14 Best Practices for Successful Virtual Events
Virtual events can be a powerful channel for your business, but only if leveraged successfully. Organizing a successful virtual event requires careful planning and execution, as the dynamics of an online environment are vastly different from those of a physical event. To ensure a seamless and engaging experience for participants, it's essential to follow virtual event best practices.
Best Practices for Planning a Virtual Event
The event planning stage includes several key steps that require careful research and an understanding of how you'll measure success against your event.
1. Set clear goals and objectives
What outcome are you looking to achieve with your virtual event? This is step one. Before you can consider what content to create, or who should be in attendance, you must identify the goal of your event. To help you in defining which virtual event metrics and KPIs make the most sense, consider your high level business objectives. Your virtual event goal should support your overall business objective. For example, if your objective is to expand your business into a new vertical, your virtual event goal may be to acquire a certain number of engaged attendees from that new vertical. Setting clear goals and objectives for your online event is a requirement to finding virtual event ROI.
2. Identify your target audience
Now that you're clear on your desired outcome, its time to identify who is best served by this virtual event. This involves considering certain factors to ensure that you attract the right attendees. First, you should consider the buying journey of your target audience, in relation to the type of content you'll be creating. Are you creating content that's more high level, framing your brand as an industry authority leader? Or are you creating content that's very bottom of funnel, focused on your product and the use cases is solves for? Understanding where your audience is in their journey, will help you better segment who your content is right for, and make sure you are only inviting the most relevant audience. Inviting the right audience will decrease the chance that your attendees are unengaged, and will increase the chance of generating qualified leads from your event.
3. Create engaging and interactive content
Like in-person events, it's crucial to create engaging and interactive content that will captivate your audience when hosting virtual events. Be sure when creating your content, that you're considering how to invite participation from your attendees. Don't build content that doesn't allow for dialogue, or questions. When creating your content, you'll want to leaves space where you can encourage your audience to share their thoughts, ask questions, or even participate in polls or surveys. This way, your audience becomes a part of your content, rather than simply an observer of it. This not only makes the event less boring, but also gives your audience a sense of involvement and ownership. It also fosters a sense of community, encourages networking, and prevents the event from becoming a one-way communication.
Another tip is to consider using different types of media beyond just slides. Incorporating videos, animations, or even live demonstrations can make your content more dynamic and engaging. Visual elements help to keep the audience's attention and add interest to the overall experience. They can also provide a break from the monotony of text on slides, and listening non-stop to the speaker.
In addition, explore different types of virtual event formats. Break up the content into smaller sections or incorporate interactive activities and games to keep your audience engaged. Consider inviting guest speakers with authority in your industry to elevate the value your attendees with receive, or think about how to turn your online event into a networking event, or offer a chance for virtual team-building. This will prevent monotony and create a more enjoyable experience for all participants.
Best Practices for Creating Engagement
Keeping audiences engaged in a virtual environment is a core tenet to hosting a successful virtual event. Fortunately, with the right content, and the right virtual event platform, you have every opportunity to build an engaging digital experience.
4. Incorporate Interactive Elements
When hosting a virtual event, you can invite participation from your audience in order to create engagement and enhance the overall experience for attendees. An engaging virtual event does not exclusively have to be a live event, it can be automated or on-demand as well. Here are a few engaging ideas for virtual events:
- Use polls. Including polls throughout the event allows you to gather audience data and information in real-time. This not only keeps participants engaged, but it also provides valuable insights that can be used to tailor future events or improve current ones.
- Leverage chat. The chat is easily one of the most undervalued features in most virtual events. Attendees can use the chat to ask questions, share ideas, or connect not only with the event host, but with one another. This networking aspect adds an interactive element to the event and fosters a sense of community among attendees.
- Implement live Calls to Action (CTAs). Live CTAs (featured actions) can drive participants to easily take the next step in their journey. Whether it's signing up for a newsletter, joining a discussion group, or registering for a follow-up webinar, providing clear and enticing CTAs helps to guide attendees towards further engagement and involvement with the event or organization, when they are most engaged with your brand.
- Provide handouts. Providing handouts easily extends the value of the event's content. These materials can be shared over the course of the session, giving attendees a tangible takeaway that they can refer to long after the event has ended. Overall, by inviting participation through polls, chat interaction, live CTAs, and supplementary materials, organizers can create a more engaging and interactive virtual event experience.
5. Encourage Networking
Networking is an important part of your event. Consider providing multiple opportunities for virtual networking throughout your event. If you successfully facilitate these opportunities, you’ll become a leader in your space known for providing amazing value to your most important participants.
Networking can take place during a virtual experience in several ways: You can enable the chat box and encourage specific types of interactions for certain parts of the event. Or, you could open breakout rooms for focus groups to communicate with each other while you oversee the direction of the conversations.
Set up and promote other virtual spaces for networking before and after the event as well. Consider virtual happy hours or direct attendees to a forum, social media page, or other digital location where you maintain control and focus the conversation around the issues most important to your audience.
6. Strategically Employ Visuals and Multimedia
Visuals and multimedia support engagement by holding the audience’s attention with arresting content. These aids thus help you communicate your message and make it more appealing.
Use high-quality imagery that doesn’t interrupt the event audio or video. The goal is to communicate your message without diminishing the audience experience.
Much of the time, simple but high-quality animations or videos are incredibly effective and can add character to your brand.
Multimedia elements are also excellent storytelling tools to personalize the experience and make it easy to consume.
You can also package multimedia elements to present information more formally and professionally when the event format calls for it (think charts, graphs, diagrams, and other visuals that make your message clearer and help break down complex ideas).
