If this is your first time hosting a virtual event, the task may seem daunting, with so many options on software and ways in which to deliver your event, how do you know where to start? This guide will put you on the right track toward making your first or next event a success.
Before the COVID pandemic, many people were sitting on the fence regarding virtual events. However, the outcomes of the crisis forced almost everyone across the world to explore alternatives for staying connected with customers, partners and employees when it matters most. And that's the beautiful part. You can use some of the best virtual event hosting platforms to host all types of business meetings, educational training sessions, employee onboarding, product demos, and partner conferences.
Regardless of your business goals or intended use cases, leveraging modern software platform features will enable you to host virtual and hybrid events even with a large audience.
Through this virtual event hosting guide, you'll learn how to do just that while getting answers to some frequently asked questions.
What is a virtual event?
A virtual event is a digital gathering or meeting that takes place over the internet, allowing participants to interact and engage with one another without the need for physical presence. These events can encompass a wide range of activities, including conferences, webinars, trade shows, workshops, and social gatherings, all conducted online. Virtual events leverage various technologies like video conferencing, webcasting, and interactive platforms to replicate the key aspects of in-person events, such as presentations, networking, and audience participation.
Irrespective of your geographic location, virtual events are becoming increasingly popular, especially as technology advances, enabling more immersive and interactive experiences.
They offer several benefits, including cost savings, extended reach to a global audience, and reduced logistical challenges. Moreover, you'll have the opportunity to gather valuable data and analytics on participant engagement, making them a versatile and valuable tool for organizations and individuals looking to connect and collaborate in the digital age.
The difference between in-person and virtual events
The core differences between in-person and virtual events primarily revolve around the physical presence and the medium through which they occur. In-person conferences entail physical gatherings where attendees are physically present at a designated location, fostering face-to-face interactions and personal networking opportunities.
These events often involve elements like live speeches, direct engagement, and tangible product demonstrations. In contrast, virtual events occur on digital platforms, eliminating the need for physical presence and enabling participants to connect from anywhere with an internet connection.
While they offer flexibility and accessibility to a global audience, virtual events may lack the depth of personal interaction that in-person events provide. Moreover, they require different tools and strategies for engagement, such as virtual breakout rooms, live chat, and interactive presentations with polls or Q&A. You can still use all these interactive tools to host interactive happy hours for your team.
Additionally, in-person events often demand significant logistics and travel, accommodation, and venue rental expenses, whereas virtual events can be more cost-effective and environmentally friendly. Many businesses now incorporate virtual events as part of their sustainability programme, reducing carbon emissions by scaling back unnecessary travel and waste created when organizing in person conferences and events. Each event type has its unique advantages and challenges, and the choice between them depends on the event's goals, audience, and context.
Different types of virtual events you can host for your company
Depending on your background and experience, you might be thinking that virtual events are limited to webinars only, however this is not the case. Regardless of your industry, niche or business model, we have highlighted the major virtual event examples your company can host. From here, you can begin to conceive new use cases and potential benefits for your business or team.
Webinars: These are online seminars or workshops where presenters share information, insights, or training with a remote audience. They often include Q&A sessions to interact with participants.
Virtual conferences: These are digital versions of traditional conferences, featuring keynote speakers, panel discussions, breakout sessions, and networking opportunities through video conferencing or custom virtual event software platforms.
Virtual trade shows and expos: Companies can host virtual exhibitions to showcase their products or services, allowing attendees to browse digital booths, interact with representatives, and access promotional materials and demos.
Virtual workshops and training sessions: These events focus on skill-building and professional development. They can be interactive, with participants engaging in hands-on activities or simulations.
Town hall meetings: Companies use virtual town hall meetings to communicate important updates, share company culture, and engage with employees, shareholders, or the broader community.
Product launches: Virtual product launches are an effective way to introduce new products or services to a global audience through live demonstrations, product showcases, and interactive sessions.
Virtual job fairs and recruitment events: These events connect job seekers with employers, offering virtual booths for companies to present their organization and job opportunities.
Virtual networking events: Virtual mixers, speed networking sessions, and social gatherings allow attendees to connect, network, and build relationships with peers and industry professionals.
