In today’s marketing marketplace, you can’t throw a rock without hitting a virtual event platform. Between the increasing volume of virtual event platforms on the market and the high number of businesses who value virtual events as a powerful marketing channel, you’d think virtual event management and planning would be a walk in the park. However, anyone who has organized a virtual event can tell you it’s not. Standardized processes offer the path of least resistance to high virtual event ROI.
If you’re not currently operating online events and are considering adding virtual event marketing to your marketing strategy, now’s the time to commit. It’s a large undertaking, but you can simplify your virtual event planning with a thorough checklist.
In this article, we explain the series of steps you can take to produce a first-rate virtual event. Then, we discuss how those preparations contribute to an excellent live event and strategic post-event follow-up.
Pre-planning Event Checklist
Before you plan the actual event and prepare the presenters, support staff, and technical equipment, you need to define your goals. This happens in the pre-planning stage.
Define Virtual Event Goals
You may have many objectives for your event marketing strategy. In general, your goals may include new business, customer retention, or customer expansion. But each event can (and should) have narrower goals that drive toward that larger aim.
Specificity is crucial for your event goals. If it’s too broad, you’ll struggle to define and measure ROI. So, stick to a single, concrete goal such as:
- Increase number of leads by [X] amount or [X] percent
- Improve attendee engagement metrics (e.g., number of resource downloads, number of quiz or poll responses received)
- Educate customers on a certain feature
You can strive for more than one goal, so long as they don’t conflict. Apart from that, make sure each goal is achievable and has a set time frame to measure its attainment.
Identify Your Target Audience
Understanding and pinpointing your target audience is a crucial step in your virtual event planning process. Your target audience should receive value from the content you’ll be presenting at your event. Begin by focusing on your content and identifying what problem it solves, and for whom. If your virtual event’s topic is “How to streamline healthcare post pandemic”, then you should be inviting healthcare and healthcare adjacent stakeholders who are specifically looking for insights into efficiency, streamlining, etc. Inviting an audience to register for an event that isn’t relevant to them will not bring you closer to virtual event ROI.
Choose a Virtual Event Platform
Your choice of virtual event platform is one of the most important decisions to make at this stage. Your platform can help you launch a successful virtual event depending on its available audience engagement features. Your selection also sets limits, as different platforms can facilitate different aspects of an event like:
- Audience size
- Real-time engagement and questions
- Event registration and check in
- Livestreaming quality
- Promotion plan
- Networking opportunities
- Breakout sessions
- Virtual experience
- Type of virtual events
Two other considerations to look at are platform features and integrations. The right mix can open up rich opportunities to maximize your events’ efficiency and engagement. Also factor in the type of event (e.g., webinar versus virtual meeting), since some platforms are designed to accommodate different kinds.
Demio shines in both of these departments (and more). Demio’s built-in capabilities and integrations cover customizable landing pages for registration, targeted audience selection, email promotion, social media promotion, engagement analytics, and more.
Establish an Event Budget
Due to its digital nature, virtual event marketing is relatively inexpensive compared to in-person events.
However, whether you’re hosting the event, or it’s a sponsorship event, you need to determine how much you’re willing to invest. The largest budget items are often:
- Subscribing to a virtual event platform
- Technical equipment
- Marketing promotion
To estimate your expenses, first establish the scope of the event using the goals you decided on. Every goal has a minimum price tag, and the cost can easily increase if you try to go beyond the set ambitions.
Then, consider the marketing channels you’ll use. Be aware that all paid and organic marketing has a cost, either directly through up-front payments or through paid time and resources. Be sure to account for both when planning your budget.
Determine the production costs, which may include relevant team members, any new equipment to purchase or repair, etc.
These cover most of the typical expenses you should incur, but you should also prepare for contingencies. Set aside a little extra money for any unexpected expenses, such as damaged equipment or the adoption of a new software.
Event Planning Checklist
Pick a Theme
Don’t mix up the two: A virtual event topic is different from a theme. The former is a specified area of focus to cover in the event presentation, while the latter is the broad, overarching concept that ties everything together. It’s the idea that encompasses the whole event and provides a sense of cohesion.
You should base your theme on background research into:
- Your target audience
- The specific purpose/goals of the event
- Your event type
- Seasonal/time considerations
- Creative ideas unique to your business or industry
- Best practices that’ll make your theme more memorable and relevant
Finding a strong theme involves plenty of trial and error. Test some and measure their results. Over time, you’ll hone your themes to make them more effective.
Choose a Format
Many virtual event formats are available and differ primarily on the amount of content to be presented, and the number of presenters and how they interact with each other and the audience.
The major format choices are as follows.
- Webinars – Often presented as single session content (though not always), webinars can be used as a lead generation tool for marketers, a product demo tool for sales teams, and even product launches for product teams. The power of an automated webinar allows hosts to have a scheduled event date, but have the content pre-recorded.
- Virtual conferences – Virtual conferences often include multi-sessions with a range of content. The format of these sessions can range from keynotes, to educational presentations, to panel discussions.
- Hybrid events – This popular option combines the components of in-person and virtual events. You can have attendees on-site, watching in person while others view from their devices at home.
