How to plan a virtual event
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted travel plans and put events on indefinite hold. For the first time in living memory, people across the globe are dealing with the same issue. Trips and events that once brought people together are not possible under the current circumstances.
When things get difficult, people adapt. Businesses are just beginning to understand the power of virtual events. With the right planning and strategy, you can create an event that facilitates your goals and brings people together – from a distance.
What type of virtual events are there?
Though a virtual meeting is not a 1-to-1 substitute for an in-person gathering, it’s possible to convert a planned live event into a successful digital event. That could be a networking opportunity or a meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibition (MICE) event. In addition, if you’re planning a virtual event from the ground up, you have many options for achieving your desired results.
Common examples of virtual gatherings include:
- Webinars, in which thought leaders and subject matter experts speak about specific business topics.
- Q&A sessions that allow attendees to connect in real-time with industry leaders.
- Product demonstrations where attendees get a closer look at upcoming products and services.
- Performances such as concerts or art exhibitions that offer attendees a communal experience from afar.
How to plan a virtual event
As with an in-person event, it’s best practice to work with an experienced event planner who understands how to keep attendees engaged. For example, event experts at local destination management companies (DMCs) have the knowledge and service provider relationships to facilitate a successful virtual event.
No matter what format your event takes, follow these steps to create an engaging virtual gathering:
Develop goals and objectives for the event
You’ll need to define what a successful event means to you and your target audience. What do you hope to accomplish? What will event attendees expect to gain?
Your unique objectives will serve as a compass that guides the direction of your event. For example, if your main goal is to gain qualified sales leads, you might consider building a webinar that shows attendees how to use a critical product feature. If your objective is to build hype before a product launch, you might want to invite a popular artist to perform on your live stream.
Measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) will enable you to develop the appropriate event strategy for your goals. For example, if you plan to stream your event on Instagram live, you’ll be able to measure how many new followers your account gains.
Consider measuring event KPIs such as:
- Number of event registrations
- Invite open rates
- Social media engagement
- Attendee satisfaction rating
- Qualified sales leads
Communicate with event attendees
It’s essential to engage attendees before, during and after the event. Increasing engagement at each stage furthers your objectives.
- Before the event: Send out invitations, calendar invites, social media reminders and agendas to build attendee anticipation.
- During the event: Designate time for participants to ask questions, answer polls and chat with other attendees. Augmented reality and virtual reality technologies can enable more immersive experiences.
- After the event: Follow up with satisfaction surveys, links to promotional offers and invitations to follow your social media pages for further updates.
Create a theme for the event
A theme serves several important purposes for a virtual event. A theme can make the digital gathering more fun and memorable. It can also serve as inspiration for activities. This is especially useful when moving an in-person event to a digital space.
A DMC could help you acquire props from local vendors that can make your event more authentic. For instance, if you were planning to host a Hawaiian luau on the beach, a local DMC like MC&A could help you send authentic Hawaiian treats to your guests prior to meeting with them online. This can add a tactile experience to an event that is primary digital, making it more memorable.
Plan for logistical considerations
Whether your digital event is for a small group of qualified leads or you’re anticipating thousands of people to join the fun, there are some common event production considerations to take into account. As you prepare for your event, ask yourself these questions:
- What type of technology will need to host the event?
- What strategies will you use to encourage attendee participation?
- How will you structure the event schedule to keep people engaged?
- How will you measure the success of your event?
Hosting a digital event requires just as much hard work as pulling off an incredible in-person event. Give your team plenty of time to prepare and acquire the resources necessary to be successful.
A DMC can help
Local DMCs have years of experience planning and implementing engaging events. Whether you’re hosting a digital event in a destination country or you need help planning an event budget, DMCs have the tools, people and knowledge to help.
To learn more, connect with an experienced local DMC today.