Virtual fundraising events: Nonprofits often host online fundraisers, galas, or charity auctions to raise funds, share their mission, and engage with donors and supporters.
Hackathons and competitions: Tech companies frequently organize virtual hackathons, coding competitions, or innovation challenges to encourage participation, creativity, and problem-solving.
Benefits of hosting virtual events for your company
If you are part of a company's marketing or management team, you should commit resources to explore the following benefits of virtual events. For people who have participated in such a live event, you'll understand the benefits and how it will apply to your company or business.
1: Cost efficiency
Hosting virtual events is cost-effective because it eliminates expenses associated with physical venues, travel and accommodations. It also reduces costs related to event logistics, such as printed materials, catering, and equipment rental. And that's one of the things that makes virtual events an attractive option for businesses aiming to maximize their return on investment.
2: Global reach
Virtual events can attract a wider audience as people from around the world can participate without geographical constraints. This type of business event extends your reach beyond local or regional boundaries, enabling you to tap into new markets and potential customers. Moreover, it fosters a diverse and culturally inclusive attendee base.
3: Data-based insights
Virtual platforms provide valuable data on attendee behaviour, preferences, and engagement, aiding in better event planning. You can track the most popular sessions, analyze attendee interaction with content, and gather feedback more efficiently. This data helps refine future events and personalize the experience for attendees.
4: Positive environmental impact
Virtual events reduce your carbon footprint by minimizing travel and resource consumption. With a reduced need for physical transportation and printed materials, businesses can demonstrate a commitment to sustainability, enhancing their reputation and attracting environmentally-conscious customers and partners.
5: Flexible scheduling
Participants can access content on time, enhancing convenience and accommodating different time zones. This flexibility means attendees can engage with event content at their convenience, increasing the likelihood of participation and reducing scheduling conflicts.
6: Increased accessibility
Virtual events are inclusive for individuals with disabilities, ensuring a broader and diverse audience reach. By offering features like closed captions, screen readers, and adaptable formats, businesses can make their events accessible to a broader audience, meeting legal requirements and enhancing their brand's inclusivity and social responsibility.
How do virtual events work?
Virtual events are events held through online platforms or software where attendees and presenters interact digitally. One good example of such a software platform is Cloudpresenter.
These events can take the form of free webinars, conferences, trade shows, or workshops. Attendees access the event using an internet-connected device like a computer or smartphone and engage with the content through live video, pre-recorded sessions, chat rooms, and interactive features.
Presenters share information, conduct presentations, and host discussions in real-time or on-demand, fostering audience engagement. Such types of business events offers the flexibility of remote participation, enabling a broader and often global audience to connect, learn, and network without the need for physical presence.
How to host virtual events in 2023
Now that you know the benefits and how they work, let's look at the key steps in hosting successful virtual events. Through this ultimate guide, you'll also find some best practices and tips on how to make your virtual event a rewarding success.
Set clear goals: To start planning your virtual event, the first thing is to establish precise and measurable objectives. And that's the stage where you can start putting your virtual event ideas to work. Decide whether your event's purpose is lead generation, product launches, educational seminars, or something else. These goals will guide decisions about content, marketing, and logistics, so it's crucial to have a clear vision.
Select the best virtual event platform: Choosing the appropriate virtual event technology is critical. Consider the expected number of attendees, the type of content you'll be sharing, and the features required. Evaluate platforms for their capacity to host your event, whether they support live streaming, interactive chat, or breakout rooms, and the ease of navigation for organizers and attendees.
Content planning: First things first, it is important to develop a comprehensive event agenda with engaging and diverse sessions. Secure dynamic and relevant speakers or presenters. Plan interactive elements like live Q&A sessions, polls, and networking opportunities to keep attendees engaged throughout the event. Your content should align with your event's goals and be organized in a logical sequence.
Effective marketing: A robust marketing strategy is crucial to attract and engage your target audience. Utilize email marketing campaigns to reach your existing contacts, employ social media channels for broader exposure, and optimize your company website to promote the event. Crafting compelling content for marketing materials can significantly impact the success of your virtual event. If you are hosting a physical event, you can also build a contact list for effective promotion of your future events.
Streamlined registration: Design a simple, intuitive online registration process. Collect essential attendee information, such as name, email, and company affiliation, but avoid overly complex forms that might discourage sign-ups. A smooth registration process contributes to a positive first impression of your event.