7. Talk With Your Audience
Talk with your audience, not at them. Speakers interface with event attendees to provide value while introducing them to your brand and products. So, interactivity starts with your presenters, rather than the features we just discussed.
Moderators, speakers, and event planners have to collaborate to make segments interactive and compelling. For example, run Q&A sessions to start conversations instead of simply showing off your knowledge. Consider addressing questions throughout the entire event, rather than the end, if it doesn't distract from the event. The moderator should curate the questions, and the speaker should be prepared to weave interactions from them. Presenters should be prepared to have high energy, look polished and professional, articulate clearly, and deliver the information confidently.
Best Practices for Online Event Promotion
Marketing your online events is an important part of your virtual event checklist. With no audience, even the best-planned virtual event, with the most incredible content equals one big fat zero. So, let’s look at promotion best practices to ensure your virtual event is a success.
8. Define Your Target Audience
Audience research is crucial for gathering attendees who are:
- Happy to show up to the event
- Likely to participate and convert
To define the target audience for your event, collect data to build a buyer persona. You can craft one in the same way you would for another type of campaign, but you also need to discover the internal motivations for attending your event and making a purchase as a direct result of the experience.
Formulate your target segment using both extrinsic and intrinsic motivations. The former is the external driver that pushes someone to attend your event, such as a real-world problem that brings them to you in the hopes that you’ll improve their situation. Meanwhile, the latter is an internal reward one seeks, such as emotional satisfaction.
Read our guide on defining your target audience with JTBD theory to give you another perspective.
9. Choose the Right Type of Event
Selecting the right virtual event format is crucial to obtain the response you seek from your audience. You can choose from several options, including:
- Virtual meetings
- Virtual conferences
- Virtual trade shows
- Hybrid events
10. Create a Landing Page
A good landing page serves multiple purposes. First and foremost, it’s the central hub of your event promotion.
Your event landing page is the go-to place for interested people to learn more about the upcoming session. It should clearly display the most relevant information, such as the date and time, the agenda, and registration details. Registration forms should be short and easily accessible as well.
Landing pages also increase the event’s visibility to gather a larger audience. An SEO-optimized page promoted on social media provides a single location where you can send people from other platforms.
Construct a robust landing page to represent your brand well and capture leads seamlessly. Highlighting incentivization such as free giveaways or even swag of any kind can work wonders here as well.
11. Leverage Email Marketing
Email marketing is a core component of successful event promotion. Its repeated efficiency is why all the best virtual event platforms integrate with many email marketing tools.
Capitalize on integrations for automated email marketing to:
- Send automated reminders
- Provide sneak peeks and other elements that build anticipation
- Communicate individually with each attendee
- Highlight the benefits of attending for those still on the fence
- Push calls to action
- Test and optimize for future email campaigns
12. Tap Into Social Media
The benefits of social media promotion are two-fold: You enjoy free, organic options for communicating with your existing followers, as well as gain access to paid advertising to reach new people on the chosen platform.
Normally, a mix of both of these approaches is the way to go. At the very least, your existing followers should be made aware of the event, with all the benefits highlighted. Organic posts are free to make and less time-consuming to produce than paid ads.
In either case, observe marketing best practices for social media. Keep in mind that users scroll quickly, jumping from dopamine hit to dopamine hit with their friends, family members, cute kittens, and more. As such, your posts need to be attention-grabbing and relevant. Use strong imagery and keep your copy to the point.
Consider collaborating with influencers and partners to promote your event. This outsources much of the marketing to a charismatic figure in your industry who already has a big following you can borrow. These partners are a good addition to any marketing plan and can generate a lot of buzz around your event.
In addition, you can also pay for ads directly on search engines. Google ads, for instance, attract people who input unique searches on the engine that are highly relevant to your business.
Best Practices for Selecting the Right Virtual Event Technology
The work doesn’t stop once the event is over. Perhaps the most important best practice afterward is having a plan for analyzing and then optimizing your virtual events.
13. Pick a Reliable Virtual Event Platform
Your choice of virtual event platform is one of the most significant choices you’ll make for your marketing and execution efforts. The top hosting platforms for virtual events all possess similar base features, so your selection will come down to factors like must-have elements and integrations with tools you already use.
To narrow your selection, consider:
- The ways each platform allows you to communicate with your audience during the event
- The cost of your event marketing campaigns
- Video and audio quality
- Maximum audience size and cost per audience member
- Engagement features
- Access to easy integrations with the digital marketing tools you value most
- The range of event management strategies each platform can accommodate
Even minute details such as crisper interfaces can make a big difference in the results of your digital sessions. You need a high-quality virtual event platform that supports the formats you want to use and that makes them easier and more profitable.
14. Pay Attention to Integrations
With many types of online tools designed to optimize various aspects of your virtual events, integrations are almost as important as the built-in features of virtual event software.
Normally, the integrations a virtual event platform has out of the box will include some mix of:
- Email marketing
- Customer relationship management (CRM)
- Live streaming
- Payment gateways
- LinkedIn or other social media platforms
- Additional analytics (beyond the value that built-in analytics can offer)
When you have a great selection of integrations that your teams are proficient in, you give your virtual events the best chance of success. Event organizers have greater liberty to diversify their tactics, while marketing teams can streamline their operations from one centralized hub. You broaden your ability to advertise, launch, and analyze events, as well as achieve more and increasingly complex goals.
The Bottom Line
The best practices for virtual events are consistent regardless of the number of attendees or the event type. The goal is to gather a highly motivated audience and provide an equal value exchange. With healthy audience engagement and an attention-grabbing presentation, you’ll gain respect, bolster your brand image, and nurture loyal customers.