A Virtual Event Planning Guide for Dummies tips and tricks

Updated Dec 6th, 2023 by   Nicolas Zenker

Whether we like it or not, virtual events are here to stay. In fact, polls are showing that the virtual event revolution has only just begun — and it’s going to get so much bigger over the next few years. There are a lot of reasons this might be the case: hosting an online event is the most cost-effective, inclusive, and environmentally friendly option organizations have available to them these days. 

So instead of fighting the inevitable, let’s spend that time and energy getting you up to speed on everything you need to know to get it right when hosting one of these eRendezvous. 

Now, let’s try to get our arms around accomplishing the perfect virtual event — by starting at the very top.

Everything You Need to Know to Plan Your Virtual Event 

It always starts with setting a goal, doesn’t it? After all, there’s got to be an actual reason you’re putting the time and effort into hosting a virtual event. 

Goal Setting for Online Events

If you’re not quite sure how to develop both tangible and intangible goals, start by asking your team these questions:

  • Who do we hope will attend this event?
  • Why would they feel compelled to join?
  • What experience or takeaways do I want my attendees to have?
  • What’s the primary objective of this event? Leads? Brand awareness? Thought leadership?
  • What would a successful event look like quantitatively?

We’d recommend getting granular with some of those numbers so you can really measure your success post-event and use that information to inform future event strategies. 

Budget Planning for a Virtual Event

Next, you’re going to need to talk about money. Obviously, a virtual event budget is going to be a fraction of what you’d allocate for an in-person event, but it’s still crucial to get those numbers right. 

Things you’ll want in your budget include:

  • Event technology investment — for the event itself and the promo/marketing ahead of time
  • Content development for event page setup, speaker bios, social content, etc.
  • Other event marketing and management fees that may pop up 
  • Speaker fees & presenter kits
  • Attendee gifts
  • A/V tech support for day-of
  • Post-event follow-up efforts

Keep in mind, if you have in-house resources for this, it’s not just budgeting financials, but also budgeting hours from your team. Once you’ve solidified your budget, it’s time to see what you can do with it!

Answering the “Where” & “When” for the Event

Well, we already know this event will take place on the World Wide Web, but where exactly?

You’ve got a plethora of options for hosting.

And so, so, so many more. Find one that fits your budget and meets your needs for potential attendee count, breakout sessions, etc. 

Next, let’s set a date and time. Is this going to be a multi-day event or just a single time? Airmeet conducted a survey that found the best time for hosting virtual events is between 1:00 PM and 3:30 PM on Mondays and Fridays— although the average virtual event attendance rate is higher when the event starts earlier, engagement is much lower. 

How long will the event run? How are you going to address time zone differences to accommodate a wider audience? Lots of factors to carefully consider. 

Choose a Method & Stick With It

Just because you’re hosting an online event, it doesn’t mean there’s only one way of executing it. There are still a few extra options to iron out. 

For one, are you going to offer pre-recorded sessions or conduct the event in real-time? If you opt to roll with a live, virtual event, have you considered recording it to offer attendees after the fact? That Airmeet survey also found that 68% of attendees rewatched content from the virtual events they’d attended. Not only does this give your audience something to leave with and reference, but you can offer it to guests who RSVP’d but were unable to attend, driving engagement long after the event.

Proactively Address the Elephant in the Room: Engagement

67.7% of marketers agree that it’s hard to keep virtual event attendees engaged but don’t let that scare you. 

There are plenty of engagement techniques you can try out, and over time you’ll find that some work better than others for your specific audience. 

Q&A sessions and moderated panel discussions continue to be the most effective form of virtual event engagement — this enables your audience to ask their questions at the moment and tailor the topic around what interests them the most. 

Another easy option is requesting participants to leave their videos on during the events, especially if there are breakout sessions or other smaller group activities planned. 90% of participants say video helps to make things more engaging all around. 

Another thing to think about is the ways your team can help attendees to avoid Zoom fatigue. Thanks to the rise in remote work and online gatherings, there’s a new feeling of exhaustion (that’s scientifically backed by studies) directly linked to videoconferencing, nicknamed “Zoom fatigue”. Try to be mindful of this and keep sessions short, sweet, and interesting for your participants. There’s nothing worse than leaving an event and feeling like you’ve totally wasted your precious time!

Time to Attract Some Attendees

Next up on your list is building a marketing strategy around promoting your event to fill those virtual seats when the day arrives. 

Is your event comprehensive enough to need its own website, or will a landing page do the trick? Check out this handy article we wrote to help you figure out which would work best for your particular event. 

We would be remiss to not mention that AddEvent is a great solution (like, the number one add to calendar service on the internet!) for building out your calendar and events to share with potential participants and collect RSVP information. 

You can insert add to calendar buttons or embeddable calendars and events lists onto your website, incorporate add to calendar links into your email marketing campaigns, and share your event landing page all across social media. And, you can do it for free! Check out AddEvent’s freemium account to try it for yourself. 

Other important marketing materials for you to start working on include:

  • Event agenda
  • Speaker bios
  • Information on sessions
  • Sponsors information

Day of the Event: Don’t Panic!

All of this planning will come to a head on the day of your virtual event. Take a deep breath —  virtual events are just as stressful (if not more!) as in-person events, so don’t feel silly if you’re stressed. 

Hopefully, you’ve been running some test sessions with your speakers, moderators, and panelists in the days and weeks leading up to the event, so everyone knows what to expect. 

→ AddEvent Pro Tip: Have your speakers, moderators, panelists, etc, do test runs in the location they will be on the day of your event. This allows you to test sound quality, lighting, and most importantly, their wifi connection.

Be sure to start sessions early on the day of the event to do some last-minute testing. And above all else, have fun! Yes, things may pop up that you didn’t expect but this is a great learning experience, too. The more relaxed and engaged you are as the host, the more involved your participants will be in response. 

Lean into the Learning Curve

Whether this was your organization’s first virtual event or its fiftieth, there’s so much you can learn from each new experience. 

Always remember to thank your attendees, speakers, panelists, and moderators for dedicating their time. Be prepared with a post-event survey that goes out to attendees fairly quickly, while the event is still top of mind for them. Any leads that you gathered from this event should also be carefully followed up with by the right department, warming them up as they (hopefully) move down the funnel.

You will also want to allocate a good chunk of time in the days after your event to sit down and debrief with your team. Ask everyone to voice what they liked and didn’t like about the entire process and the event itself. Be sure to compare the actuals to your goal metrics to see if the event was effective or where it fell flat. 

Take your findings, and get ready to apply them to the next one because before you know it, it will be time to start planning for the next one!

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