Technical preparation: Ensure your team and presenters have the necessary equipment and software. If required, offer training and tech support and confirm that all participants are comfortable with the technology they'll be using. For larger or higher profile events work with a production partner that will manage the technical delivery of your event, so you can focus on the content and looking after the little details. Technical issues can disrupt your event and lead to a negative experience, so proactive preparation is essential.
Enhance engagement: To keep participants actively involved, take advantage of interactive features like live polls, Q&A sessions, chat rooms, and virtual networking opportunities. These features create a sense of community and ensure your event remains engaging and informative.
Test your software before you host a virtual event: Conduct thorough technical tests and rehearsal sessions in advance of the event. Well organised rehearsals will allow you to identify and address potential issues, ensuring a seamless experience for presenters and attendees. Rehearsals help your team become familiar with the platform and event content, plus the agenda for the day and prevents any last-minute surprises.
Security measures: Implement comprehensive security measures to safeguard attendee data and ensure a secure virtual environment. Protecting your event from cyber threats and privacy breaches is vital - ensure the platform you choose is fully GDPR compliant, with E2EE (end to end encryption). Be aware of potential vulnerabilities and have plans to mitigate risks, such as unauthorized access or data breaches.
Best virtual event hosting platforms 2023
Cloudpresenter stands out as a robust virtual event hosting platform with a user-friendly interface and a range of features that make it an excellent choice for small- and large-scale events. With a straightforward setup process, event organizers can create and manage virtual events, making them accessible for those new to the virtual event landscape. It's one of the best platforms compatible with hosting hybrid events, trending upwards as part of the future of business events in general. Cloudpresenters robust security measures ensure data protection making it a top choice for hassle-free virtual event hosting. Cloudpresenter's core features include the following:
Multiple hosts: Cloudpresenter allows multiple hosts to collaborate seamlessly, enabling smoother event management.
Recurring events: The option to schedule recurring events simplifies the process of planning regular sessions.
Breakout rooms: The platform facilitates interactive engagement with breakout rooms for group discussions or networking.
Virtual backgrounds: Users can customize their environments with virtual backgrounds for a professional, branded and engaging look.
Unlimited replays: Cloudpresenter ensures that content lives on, offering unlimited replays for attendees to revisit sessions.
Realtime live video: Live video enables real-time interaction with attendees, enhancing engagement and interaction.
Live streaming: Live streaming capabilities provides the ability to extend your event infinitely across other platforms including YouTube, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Livestorm is a user-friendly video conferencing platform tailored for virtual online events. It excels in creating engaging online events and conferences with interactive features like Q&A, surveys, and chat. The platform offers seamless registration analytics and integrates with marketing and CRM tools for effective event management. Top features include:
- User-friendly interface
- Interactive webinars and conferences
- Q&A, surveys, and chat
- Easy registration
- Comprehensive engagement analysis
- Integration with marketing and CRM tools
- Strong security measures
A household name, zoom is a versatile hybrid event platform for hosting a wide range of online business and social events. Its user-friendly interface and comprehensive features facilitate the seamless transition between in-person and virtual gatherings, making it a top choice for all event types. This webinar software provider offers a reliable environment for webinars, virtual team-building, conferences, and meetings, with robust interactive tools like chat, breakout rooms, and screen sharing.
The platform's scalability ensures it can accommodate events of various sizes, while features like recording and cloud storage allow for content preservation. Some of the major features you can use to host your next virtual event include the following:
- User-friendly interface
- Host hybrid events and virtual meetings
- Interactive tools (chat, breakout rooms, screen sharing)
- Scalability for satisfactory virtual event experience
- Recording and cloud storage
- Compatibility with various devices
- High audio and video quality
- Marketing automation
- API integration
- App Marketplace
- Event data analysis
BigMarker stands out as one of the premier platforms for hosting a wide array of events, making it a top choice for event organizers. Its versatile capabilities encompass simple online events, virtual conferences, summits, and workshops, making it adaptable to various event types and sizes. With features like interactive chat, and Q&A sessions, it fosters participant engagement. The platform also offers advanced data streaming for insight into attendee behaviour during your webinar, empowering organizers to optimize their next event. Below are some of the key features you can use to host any type of event.
