Whether you look at it as a luxury or necessity, virtual events have become a key part of the event planning process. With our detailed virtual event planning guide, you'll gain a higher level of clarity needed to accomplish your current business or marketing goals.
Assuming you have attended one yourself, you might have experienced how virtual events can deliver so many benefits. Whether you’re running an event management company, working as an independent event planner, or an online business owner; there are many opportunities to leverage additional features and benefits from hosting a successful virtual event. On the other hand, if you’ve just started a new position as a virtual event planner you will also find this guide and our checklist very useful.
In the end, our detailed guide to virtual event planning will put you on the right path toward success.
What are virtual events?
This might seem like an obvious question, but it’s important to understand the difference between a virtual event and webinar, to ensure you are using the right platform for your use case.
So let’s start from the beginning. Virtual events are interactive, digital gatherings that replicate many aspects of in-person events, meetings, or social gatherings in an online environment. They can encompass a wide range of formats, from webinars and livestreams to immersive 3D virtual worlds. Virtual events often include features like live video presentations, panel discussions, chat rooms, networking opportunities, virtual exhibitor booths and engagement tools to connect and collaborate with remote attendees. In essence a successful virtual event aims to achieve the same, or greater impact than that of a face to face event.
Virtual events leverage technology to transcend geographical boundaries, offering a time saving, cost-effective and flexible means of connecting people, sharing information, and fostering collaboration.
The virtual event format has gained significant popularity due to its accessibility, convenience, and adaptability, especially in the context of global challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Another key aspect today is that they offer a communications strategy that businesses can adopt which reduces travel, cutting carbon emissions and making them a vital component of the modern event landscape.
How to plan a virtual event or webinar
Define your target audience
Defining the audience is a pivotal and multifaceted aspect of the virtual event planning process, as it lays the foundation for the event's success. Firstly, it's crucial to ensure that the content, format, and engagement strategies align with the specific needs, interests, and expectations of the intended participants. By identifying the demographics, interests, and pain points of the audience, event organizers can create a more tailored and engaging experience, ultimately increasing participant satisfaction and retention.
Additionally, a well-defined audience demographic aids in marketing efforts, enabling the event organizers to employ precise and effective promotional strategies, reaching the right people through the right channels. The same practice applies to internal and hybrid events as well.
The process involves detailed audience research, including demographics and psychographics, persona creation to understand individual preferences, and continuous feedback mechanisms to adapt the event in real-time. By accurately defining the target audience for your next event, virtual event planners can maximize their event's impact, fostering meaningful connections and delivering content that resonates with participants.
Choose virtual event format
Selecting the appropriate format in the virtual event planning process is of paramount importance because it dictates the overall structure, engagement, and content delivery, directly impacting participant experience.
After considering several types of virtual events, the chosen format should align with the event's goals and the expectations of the target audience. A well-suited format ensures that content is effectively conveyed, engagement is maintained, and participants are kept interested and immersed throughout the event. The process of format selection begins by identifying the event's objectives, whether it's information sharing, education, networking, workshops, or entertainment.
Then, the planners need to design an agenda that flows smoothly, combining live sessions, pre-recorded content, interactive elements like polls and breakout rooms, and structured networking opportunities. Through many years of producing virtual events we find a simple rule to follow is try and change the format every 15-20 minutes. This provides for a varied and engaging agenda.
Select virtual event technology platform
Selecting the best virtual event platform is a critical step in the event planning process. Start by defining your event's specific needs, considering factors such as audience size, desired features (e.g., live streaming, networking, Q&A), and budget constraints. A key question to ask up front is do you require a fully managed service, or do you have a capable team in-house to manage the platform and technical elements?
Research and compare various platforms, considering their scalability, ease of use, technical support, and security features. Additionally, request demonstrations or trial periods to test the platform's functionality.
Ensure the chosen platform aligns with your event goals, audience expectations, multi-session events, and technical requirements. Look for the features built specifically for virtual event management.
Ultimately, the best virtual event platform should offer a seamless and engaging experience for both organizers and attendees while providing the necessary tools to achieve your event's objectives.
Plan your virtual event host and moderator team
Designated co-hosts and moderators are indispensable for the success of virtual events for a multitude of reasons. One key benefit is their ability to share responsibilities effectively, ensuring the seamless operation of the event and addressing various aspects competently. They play a pivotal role in managing technical issues, sustaining audience engagement, and providing continuity in the event of challenges faced by the primary host.
Moreover, the presence of multiple hosts contributes to a more dynamic and engaging experience, as it allows for the utilization of different personalities and areas of expertise, which in turn captures the audience's attention and sustains their interest.
Co-hosts and moderators also foster a sense of community and interactivity, engaging speakers and attendees together. In larger virtual events, their role becomes even more crucial as they adeptly handle audience interactions, questions, and comments, thereby allowing the main host and speakers to concentrate on content delivery.
Plan your virtual event promotion
Another important step in the planning process is event promotion. A well-thought-out promotional strategy ensures that your event reaches the right audience, generates excitement, and maximizes participation. Effective planning includes selecting the most suitable marketing channels, crafting compelling content, and scheduling promotions to build anticipation. By investing time and effort in planning, you can boost attendance, engagement, and overall satisfaction, ultimately achieving your event's objectives and creating a memorable experience for your audience.
Set the event date and time
Setting a fixed date and time for virtual events is crucial as it provides a clear schedule for both organizers and participants, ensuring that everyone can plan and allocate time accordingly. Moreover, considering time zones is essential to accommodate a global audience, preventing confusion and ensuring that attendees from different regions can join at a convenient time.
This consideration acknowledges the diversity of the audience, demonstrating respect for their schedules and increasing the chances of broad participation, ultimately contributing to the event's success.
