. Social media is a fast and easy way to promote your event and offers opportunities to see how much buzz you’re creating.
7. Consider a Virtual Event Planner
If the planning phase is beginning to feel overwhelming or you want your event to exceed all expectations, consider bringing in some help. Hire an experienced virtual event planner for your next online event who can assist you in creating a strategic marketing campaign, align backend IT support, and establish a launch and post strategy. It takes many of the variables of event planning off of your plate.
Phase 2: Virtual Event Best Practices For A Smooth Execution on the Day of Your Event
After you’ve completed the planning phase, and your event date approaches, these are the next steps you’ll need to successfully run your online event.
8. Prepare your Support
Prepare and plan for tech trouble. Inevitably something will not work quite as expected. Set up a backup plan to the best of your ability.
Know how and when you can reach tech support and if they can respond to emergencies that pop up, as well as to help you prepare ahead of the event.
If you have presenters that normally rely on PowerPoint, encourage them to also consider having their presentation available on Google Slides. Set aside time to help your presenters prepare, making sure they feel comfortable with the technology.
9. Manage the Quality of the Content
Your audience will thank you for doing everything you can to make the event run smoothly. Manage quality of the content that you present. If there are a few minor glitches, people find it easier to move past them if the quality of the content is high. Great presenters and multiple ways of engagement make it that much more likely you’ll build anticipation for your event and be able to create a demand for attendance.
10. Get Engaged
Don’t worry! No need to put a ring on it. Think about ways for the attendees to engage with each other and the people who are the draw for the event. The more people feel they are able to share of themselves, the more attached they’ll feel to the event. Include icebreakers, games, and breakout sessions, providing a more immersive experience. Use a moderator if you include a Q&A period during your sessions.
11. Make Your Event as Accessible as Possible
Allow attendees to view content on-demand. Upload recordings of your live events as soon as possible. Factor in costs of captioning or sign language translation. Make sure your event is compatible with adaptive devices like screen readers. Make sure your event has computer-based audio listening and speaking as well as phone-based listening and speaking.
12. Highlight Your Sponsors
You’ve got sponsors that are willing to back your event. Make sure to highlight them. Create a branded virtual waiting room. Have sponsored games that give attendees something fun to do while also highlighting the contributions from your sponsors. Send swag. You can send goodies directly to attendees with branded merchandise from your sponsors.
13. Measure Success
Measuring the success of your event tells you which benchmarks to hit next time and gives you something to point to when illustrating your success. Because everything is virtual, you’ll be able to track website traffic, new vs. returning registrants, app downloads, and other types of engagement.
14. Strengthen the Relationship
You want to build relationships within your community before, during, AND after the event. Don’t stop at your promotions plan in the early phase of the plan. Continue the communication with attendees and presenters throughout the event and after it. Ask for their feedback, market other products or services, and get them excited for your next great event.
Get Started Hosting Your Virtual Event Using These Best Practices
Initially the idea of hosting a virtual event might feel a little daunting. However, the opportunity to bring people together, showcase resources, and provide a gathering space where there wasn’t one before will make it all worth it. With these virtual event best practices you can dig in to confidently plan and run your online conferences or webinars.
Now that you’re ready to get started, explore SpotMe’s Introductory Guide to the Future of Conferencing. It’s a great way to learn more about strategies for successful events.
If as a host you’ll also be presenting, or preparing your presenters, SpotMe has some stellar tips: Get Ready to Speak at a Virtual Event. All the fun stuff is there, including tips on lighting equipment, sound, and other behind-the-scenes tricks to take your presentation to the next level.