- Versatile event hosting
- Interactive chat, polls, and Q&A tools for event attendees
- Advanced analytics
- Integrated digital marketing tools
- Robust security measures
- User-friendly interface
- Host unlimited online meetings
- Mobile event apps
- Simple registration landing page
- Engagement tools for in-person attendees
On24 is one of the leading virtual event solutions for hosting a broad spectrum of events, establishing itself as a premier choice for event managers and organizers. Its versatility extends to virtual conferences, product launches, and investor relations, making it an adaptable solution for various event types and sizes. On24 prioritizes engagement, offering interactive tools to engage your audience via live chat, polls, surveys, and dynamic multimedia presentations. With On24's robust features, going virtual is relatively easy for anyone with limited event experience. Below are the core features you can use to host your virtual event.
- Versatile event hosting
- Interactive tools (live chat, polls, surveys)
- Robust analytics for your virtual social events
- Integration with marketing and CRM tools
- Data security measures
- Hosted content hubs
- Multilingual support
- User-friendly interface
How do you measure the success of your virtual events?
Measuring the success of virtual events involves a multifaceted approach. Key performance data from virtual events include attendance numbers, audience engagement metrics (such as chat interactions, questions asked and average viewing time of live sessions), attendee feedback and satisfaction surveys, and the achievement of event-specific goals like lead generation or sales conversions.
Analyzing post-event data, such as social media mentions and website traffic, can also provide insights into success. Tracking the long-term impact, like follow-up actions taken by attendees, and assessing whether the event met its intended objectives completes the evaluation process. And that's how you'll get the insights to make your event more successful.
Ultimately, success is determined by a combination of quantitative and qualitative data, ensuring a comprehensive assessment of the virtual event's effectiveness.
Frequently asked questions about virtual events
How do I make my virtual meeting more interactive?
To make your virtual event interactive a good guide is change the format regularly, say every 15-20 minutes - no one wants to sit through hours of ‘death by powerpoint’ slides. Incorporate live polls and Q&A sessions for real-time engagement in each session. Utilize breakout rooms or small group discussions to encourage networking and collaboration among attendees. Additionally, include videos and interactive content, such as quizzes and gamification, as these will boost participation and improve the attendee's virtual experience.
What are examples of virtual events?
Examples of virtual events include webinars, which are online educational sessions; virtual conferences with multiple sessions and keynote speakers; trade shows held digitally to showcase products; and virtual workshops for skill development.
How do I host a cloudpresenter event for the first time?
To host your first cloudpresenter event, start by signing in with or creating a new user account in your browser. In your dashboard select "new meeting" to set up the meeting details, with a custom registration page and reminder emails. Or, just click on the link to initiate the meeting and invite guests directly to your session.
How do I choose a virtual event platform?
Choosing the correct virtual event technology starts by understanding your event's goals and the number of expected attendees. Research different platforms, comparing features and pricing—request platform demonstrations or trials to assess ease of use. Evaluate technical support and reliability to ensure the platform can handle your event's requirements. Most importantly, seek recommendations and read user reviews to gauge the event software provider's reputation.
How much does a virtual event platform cost?
The cost of a virtual event software can vary widely based on factors like the selected features, the scale of your event, and the level of customization required. Many platforms offer tiered pricing plans, with basic plans often starting at around $100-$200 per month, while more comprehensive plans can range from $500 to $2,000 per month or even more for large-scale events. Some platforms may also charge on a per-attendee basis.
Beyond what you might have assumed, virtual events are not just about webinars. From your personal business, management or marketing experience, you can begin to imagine and uncover other interesting use cases. Hence, you now have a complete guide to virtual events.
This post has also shared some examples you should consider for getting started. Start by choosing the best software that suits your use case, budget and other preferences. After deciding the software to use, you can then get into the details of the virtual event planning process.
In addition to setting clear objectives, remember it is not just about your business or company. Think of the best ways to engage your target audience and deliver the best event experience to your virtual attendees, using interactive features to make sure your attendees are engaged from the beginning to the end.
By following the simple tips in this guide you’ll now be well prepared to design and deliver a high quality, memorable and successful virtual event.