The virtual event planning checklist
Define objectives: Clearly outline the purpose and goals of the virtual event.
Identify your target audience: Understand who you want to reach and their preferences.
Select the event format: Choose the format that best suits your objectives, such as free webinars, workshops, or conferences, or a mixture of these.
Pick a virtual platform: Select a reliable platform that meets your technical and engagement needs. Consider the features like breakout rooms that allow attendees to interact among themselves. Decide if you need a self serve or managed service.
Secure speakers and hosts: Recruit knowledgeable and engaging presenters.
Create a detailed agenda: Plan the event schedule with content, breaks, panel discussions and interactive elements.
Promote the event: Develop a marketing strategy, including a social media campaign, email, and partnerships. Depending on your event demographic use platforms such as Linked In, Instagram, Tiktok, Facebook and X to promote your event via social media posts.
Set a fixed date and time: Choose a convenient time while considering various time zones. Do you need to run multiple sessions? Can the first session be recorded and played back for different regions?
Prepare technical infrastructure: Make sure the systems you and your team plan to use are clutter free and use a modern PC/Mac to run the event. A good tip here is use a large screen if you can to easily access windows and files required for the session. Above all a stable internet connection is vital, and try to use a hardwired connection, not WiFi, to avoid any possible interference. Consider having a back-up internet option, such as tethering over 4G in case of any broadband failure.
Engage with co-hosts or moderators: Appoint individuals to help manage the event and communicate clearly roles and responsibilities.
Test and rehearse: Run technical tests and rehearsal sessions to ensure everyone is comfortable with how the event flows and iron out any issues.
Provide technical support: Have support in place to assist participants during the event. This should ideally be someone dedicated on ensuring all attendees have the best experience possible, and can immediately help with any access or technical issues.
Collect feedback: Implement mechanisms for gathering feedback and data for post-event analysis. Virtual events present unique opportunities for data analytics, plus use post-webinar survey polls to collect feedback, also useful if you want attendees to consider registering for your next event.
Record the event: Consider recording the event for future use or sharing. Making these sessions available on demand enables those attendees that couldn’t join to participate in their own time, making your event more inclusive. Highlights can be edited and shared on social media as promotional material for future events.
Post-event activities: Plan follow-up activities, like sharing recordings and participant materials.
Evaluate and improvement: After the event, have a debrief with your team, analyze what worked and what can be improved for future live events.
How to choose virtual event software
The core features to consider:
User-friendly interface: The software should have an intuitive and user-friendly interface for both organizers and participants. A clean user interface ensures that everyone can easily navigate the platform, reducing technical barriers and improving the overall experience. Consider the features required for the hosts to collaborate in real time, and ensure your platform of choice makes this easy and frictionless.
Scalability: Consider the software's ability to accommodate your expected audience size. It should be capable of handling the number of participants you anticipate, with options for scalability in case your event grows beyond expectations. The main thing is to think about the type of event and expected number of participants before you host a virtual event. If your target audience could be 10K+ then also consider streaming out to Linked In, YouTube or Twitch, extending your reach even further.
Interactive features: Look for features that promote engagement, such as chat, Q&A, polls, and virtual breakout rooms. These elements facilitate networking, discussions, and active participation, making the event more interactive and dynamic. For many people, the level of interactivity in a virtual environment determines whether they will attend your event next time or not.
Technical reliability: The platform must be robust and reliable, with minimal downtime and technical issues. It should support high-quality video streaming, provide stable connections, and have backup plans in place for unforeseen technical glitches during your online event.
Security and privacy: Check if the software has robust security measures to protect sensitive data and prevent unauthorized access. Regardless of the business model or industry, security is especially important for events where confidential information is shared or transactions are conducted. You may have specific requirements for specific geographic regions or audience type, so more than anything else, don’t overlook security when planning your virtual event.
Integration capabilities: Consider the software's ability to integrate with other tools and systems, such as CRM platforms, analytics tools, or payment gateways. Depending on your event goals, seamless integration makes it easier for you to benefit by connecting different tools to get the information you require using your existing software.
Why use cloudpresenter as your event planning software?
Cloudpresenter stands out as one of the premier virtual event software solutions on the market due to its impressive array of features that cater to a diverse range of event needs.
One of its standout features is the support for multiple hosts and team-wide accounts, ensuring seamless collaboration and the ability to distribute responsibilities effectively, which is critical for managing large-scale virtual conferences.
The platform excels in livestream capabilities, delivering high-quality video and audio for real-time interactions. In addition to this, the support for recurring events streamlines the process of hosting regular webinars, online networking events, hybrid events, meetings, or workshops, saving organizers time and effort. Moreover, the ability to use a custom domain and email servers lends a professional and branded touch to your events, enhancing the overall participant experience. Cloudpresenter's combination of these features makes it a top choice for anyone seeking comprehensive, simple and user-friendly virtual event software, whether for small-scale meetings or large conferences.
If you want to increase the value of the virtual event to your expected attendees, consider using the livestreaming features as well. In addition to taking advantage of Facebook Live and YouTube Live, you can stream your next virtual event on any other platform too. For marketers hosting webinars, it is an end to end solution for your next online event.
The main criteria for any event, virtual or in person, is based on a solid planning process. Preparation is key, and by following this guide you’ll be in good shape to deliver your next virtual event.
With the virtual event planning checklist shared in this post, you don't have to rely on guesswork during each stage of the process. Most importantly, make it a top priority to choose a platform with great features that align with your preferred format and event goal.
If you are uncertain and have limited experience in planning a virtual event, consider taking advantage of managed virtual event planning services, and get in touch with us today.
Have a great show!