How to Host A Virtual Event
As we think about taking our events virtual, it’s tempting to directly plug our in-person event format into a virtual world. But it is not a 1-to-1 match.
The traditional ways we’ve hosted our events in the past need to be edited, and our expectations adjusted to reformat for a remote or partially remote audience. Ultimately, it’s important that we host a virtual meeting that supports our overall event goals, even if that means doing things differently. To gain insight on industry findings and some of the most-requested stats, read more about virtual events by the numbers.
With this in mind, our team of virtual meeting producers have put together a few insights on how to rethink your in-person plan to host a stand-out event for the virtual space. Take a look below.
CHOOSE AN EVENT PLATFORM
Deciding which platform is perfect for your event is dependent on many factors - audience size, price, the type of experience you want attendees to have, and the capabilities necessary to make your event a success. Learn more about choosing a virtual event platform to ensure the best event possible.
Additionally, we've done a full analysis of the pros and cons of the virtual event platforms we've been utilizing over the past year. When deciding on a hybrid or virtual platform, it is important to keep in mind that each platform has a unique pricing structure, some platform elements are additional costs. The platforms that were compared were Pathable, Engagez, Hubb, VFairs, Hopin, and Cadmium. Some highlights include how large of an audience the platform can handle, whether you/your production company or the company handles the platform build, engagement tools, sponsor engagement options, user-friendliness, and overall design.
ASSESS YOUR VIRTUAL EVENT FORMAT
- Keep it short. A typical in-person conference can last multiple consecutive days, with programming from sun up to sun down. This won’t work for a virtual audience. Not only are human attention spans too short to sit at a computer screen for a full day, but remote attendees are also now surrounded by the distractions of home life. Look at it from your attendees’ point of view when crafting your agenda: keep sessions short (we say 30-minutes MAX but try for even less), bake in plenty of breaks, and be respectful of their time. Perhaps break up the event into multiple, short days or just cut content all together. Make it as easy as possible for your audience to attend.
- Rethink the agenda for a wider, global audience. Now that attendees are not faced with travel restrictions and multi-day scheduling conflicts in a digital event environment, we’re seeing remote attendance increase significantly for virtual events. Not only are event organizers seeing a spike in numbers, but they’re also witnessing a wider variety of regions reflected in their audience. Keep this in mind when planning your agenda – you may now need to balance attendees in multiple time zones when creating your schedule. If you’re seeing a large spike in attendees from Asia-Pacific or Europe, ensure that you host additional networking and receptions at times they are able to attend. Also, be sure to think about ways to provide them access to session recordings and content they may have missed while they were sleeping!
CREATE CONTENT FOR YOUR VIRTUAL EVENT
- Create snackable content. As we discussed above, we are now working with a shorter attention span for our remote attendees. We also now need to consider how people tend to consume content digitally when crafting programming. Think about how we get our information these days – likely from social media, news platforms, or quick YouTube videos. Mimic this format to create snackable, attention-grabbing content for your remote attendees. To keep it short and sweet, consider stripping down your sessions to highlight only the “need to know” information that is bite-sized, yet actionable, and provides takeaways for the attendee. Using video is a great, go-to way to create this kind of snackable content! Learn creative ways to incorporate engaging videos into your virtual meeting.
- Make it worth their while. To ensure that your audience will they take the time out of their day to attend, make the content worth their while. Create content that is so applicable, so timely, that an attendee would not want to miss out! Another way to entice live attendance is to create a session that is more of a discussion-format or interactive breakout that requires participation to get the full experience. This way, the attendee gets way more value by participating in-the-moment and prefers to attend live than to watch the on-demand version.
- Pre-record when possible. To help streamline the content delivery and mitigate the tech risks of a live, virtual event, pre-record your content whenever you can. When you pre-record, you’re able to catch any issues and edit them prior to showtime, while also elevating the content with pre-production to create a polished, pre-vetted end result. Adding animated graphics, video elements, and high-quality visuals will engage attendees and enhance the look and feel of the virtual experience. If you still want to incorporate an interactive element, you can play the pre-recorded content and then bring the speaker (perhaps with the same background and outfit) on live for a Q&A discussion. Take a look at how our colleagues at LAI Video work to create polished, highly produced pre-recorded virtual event content.
CONSIDER VIRTUAL PRODUCTION COSTS
- Virtual is still a significant investment. A common misconception we see is that virtual meetings don’t require an investment. While they often are more cost effective than an in-person meeting, they still do require significant budget to create a stand-out experience. Some common costs include the platform itself, the labor involved in building it out, and the virtual meeting production team to make it a one-of-a-kind event. But the investment is worth it, as you will deliver valuable content and unique opportunities to gather and connect with your target audience, even through the screen.
- You get what you pay for. This may seem obvious, but still important to consider. The more custom deliverables you want, the more you’ll have to pay. For example, if you’re looking for interactive experiences, networking opportunities, or a virtual exhibit hall, you will need to invest in a more robust platform that can deliver on these needs. Read the top areas we recommend you consider when choosing a virtual event platform.
PREPARE AHEAD FOR TECH PROBLEMS
Whether hosting an in-person, hybrid, or virtual event, it is important to prepare for potential tech problems that may arise. Anything from a speaker's microphone or camera not working properly to a short connection outage may occur. It is important to expect the unexpected for things that may go wrong and to know the ways in which you can mitigate the tech risks of a virtual event. Things that you can do to stay ahead of these possible errors is test all of your equipment, do a pre-show run through, make sure that talent knows where and when they are to be on the virtual stage, and keep an open line of communication to allow for any questions that may arise before the event.
SURPRISE AND DELIGHT YOUR VIRTUAL AUDIENCE
- You can still create memorable moments virtually. Even though you’re not physically together, there are many ways to still surprise and delight your attendees. This is an important factor to deliver at any event, but especially for one that is digital, to ensure the audience feels connected to not only your brand, but also their fellow attendees. Get creative and think about ways to engage and create an experiential moment for attendees. For example, create a “book club” where you assign attendees a book to read before the event and have the author join live and host a Q&A discussion about the material. Or, watch a documentary prior to the meeting and bring on the talent to share behind-the-scenes intel. Perhaps you can even offer a delivery-service credit to attendees, that they can cash in on and all join together for a virtual happy hour or networking break.
WE CAN HELP HOST YOUR VIRTUAL EVENT!
At LAI Live, our virtual meeting producers can help you reframe your thinking and ensure that you still meet your event goals in an online environment. We can help guide your decision making around all the common virtual meeting FAQ’s and edit your event plan to thrive in a digital world. Contact us today to start exploring the potential of your virtual event and for more tips for hosting a virtual event!