- Virtual workshops – These work well for any kind of “hands-on” virtual learning experience.
- Virtual trade shows – The online counterpart to a physical trade show.
Your speakers are the final piece of your virtual event marketing machine. They interact directly with the audience and any other speakers, so you want to ensure you find professional, knowledgeable, and charismatic speakers who can engage audiences and keep them informed and entertained.
If you don’t have anyone who fits this description yet, that’s fine. Many event planners face this challenge, and you can always outsource these positions.
Moderators are charged with keeping the event moving forward despite the inevitable obstacles that arise. As such, their responsibilities span before, during, and after the event, so moderators need to be knowledgeable and well organized. To make sure things go smoothly, they must (at a minimum) be competent in these core responsibilities:
- Tracking the event schedule and pushing transitions when the time comes
- Monitoring the chat boxes
- Choosing appropriate audience questions to be answered by the presenter
- Checking audience behavior and removing disruptive elements
- Ensuring a plan B is in place for major technical failures
Read our full guide on virtual event moderation here.
Build a Marketing Plan
To advertise your next virtual event extensively and acquire an impressive audience, leverage a multitude of channels, including:
- Social media posts
- Social media paid ads
- Email marketing
- Influencers and partners
- Event websites
- Video marketing
Be sure your registration page and a clear call to action is front and center on all promotional material.
Create Promotional Materials
Tools like Canva make it easy to craft custom, branded materials. Whatever professional tool (or combination of) you use, keep everything consistent with your brand identity and include engaging visuals. Communicate through your visuals that it’ll be an active, engaging, and useful experience.
Many virtual event platforms have built-in functionality for building promotional materials, or at least integrations; email marketing tool integrations are especially common. Take advantage of the assets you have to maximize the quality and reach of your promotional materials.
Tease the Audience
Employ a series of tactics that build anticipation for the event, like sneak peeks, interviews, and pre-event Q&As. You can also collect feedback ahead of time to fine-tune the audience experience and ensure a valuable session.
Test the Event
No matter how much you prepare, there’s no guarantee everything will go well. However, you can come close to a sure thing with a run-through. Rehearsing the event reveals any problems with your equipment, setup, or speakers ahead of time so you can remedy the issues and provide a top-notch experience for your attendees on the live day.
Test Event Technology
The audience has arrived and they’re expecting a great presentation delivered with good audio and visual quality. However, as we touched upon in the planning section, the possibility of technical difficulties is always present.
Moderators should collaborate closely with support staff to develop backups and troubleshooting processes for every potentiality. During the test run, try out all technical equipment to check for kinks. Avoid leaving this step until the last-minute, as it’s crucial to your event’s professionalism and success.
Engage With Attendees
Testing equipment is one thing, but what about audience participation?
Create a focus group, wherein you gather people who match your target audience, conduct a test run of your event with them, and ask for their feedback. Use all interactive elements such as chat boxes, Q&A sessions, live handouts, featured call to actions, live polling, and any gamification tactics so your focus group receives the full experience.
You can also recruit fellow team members to act as audience members. While that may introduce greater bias, it will still provide an opportunity for valuable feedback.
Regardless of the approach you take, be sure to record and review the run-through. That enables you to pinpoint failures that would harm the real virtual event’s successes.
After the Event
Even after the event, there’s still more to do — namely, analyzing the results and following up with your audience. The depth of your analytics metrics depends on the virtual event platform you choose. For example, webinar lead scoring enables you to identify intent by ranking your audience members as leads based on their level of engagement within the webinar session. This helps you prioritize warmer leads over those with less potential to convert. Of course, your event metrics should match the event goals you put in place during your pre-planning period.
Reach out to your event attendees post-event to continue the conversation. You can send automated emails that summarize the event, push a CTA (e.g., “book a demo”), gift the recipient with a free resource like the presentation slide deck or an eBook, and offer a post-event survey for feedback. These emails keep your event fresh in people’s minds and encourage them to continue interacting with your brand.
Networking also serves as a great follow-up tactic. Create digital spaces and invite past attendees to communicate with each other and you, thereby further developing the relationships established during the event.
Most quality virtual event platforms include analysis and detailed metrics in their base-tier offering to help you understand what went right and what went wrong in your session. You can then use that information to make the next event even more engaging.
Review common metrics like:
- Feedback and survey results
- Engagement metrics
- Number of questions asked
- Chat usage
- Poll participation
- Clicked CTAs
- Session focus
- Social media mentions
- Registration and attendance numbers
- Return on investment (ROI)
Many of these metrics allow you to pinpoint specific parts of the event for improvement or to double-down on successful measures.
The Bottom Line
With more events operating in the virtual space, your brand needs to make sure each stage of that process goes smoothly, and that’s where a thorough planning checklist shines as an invaluable asset.
Building and running a top-notch virtual event requires a significant investment of time and resources, so it’s easy for details to fall through the cracks. By developing a checklist that covers everything from initial ideation to post-event follow-up, you’ll produce rich and memorable experiences for your target segment that broaden your reach and foster long-term loyalty.
To get started, book a demo with Banzai today. We’ll walk you through the checklist and show you how you can get started launching successful events that open up a vast, new channel to marketing ROI.