So you’re involved in the event industry like us and you have a client, boss, or company who wants to go virtual, what’s next? Feeling overwhelmed with where to start?
Read on for an introductory guide to virtual event planning: how to pick a platform, how to convert an in-person event to virtual, and tips from the pros who went virtual (spoiler alert: you can make it work, too!)
How To Pick A Platform For Your Virtual Event
First things first, pick your virtual hosting platform. Zoom has come out on top the last few months for their hosting and streaming capabilities, but you may also want to consider Google Meet (previously Google Hangouts), Facebook Live, or one of the countless others popping up every day (see more here.) While all of these platforms offer the same core capabilities, each provides different benefits. Both Zoom and Google Meet allow for interaction between you and your attendees, whereas Facebook’s streaming service is one-way. Zoom’s stand-out feature is the breakout rooms. The breakout rooms allow you to split attendees into smaller groups for discussion questions or meet and greets. Zoom also allows you to to control who the host is, who’s muted, and who can share their screen. Depending on the size of your virtual event, these features can be extremely beneficial. Google Meets and Facebook Live are generally free platforms while Zoom will require you to purchase one of their packages for full streaming capabilities and a larger guestlist. There are other higher price options available for more robust event needs so it’s best to contact an AV provider like GotLight for details.
How To Convert A Previously In-Person Event To Virtual
Some of you may remember our event series: Take Time to Toast. Back in March, we were gearing up to host our 2nd annual TTTT Wellness event, but COVID beat us to it! We quickly pivoted to make this year’s event completely virtual. How did we do it and how can YOU do it? Start with choosing the platform that best fits your event’s needs. Zoom was our pick and we decided to break the event up into three, 45-minute segments with a 10 minute break in between for our attendees to take a breather. Zoom was the best choice because it allowed us to give our guest speakers the “host” capability so that they could easily access and interact with attendees. We partnered with a different guest speaker for each segment and let them “take the stage” after a brief introduction. You can easily set your own event up with this same format. Once you know your platform and format, you want to understand what it will look like for your attendees. We partnered with Archive Rentals to create a virtual background that matched the in-person look and feel of our Take Time to Toast event. Think about who in your industry you want to partner with to make the experience special for your attendees. Share the image with your attendees prior to the event with the intention of reinforcing a sense of community. If everyone applies the same virtual image, it starts to *almost* feel like you’re in the same room together! Another fun add-on is tangible items for your event. If you already purchased swag for your in-person event, consider mailing it out anyway so your attendees have some tangible evidence or reminders of your event. Foxtail Catering has created VIP Boxes and DIY Kits with everything from food to personalized branded agendas to keep your attendees involved while they are following along at home.
How Going Virtual Is Right For Your Event
Virtual events don’t fit every scenario, but they’re growing rapidly in their capabilities! We’ve attended several virtual conferences, seminars, and happy hours since quarantine started and can confidently say that online events can be just as, or even more successful than in-person events. The best example, and definitely the new leader in the virtual events world, is Tony Robbins. Every few months he hosts an in-person event called Unleash the Power Within. The last scheduled in-person event was planned for March of 2020 in San Jose, California. Of course, the event was called off and Tony quickly got to work brainstorming how to make this high-energy event successful through your computer screen, in your living room. In July, he pulled it off. He partnered with Zoom to build a 5 million dollar studio that allowed him to see thousands of attendees at one time and Zoom helped him set up the technology to manage breakout rooms with just 5 people from an audience of over 60,000. The Tony Robbins team was nervous that an event of this magnitude wouldn’t carry the same impact virtually, but it turns out that attendees loved being able to participate from the comfort of their own home and to be connected to people around the world. Most found the virtual version of this event to be even better than the in-person events they’d been to with Tony. The other cool part about virtual events? They change your price point! Tony Robbins events are traditionally expensive, and for some who would often not be able to attend, they were able to attend virtually due to the lower ticket price and the ability to split the cost with others on their QuaranTEAM and attend together!
Additionally, the virtual RISE event by Hollis Co. had the added benefit of being recorded so you could watch it on YOUR schedule! Both the Tony Robbins and Rachel Hollis events included energizing music and breaks between every session to get you up out of your seat (aka off your couch!) to keep your head in the game.
5 Tips + Best Practices To Have The Best Virtual Event!
- Utilize the chat box! Come in strong with high energy and let your attendees know that they can communicate with you through the chat box on your streaming platform! Constantly ask your audience engaging questions and prompt them to type a one-word response in the chat so they’re interacting with you during the entire event. Ask your audience to “light that chat box up like a Christmas tree!”
- Have a game plan! Every event, virtual or not, should have a strategy. Start with your broad goal or concept and take it from there. You want to get started planning your virtual event early, the same way you would an in-person event.
- Focus on what type of experience you want your attendees to have. Based on this, consider how you are going to promote the event, what time you’re going to host, whether or not it will be recorded, and if it will be free or ticketed.
- Prepare for tech troubles! It happens and is totally to be expected right now. If something does happen, don’t let it fluster you. Prepare a couple questions to keep your audience engaged while you’re trying to get something fixed or think in advance about what you want to say if you have to take a breather to reset! We had this happen during our Take Time to Toast Wellness Virtual event and we had a fun conversation about what everyone’s drink of choice was while our guest speaker got squared away.
- Make it inclusive! Just like in-person events, virtual events need to be as accessible as possible. This can mean using clear language, large fonts, and high color contrast. It’s also important to provide captions for audio when possible and descriptions for visuals.
Still Nervous About Creating Your First Successful Virtual Event?
Looking for more information and hands-on help?
Waiting For 2021 To Just Skip The Virtual And Go Back To In-Person Events?
Don’t wait another minute as 2020 events have been pushed to 2021 and many venues are booked!
Find out how we can help you find the best venues for your event for FREE! (Our venue scouting services are free when you book with us.)
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