All it takes is one click to convene and collaborate. Thanks to technology and pandemic-induced changes to doing business, virtual events allow you to expand upon and engage your audience in new and innovative ways. While this helps to boost attendance since events aren’t geographically based, planning a virtual event requires more preparation and planning than in-person events. Here are some helpful tips and best practices to make your virtual event a success.
Create an online registration page to start engagement.
While online registration is similar to that of an in-person event, the attendees will be showing up on each other’s screens rather than meeting in one location. Attendees will no longer be collecting their name tags upon entry, so how do you ensure their registration gets them excited to show up in the future? Conversion requires creativity!
By including additional questions during registration, you can give attendees a glimpse into the subject matter and discussions they can anticipate. Examples include the ability to submit questions to panelists or share an interesting fact about themselves during registration. These questions not only get attendees engaged and excited, they also help the panelists prepare responses to questions that the audience is already interested in having answered. As a bonus, registration can be followed up with an informational video, reading or graphic to inform guests about the event theme that will be discussed.
Share the virtual event with employees, partners, friends, and of course, on social media. Promoting the event digitally provides multiple opportunities to reach a larger audience and amplify brand awareness, including:
- Online event calendars and newsletters help spread the word and advertise the event to a larger audience.
- Social media influencers can be asked to help promote the event to their followers.
- Influential speakers at the event can share their participation with their social networks and across different channels.
- Make the event banner your social media header or pin a post to the top of your social feed.
- Giveaways can be tied to registration, hashtag usage, or event participation.. There is an added challenge of delivering a giveaway from a virtual event, but prepaid gift cards or online subscriptions can be digitally transferred. Or you can get their mailing address and put together a swag bag to send out.
Denterlein’s Quick Tip: Everyone receives a copious amount of emails, and you don’t want your event promotion adding to someone’s overflowing inbox. Be mindful when sending event reminder emails – we suggest sending a reminder one week before the event, and another one the day before the event.
During the Event
Get creative with your welcome speech
Similar to how in-person events are kicked-off by a host or MC, welcoming remarks at the beginning of an online event helps start the event and also gets the formalities of introductions, sponsorship mentions, and event expectations out of the way. With the event being online, there is an opportunity to record the welcome speech and have it come from an influential member of the organization or industry. Online services like Cameo can even allow for a celebrity appearance.
Breakout Sessions for networking opportunities
Some of the best parts of in-person events are the networking opportunities. The ability to approach someone interesting or exchange information with an industry peer is difficult to replicate in the online realm. However, virtual platforms such as Zoom allow for breakout rooms – smaller subsections of the online platform where mini groups can converse, ask questions, and exchange information separate from that larger presentation. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a volunteer guide the conversations in the smaller groups to prevent awkwardness or flat conversations, or the event host can submit a discussion question into the breakout rooms. At the end of the event, you can inform the attendees who they were grouped with so they can connect in the future or on social media.
Polls & Surveys
To break up the monotony of listening to a virtual panel or keynote speaker, provide regular audience polls or surveys to keep your attendees engaged and interacted during your event. Similar to questions provided during registration, live polls can help you gauge the sentiment of audience members and help support upcoming data or information that will be shared in the presentation. At the end of the event, an exit survey as everyone prepares to sign-off can gather feedback on the event to make the next one better.
Denterlein’s Quick Tip: Some people like to include a survey in a post-email follow-up, but data shows more people are likely to provide in-the-moment feedback at the tail end of an event.
Provide a recording of your event to those that registered
Just because someone didn’t attend the event doesn’t mean they weren’t interested in the subject. By providing everyone who registered with a recording, you can deliver the content that some may have missed. This motivates people to register for future events and encourages them to attend virtually. You also provide a resource for people who enjoyed the initial presentation and might want to watch again for soundbites or information they found vital. If the presentation also included a slideshow or PowerPoint, provide those materials as well.
Use the follow-up for future engagement
When thanking your attendees for their participation in your event, make sure to include an ask for them to continue engaging with your organization. By providing social media links, website resources, or asking people to sign-up for your newsletter, your organization’s network will grow, and you have a better chance of adding to the attendance of future events.
As digital events continue to be a driving force in this era there will be more innovation and best practices to serve as inspiration. We know 2020 hasn’t turned out how anyone expected, but there is still time to make virtual connections and share information with peers. We hope some of these ideas will help you deliver successful virtual events and experiences in the future.
By Alex Boonstra and Merina Zeller