How to Host an Online Event for Your Biz
Over the past few weeks, events have been cancelled, conferences have been postponed, and large gatherings have been delayed indefinitely. But just because in-person events are impractical during this current season, doesn’t mean you can’t rally people together for a business event. Virtual events are having a moment and there’s plenty of opportunity for you to get in on the action.
What is a Virtual Event?
A virtual event is any sort of gathering of multiple people that takes place in a virtual setting, as opposed to in a physical setting or location. Virtual events tend to focus on a specific agenda or objective and are generally held live via a social media platform or video streaming service. Common types of virtual events include:
- Classes and tutorials. Product demonstrations, software tutorials, and educational classes are all great examples of virtual events. These tend to be popular in the B2B world but are also valuable in niches like higher education.
- Conferences and summits. There’s been a steep rise in the number of online conferences and virtual summits over the past few weeks. While many of these events are replacing existing events that would have taken place in a physical location (like certain portions of the popular SXSW conference), others are brand new events that are taking advantage of this new virtual environment.
- Live performances. Entertainers, comedians, musicians, and speakers are using this new virtual environment to put on live performances. Most of these events are free and/or benefit charity. However, there are also opportunities for monetization.
4 Tips for Successful Online Events
No two virtual events are the same. In fact, it’s this versatility and uniqueness that makes them so appealing. Feel free to be creative and try new things. Having said that, here are some helpful tips that will almost certainly increase your odds of being successful:
1) Choose the Right Time
Timing is everything with online events. In particular, there are factors you’ll want to be strategic about:
- Event date. Think carefully about when you want to host the event. The ideal time will depend on your audience. If it’s a B2B conference, something during the week will work well. If it’s an online event for hobbyists, you might consider something on Friday night or Saturday morning. Play around with the date and time to increase the likelihood of attracting the right attendees.
- Event length. It’s also important to think about the length of the event. Will this be an all-day virtual summit? Or is it a 30-minute webinar? Will the event take place in one concentrated period of time, or can people drop in and out throughout the day?
Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers. Make decisions and see what happens. You can always iterate and improve with future events.
2) Identify Your Target Audience
You want to cast a wide enough net that you’re able to generate a meaningful group of attendees, but not so wide that the content and substance of the event fails to resonate with any specific attendees.
Early in the process of planning your live event, you should take the time to generate one to three target personas. This will clarify your agenda, guide your content, and assist in your promotional strategy.
3) Promote it Everywhere
Speaking of promotional strategies, you need to go all-in on the promotion front. Few people will sign up for an event the first time they hear about it. It’s going to take lots of exposure for people to feel compelled to opt in and register.
According to MembershipWorks, there are five powerful ways to promote an event:
- Send a strategic email marketing campaign out to your email list.
- Make frequent posts across all of your social media profiles.
- Create an event committee of influencers and connections to broadcast promotions to their audiences.
- Create a social media event on Facebook and LinkedIn to drum up excitement.
- Write a press release or pitch letter and get it in the hands of bloggers and journalists.
Promotion should start at least three weeks prior to the live event and should gradually build up. The bulk of your registrations will occur within three days of the event, but most of the groundwork is laid in the weeks prior.
4) Practice Makes Perfect
It’s helpful to have a few dry run-throughs and rehearsals prior to the day of the event. This lessens the chances of technical difficulties and other unforeseen issues that could compromise the quality of the event.
Adding it All Up
Don’t be afraid of trying something new. If you wait until you think you have it all figured out, you’ll never get started. Treat virtual events as a learning experience and look for opportunities to grow. It won’t always be smooth, but you’ll pick up valuable insights and lessons along the way.