The Ultimate Guide for Hosting a Virtual Event or Conference
The push for digitization has come more rapidly than expected.
Because of the pandemic, virtual events have become the new norm for whatever you are doing. Whether you’re working with your team, interviewing potential new hires, or even holding a big conference.
While this presented many downsides, especially during the rough adjustment period at the start of the pandemic, it’s now undeniable that virtual events or conferences have their merits.
But with COVID restrictions easing around the world, you now find yourself with more options than before.
During pre-pandemic times, conferences and events automatically happened face-to-face. At the start of the pandemic, nobody had any choice but to meet digitally. We are in a unique position where we can now choose between in-person, digital, or hybrid settings for our events.
How do you choose the method for your events? What factors should you consider? Is your event suitable for an online environment?
This article will help you decide on the best forum for your event and provide you with seven concrete steps to have a successful virtual event or conference. Let’s dive right in!
First: Should You Host A Virtual Event?
Before we get into the ones and zeros of virtual events, we first need to determine whether we should put our event in the virtual sphere.
We now have the technology and culture in place for a virtual setting, but many still yearn for traditional personal face-to-face meetings. More than that, each setting also has its advantages and disadvantages, which may or may not align with your company.
The first step is to determine if it makes sense for your business to host a virtual event, considering logistics and the expectations of your target audience.
Some events or conferences are all about the in-person experience, and recreating that on a virtual event platform can be challenging.
For instance, in-person conference attendees may purchase a ticket specifically because of the activities or perks they can expect at the venue. Prepared foods, open bars, happy hours, and live music are often part of a physical event experience that may not be possible to recreate online.
You can get creative and create an engaging virtual experience with live demos, cocktail recipes, and custom Spotify playlists.
At the same time, it might be easier to secure world-renowned keynote speakers and exceptional presentations for your online conference. After all, there’s no need to worry about travel, time zones, and physical constraints when creating a great virtual experience. All you need is the right platform, and you can have a successful virtual conference.
To determine if it makes sense to be hosting virtual events, start by creating a simple checklist of all the activities, people, and sessions you have planned. This checklist will help give you a good overview of what will be possible to recreate online.
Consider Your Logistics
After you have those basics defined, you can start getting into the thick of it by considering the logistics involved.
If you’re still undecided about how you should hold your event, you can likely finalize your decision when determining logistics. Ask yourself questions that determine your capabilities and resources, such as:
- What’s the type of event you want?
- Who’s your target audience?
- What’s your time frame?
- How much is your budget?
- Who do you plan to invite as guests? Speakers?
Hashing out your logistics will help you iron out the details of your event. You can use this information to determine your final budget, tasks, people in charge, and more.
There are three categories of logistics that are directly tied to your event: venue, legal, and software.
Here are a few venue logistics you need to consider if you’ve booked a venue, specifically if you’re thinking about changing your event to go online.
- Vendor commitments. Confirm whether you’re able to get out of vendor commitments. Some places may not allow you to cancel, or only reschedule your booking, so you’ll want to know this first.
- Audience reach. Without a physical venue, you’re no longer limited to a certain number of attendees for activities or breakout sessions. By not being restricted to a place, you can expand your audience to other groups. On the other hand, satisfaction will probably be higher with in-person events.
- Schedule re-creation. Without designated rooms for speakers and activities, you’ll need to consider how to recreate your schedule online using technology. For example, you can create a Yapp Multi-Track page with dedicated Zoom Breakout Rooms meeting links that allow you to host individual breakout sessions online at the same time.
Similarly, you need to consider the legal logistics involved with taking your event online, such as canceling vendor contracts or meeting compliance standards.
- Venue contracts. Do you already have a contract for a venue drafted out? If not, going online will be very easy. If you do, you may want to involve your legal team. They’ll be your best resource for understanding the terms and what you can or can’t reasonably do when negotiating your cancellation.
- Permits and licenses. What legalities and permits are required for an in-person event to function? Do you still need them if you go online? Can you recoup the costs of obtaining them if you already acquired them? Can they be extended for future on-site events?
- Security and compliance. Taking your event online may involve security and compliance requirements that you’ll need to verify. For example, you may need to ensure that any new software used for hosting your online event meets standards such as HIPAA, ISO, or GDPR, depending on your event’s industry and regulatory requirements.
Finally, while many companies are already using video conferencing software for meetings or remote work, that doesn’t mean that these tools make sense for your online event.
Event planners need to consider the type of virtual experience that they want to create, as well as their budget, preferred features, channel security, and more.
Are you considering buying a platform? Does it make sense for your business in the long term? You’re going to want to look at these factors when making your decision.
Therefore, here are a few software logistics you’ll want to consider.
- Platform compatibility. Your virtual conference platform should be compatible with various operating systems and devices. Some event apps are built for iOS only or Android only or lack web viewing. Since many people consume media on various devices, pick software that considers your audience’s media consumption and device needs.
- Tech support. You need to be able to provide some sort of tech support for your virtual attendees, regardless if you’re doing webinars or live streaming. Although event technology has already come a long way, not everyone can troubleshoot glitches and other errors on their own.
- Attendee engagement. The software you use should allow you to engage attendees while providing excellent user experiences. Is the interface minimalist? Is it easy to view content on the app even with spotty Wi-Fi? Can attendees easily chat and network with each other?
