Launching a virtual event is a great way to bring an in-person event online and grow your business. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, more conferences and meetings are going digital.
If you’re looking to move your event online, it can feel overwhelming. What exactly is a virtual event, and how much value can it provide? How can you transfer an in-person experience online, and what tools do you need to make it happen?
In this article, we’ll walk through tips for creating a virtual event, tools to get you up and running quickly, and pointers for creating memorable digital learning experiences.
What is a virtual event?
A virtual event is an interactive, online event that brings together top experts to deliver content on a topic that solves a problem for your audience.
While webinars, live streams, and online courses fit into this definition, virtual events are differentiated by a few things. They often span multiple days and include a community component.
How a virtual event can benefit you?
If you’re like many event organizers, one of your primary motives for running an in-person event is to generate leads. If your event has been canceled, know that you can also achieve this through virtual events!
Grow your audience and community
If connecting with the community is your main goal in holding an in-person event, you’re in luck—virtual events are also amazing community-builders. Since they lessen barriers for people to attend by decreasing travel expenses and time away from work, virtual events widen the demographic of your potential attendees.
Virtual events are also great at engaging people beyond the conference. By setting up interactive elements, you can create an online community that lives on months and years after the live event.
Lastly, if your goal is to generate revenue with your event, virtual events can help you get there too. While event cancellations certainly incur significant expense, pivoting to a virtual event quickly can recuperate some of those losses. No additional venue reservations, catering, or transportation costs required. With relatively low margins to produce and operate, selling virtual tickets can help you turn a profit quickly.
With these benefits in mind, let’s dive into how to create a virtual event that generates these results!
How to turn your physical event into a virtual event?
1. Set up your virtual event platform
First, you need a digital home that makes it easy to market your event, deliver your content, and communicate with your attendees.
Regardless of your event program, one of the first steps you can take in moving your event online is building an event landing page.
2. Use the live stream to engage your virtual audience
To recreate fireside chats, panel discussions, live Q&A, or hands-on sessions online, use a live-streaming tool to ensure questions from your audience are addressed in real-time.
3. Pre-record high-quality videos
This is a great strategy for shifting multi-track events, keynotes, and in-depth masterclass style sessions online.
Having content pre-recorded allows you to upload and schedule it to be distributed at specific times. This makes your life much easier as an event organizer and ensures your attendees have a high-quality experience learning online.
Pro tip: Even though your content is pre-recorded, you can still create a sense of urgency through your event promotion strategy by limiting the days that participants can access the content. Typically the most successful virtual events use a combination of live-streamed and pre-recorded content.
4. Provide a hosted virtual event experience
Putting a bit of effort into creating a memorable online experience for your attendees can do wonders for their engagement. Here are some tips for bringing an in-person feel to your virtual event.
Film a welcome video
Plan to deliver a welcome video that introduces the event and tells your attendees what to expect. This can really help set the tone for your virtual event and make your audience feel connected. You can pre-record this, or hop on a Livestream to introduce the event in real-time.
Check-in with attendees between sessions
Curate your content experience
As with in-person events, successful online summits present each session as part of a curated theme or storyline for your attendees. If you have a theme for your event, schedule your sessions so that they build on one another.
5. Build the community into your virtual event
If networking and community building are big parts of your event plans, don’t worry—there are many tools available to help you foster community online.
Whether you plan to facilitate curated networking opportunities or create touchpoints to engage with people beyond the event, here are some helpful tools.
Facebook Groups are also powerful tools for creating virtual event communities.
Slack is a great choice if you want to facilitate virtual networking and give attendees the ability to chat one on one.
With Slack you can create channels for different topics or attendee groups, allowing people to choose how to connect based on their interests. Attendees can easily float in and out of the channels, and decide which conversations they want to be a part of.
Slack also makes it easy for attendees to message each other individually and form their own groups, making for a rich digital networking experience.
6. Use resource materials and guides
Providing handouts, worksheets, and branded/sponsored collateral are often part of the typical event flow. How do you carry over those plans when you shift to a digital event experience?
7. Set up and integrate your virtual event tools
As we’ve seen, running an event online will likely require you to use a variety of different tools. From doing marketing and email management to processing payments, and attendee communications, you’ll want to connect the dots between your systems as much as possible.
Here are a few additional tools helpful to virtual event organizers:
- Unbounce – for launching landing pages
- Active Campaign – email marketing & CRM tool
- Google Analytics – for tracking campaign insights like traffic and conversions
- PayPal & Stripe – for ticket payment processing
- EarlyParrot – referral marketing tool for social
Converting your in-person event to a virtual event may seem daunting. But by following these tips, you can get an amazing virtual event running quickly that still provides value to your attendees.
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