We’ve all been on countless Zoom meetings at this point. Adding a virtual event to the list can seem like yet another virtual meeting to sit and watch. Booooooring.
Kick the trend and re-imagine what a virtual event can and should be! You can still provide the sense of networking, engagement, and education that used to only be achieved by attending an event in-person.
To truly pull off the best virtual event possible, you need to take the hallmarks of an in-person event, and scale them to the digital space.
How to host a successful virtual event
It may sound a little daunting at first, but I’ve broken down the process into smaller activities from planning through execution to help you succeed.
- Send an invitation
- Nurture your sign-ups
- Prepare for your event
- Find the right hosting platform
- Follow-up with attendees
Let’s dive into the details for each step and get you prepared to host a successful virtual event!
1. Send a memorable invitation
The invitation is the first point of contact for prospective event attendees. An engaging and fun invitation is more attractive than simply posting a sign-up link on a website or social media.
The key is to make an event invitation fun, real, immediately informational, and personable. Invite individuals by name (if you have a known list like we do using HubSpot's CRM) and promote the branded event with consistent and engaging design.
Give recipients some context and value in every single invitation. Adding key information immediately shows your target audience you have insights to share, and creates some buzz to get people interested. Remember, attendees aren’t going to get the full scope of a company’s brand virtually, but an effective invitation is the first step to increasing brand awareness and familiarity.
Though we live in the digital world of “now,” virtual event invitations should be sent out weeks in advance. Make your event one attendees don’t want to miss by promoting:
- Key speakers or guests
- New skills to learn
- Networking opportunities
- Industry or customer trends
So, when’s the best time to start sending out invitations? There’s typically a spike in registering for an event 2-3 weeks before the date. In other words, promotions and invitations are most effective during this time period. Concentrate your marketing efforts a few weeks out to maximize attendance.
There are hundreds of ways to share virtual event details, but it’s essential that invitations provide all the necessary details in one place.
Create a landing page that provides the event name, date, how to access the event, a CTA to sign up, and any other necessary information like an agenda or price if applicable. Once the landing page is created, send out invitations through:
- Ads. Extend a brand’s reach on platforms where audiences are already active to spread the word about the event, where to find details, and how to sign up.
- Social media. Create countdown graphics, Instagram stories, or video teasers to generate interest with a link to the landing page.
- Email. Have your team send more personal invitations to their network to grow existing relationships and build rapport.
2. Nurture sign ups
The list of sign ups is growing - yay! Be careful and keep those sign-ups engaged to be sure they show up to attend the event. If you don't continue to nurture and keep individuals who signed up engaged, you could have lower numbers than anticipated once the event itself is live.
Email marketing is one of the best ways to stay in front of sign-ups to add value to the event and increase attendance rate. Send emails that demonstrate the value of the event, and generate excitement to attend. Or, tap into FOMO marketing. Drip details like the announcement of a new speaker, or a new segment was added due to popular demand, to further drive enrollment rates.
If companies have the budget, a swag bundle for sign-ups is an emerging trend to engage attendees and give them the familiar sense of attending an event. If coordinating an event with a smaller budget, consider partnering with a sponsor to co-brand items to connect attendees, generate buzz, and increase overall brand awareness before and after the event.
3. Prepare for the event
Create a hashtag and show behind the scenes planning and preparation to get attendees engaged. As the date gets closer, encourage attendees to participate on social media with the hashtag by replying with their preparations for the event and how excited they are about attending.
Plan for the worst, but hope for the best. Create a tech support plan, and have backup content in case a speaker or host is having issues. Make sure there’s a technical troubleshooting plan in place for attendees to refer to if they run into issues themselves. A chat support or dedicated team member for tech support is a good solution to have in place to make sure the event runs smoothly.
4. Host on the right platform
Make sure to pick the best video platform that meets the budget, has the best streaming service, event capabilities, and reporting features. Set KPIs for virtual events to measure ROI and use tracking features to get the best insights on attendees.
Save or record key elements of the event to share with attendees and no-shows afterward to create a useful resource and continue the conversation.
5. Follow-up with attendees
The event isn’t completely over after the host logs off. A follow-up strategy is needed to ensure that the attendees have a well-rounded experience.
- Send an email. Provide the slides or transcript for the event plus any resources mentioned. Include a survey to get direct feedback from attendees to improve other events later.
- Post on social media. Post images, quotes, or short videos from the event to keep the conversation going.
- Blog. Write about how things went and how hosting a virtual event went. Include tips for other people to use if they want to host a virtual event; you might become a thought leader in the industry. Encourage attendees to write about what they learned on their website or if you’ve created a strong connection, ask them to write for your website.
Plan ahead to succeed in the virtual event space
Whew, that was a lot! A successful virtual event takes a lot of time, energy, and planning. Every detail from the invitation to the follow-up matters when creating a virtual event so brands and attendees get the most out of it.
Take a few minutes to debrief with your team to talk about how things went, what to improve on for next time, and give a report on the analytics. Learn from the engagement to better understand your audience and make informed decisions for virtual events moving forward.