- Security and restriction. If you need to restrict your event, app, or content to a particular audience, then look for software with privacy settings. For example, if it’s an internal company event, restrict your app to a specific list of people, such as active employees only.
How Do You Take Your Event or Conference Online?
Once you’ve evaluated the pros and cons of taking your event online, you’ll want to make a plan for the shift. Having clear next steps will allow you to achieve your desired results smoothly.
To help you make the shift, here are seven steps for hosting an online event or conference.
1. Organize a checklist of everything and everyone involved
The key to hosting a successful event or meeting is organization. To ensure you don’t miss anyone or anything, we recommend building a checklist of all your event to-dos.
This foolproof event planning guide provides helpful tips for which tasks to accomplish the months, weeks, and days approaching your event. Tasks like searching for sponsors, finalizing your speakers’ list and presentation times, sending reminders, and promoting your function are just some examples of what you’ll want to complete in advance.
Whatever software you use, the key is making sure everyone is aware of what needs to be accomplished and organizing those tasks to tackle them together.
2. Figure Out Your Event Strategy as a Team
There are lots of different directions that you can take when building an event strategy.
Figuring out which channels to focus your energy on and what content to create are critical aspects of your event strategy that you’ll want to plan with your team.
Remember to focus your efforts and not stretch yourself too thin, especially if you’re on a tight deadline. To decide where to focus, ask yourself these questions when figuring out your digital events strategy are the following.
- Which channels produce the most qualified leads and customers?
- What email reminders do you plan to send before, during, and after the event?
- How will you use social media to promote your event or create engagement?
- What other assets do you need to create to support your event?
- Where will you host your content, files, presentations, and images?
By asking yourself these questions, you’ll be ready to host an in-person or online event, such as sending event change updates and push notifications via your mobile app.
3. Reach out to your speakers and vendors
By far, one of the most critical aspects of event planning is making sure that your speakers, sponsors, and vendors are well-informed.
If you are still selecting sponsors or speakers, consider sending them an outreach email that includes the details of your event. You can also link them directly to the event they’re speaking at right from in your event app.
If you already have your speakers selected, schedule a follow-up email to thank them for agreeing to present. If it’s a sponsor you’re conversing with, reach out to them about doing mobile banner ads within the event app.
4. Get Others Engaged with Reconfiguring Your Event
Even if you have a dedicated meeting planner organizing your event, you need to get others involved, especially when reconfiguring your event for a virtual setup.
Here are examples of specific points in your event that will need involvement from different resources to transition to online.
You’ll need to set up a way for attendees to access the event online on the day of, as well as the ability to register if they haven’t already. Technical resources will be required to make sure everything operates smoothly.
Setting up an online-only event page differs from an event page that has a location. The way the page displays in Eventbrite and search engine results will be different. If you search “events this weekend near me,” Google may show events from websites like Eventbrite that are at a venue near you based on your location.
5. Decide on the best software for hosting your event
Without the right software, hosting a high-quality virtual event will be difficult and likely result in a mediocre attendee experience. There are many good options for hosting virtual events such as Zoom, GoToWebinar, and Demio.
But what if your event is hybrid or in-person?
In that case, rather than a tool that will help you broadcast the event, you need something that will help guests stay engaged and interactive during the event. This is where an event mobile app like Yapp can be a game changer!
With Yapp, you can keep your attendees and your event team informed in real-time about the schedule and any changes. Plus, you can provide a social feed for attendees to share photos and stories along with their event experience.
6. Update your marketing and sales content
Shifting to an online event strategy also requires updating event marketing and sales content that you previously published or had planned. The most critical content to prepare and update includes:
- Reminder emails and save-the-date
- One-on-one sales and outreach emails
- Customer success emails
- Push notifications
- Website landing page
- Event registration page
- Registration thank you page
- Schedule and relevant dates
- Event URL and anywhere locations appear
- Banner ads, social ads, and paid ads
- Social media profile and feed images
You can also consider setting up social stories for sharing video tutorials, interviews, product sneak-peaks, and more.
Transcripts of sessions, templates, checklists, cheat sheets, and guides are other great examples of resources that you can easily make a part of your online event and incorporate into your app.
7. Think Beyond Recreating a Traditional Offline Event
Virtual events don’t have to be limited to recreating the offline experience online.
Instead, think beyond redoing what you had planned and consider things you can do online, like activities and games that were previously impossible or limited.
Get creative with different ways of engaging your attendees. For instance, did you previously do live Q&As? Well, you can do a digital Q&A session! Or integrate a virtual competition equipped with points, badges, and rewards.
In summary, hosting a virtual event could be an excellent move for your business, especially if you employ the right tools to create an engaging digital event.
Considering a Mobile App for Your Event?
Whatever form your event may take, be it online or in-person, nobody likes a half-heartedly done event.
One of the best steps you can take to make your online event successful is to use a comprehensive events manager app such as Yapp.
Yapp is an event mobile app platform that helps you do everything. From scheduling to communicating with your team and other key stakeholders, Yapp has all you need to make a well-oiled and ready-to-go virtual event or conference. If you want to use an event app for your next event, you definitely won’t regret choosing Yapp.
Sounds like what you need? Try out Yapp now!