Virtually Possible: Making Online Events a Success in 2020

For small businesses who rely on a busy events schedule, Covid-19 has undoubtedly been a real spanner in the works. In order to keep everyone safe during this global pandemic, virtual events have become the norm, bringing with them a brand new set of challenges and opportunities. Whether you’re brand new to hosting online events, or have already made it a seamless part of your ‘new normal’, we hope this guide will provide some useful tips as you plan your next virtual event.

1. Plan ‘virtual friendly’ events

The first and most important step for any business is to consider how well your usual events will transfer across to a virtual space. If your events normally provide great opportunities for networking, your online version will also need to fulfil that need through some kind of virtual meeting room, like Skype, Slack or Google Meet. Perhaps your event revolves around a live presentation, demonstration, or keynote speech? In that case, video streaming tools like Facebook Live, LinkedIn Live, or even Twitch could help preserve that vital visual experience for your attendees.

Understanding what makes your event unique will really help when it comes to taking it online. Try listing out 2-3 of your event’s USPs, before creating a strategy that translates them as closely as possible into your virtual space. If there are certain things that simply can’t be replicated, that’s OK too! Part of the process is learning how to prioritize and pick the elements that will really resonate with an online audience.

2. Choose your technology carefully

Ensuring you have the right technology in place will make all the difference when it comes to pulling off an ambitious virtual event. From high definition streaming to live Q&A sessions, choosing the correct tech will ensure a seamless experience for your audience. This can be as simple as ensuring that the device you use to stream with has HD video capability, or that the virtual meeting room you’ve set up has enoug bandwidth to support all your attendees.

Whilst your mind might immediately jump to hardware and software choices, it’s really important not to overlook the quality of your internet connection you’re intending to use. HD event streaming is no use if the feed keeps freezing or dropping out, and no one will be able to network if they keep disconnecting from the meeting room! Whether you’re relying on a mobile network, or a business broadband connection, it’s vital that it’s fast and stable enough to support all the online activities you have planned for your virtual event.

3. Get smart with social media

With your virtual event carefully planned out and all the right technology set up and ready to go, the next step involves kicking off some slick digital marketing efforts to promote it. 2020’s global pandemic has meant businesses can’t just rely on engagement generated from previous live events, so getting your virtual event in front of the right audiences on digital and social platforms has never been more important. Take advantage of the event scheduling and promotion tools offered by Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to create teasers and countdowns ahead of the event, increasing interest and anticipation in your audience. You could even consider spending a small amount on a social media campaign to boost your visibility that bit further!

As well as building engagement by teasing high profile speakers or new products being launched, social media can let you continue the conversation right up to and even beyond the event itself. It’s an opportunity to connect with your audience and discuss what matters to them most, using hashtags and event groups to keep everyone involved. Even after your event has ended, video highlights and resources from the event can be promoted to new audiences using demographic targeting, building more momentum and buzz for the next one way ahead of time.

4. Practice makes perfect

Don’t expect your first virtual event to be absolutely perfect, particularly if you’ve never done one before. There are bound to be small slip ups in the planning or execution, but as long as you learn from them, it’s really not a big deal. As you host more online events, the process will become easier and more intuitive, until you’re live streaming your latest keynote like a seasoned pro!

Holding internal ‘dress rehearsals’ of the planned event can often be a really useful way of spotting any potential oversights, getting colleagues to try out virtual meeting rooms or live streams before they’re accessible to the public. This extends to the hardware you’re using too - make sure to test all your video and sound equipment beforehand to minimise the chance of any technology errors on the day of the event. In all likelihood, nothing will go wrong, but particularly when it comes to technology, it’s always a good idea to be prepared.

5. Don’t be afraid to adapt!

No one expected that 2020 would turn out quite the way it has. Being unable to have large numbers of people meet face to face at events has been a real challenge for small businesses who rely on in person interaction to grow their client base. As a result, virtual events have been unexpectedly thrust into the limelight as a viable short term solution.

However, if there’s one thing we are sure of, it’s that small businesses are no slouches when it comes to thinking quickly and adapting to the unexpected. Thanks to social media and the prevalence of smartphones equipped with HD cameras, creating, sharing and live streaming a virtual event has never been easier, and thousands of businesses have begun doing just that. What’s more, emerging technologies like virtual reality are becoming increasingly accessible, bringing with them the possibility of even more immersive, interactive virtual events. Even if businesses look to return to live events post Covid-19, we’re seeing now that technology can go a long way in helping events thrive in the virtual world too.

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