It's no secret that virtual events became a necessity in 2020. In fact, 71 percent of marketing professionals estimate that virtual events will continue beyond 2021.
Many event organizers have been forced to enter the world of virtual events for the first time. This sudden shift to online events has paved a new way for attendees to connect. And with the adaptive technology involved, it's easier than ever to plan a virtual event.
As with any new process, there are new challenges. But you’re no
t alone. Event organizers, sports organizations, charities, small businesses have all made the transition to virtual and hybrid. If you’re new to virtual events or even planning your first one, here are some of the most common mistakes to avoid to ensure success of your event.
1. Not Planning Ahead
Steve Miller Band said it best, "time keeps on slipping … into the future" - and your event will be here before you know it.
Most live events never reach their goals because they start too late in their timeline. Map out your game plan well in advance to allow time to develop content, secure the right presenters and promote the event. Creating an engaging virtual event takes time, so back everything into your timeline to make sure it’s done right. Here are a few additional tips:
- The ideal timeline is to have your event mapped out 12 months in advance for hybrid or in-person events, and 9 months out for virtual-only events. Consider the time you will need to build out the content and theme before you dive into the logistics.
- Secure your speakers and talent at least 6 months out - this will help solidify the value proposition around your event. You’ll want to leverage your speakers/talent to promote your event to their audiences. Having this all set in advance will give them time to promote.
2. Not Defining Your Virtual Event Objectives
Every event serves a purpose, including a virtual event. Defining your goals for your event will help you shape the content for your events to deliver the return on your investment. Here are some examples of event objectives and what success would look like for each:
Paid Attendance – deliver value for the price of the ticket.
Brand Awareness – allow attendees to live, breath and experience your brand. Solidify your brand message, create advocates.
Subscription Access – deliver valuable content weekly or monthly. Grow subscribers.
Educational Experience – share tips, best practices and strategies. Present your brand as a thought leader in your industry.
Internal Events – keep your internal team in the loop. Use internal event to inspire your corporate culture.
Fundraiser Events – reach potential donors for your cause. Make it easy for them to contribute.
3. Choosing the Wrong Platform
There are many different platforms out there to choose from, including some free options. Just like anything, you get what you pay for. So make sure you select one with the features you need to be successful.
Each platform has its pros and cons. Make a list of your objectives and include the features and capabilities you will need to be effective. For instance, if you’re hosting a hybrid event you might have some specific requirements, like:
- Selling tickets online, providing VIP access
- Integrating with your registration platform
- Hybrid ticketing options
- On-demand access to content
- Customization of the video player
- Sponsorship exposure
Every event is different, so be sure you are set up with technology that can match your needs.
4. Overcomplicating the Event
Find the right balance in the content you’re presenting. Creating too much content will overwhelm your audience and duplicate content just adds confusion. Carefully consider the number of sessions and topics you plan to cover.
Create an easy-to-follow agenda so virtual attendees don't get too overwhelmed. A simple program makes it easy to follow and helps keep virtual attendees engaged.
Understand your attendees and their expectations for the event. Are they tech-savvy? If they’re not, consider how can you make things easier for them. Your attendees are very busy in their personal lives so make sure to keep them engaged. Plan your sessions into a condensed timeframe and provide a recap at the end.
Viewing your event in a virtual setting can also present many distractions, so keep your event simple and plan around their needs.
5. Not Setting a Realistic Timeline for Event Promotion
Time is money - and having enough time to run an effective promotion is critical to event success. The more time you have to promote the event, the more likely you are to maximize attendance. Here’s some food for thought:
- Your prospective attendees consume an enormous amount of content daily. The average attendee may see your promotion 2-3 times before they take notice and consider attending your event. Carefully plan your promotion cycle to allow you to nurture your prospects to conversion.
- You need time to inform attendees on the logistics of the event:
- Number of sessions will they get for their ticket
- Is food included in the price of a ticket?
- Are there other benefits such as a meet and greet with a performer etc.?
All these things go into consideration before purchasing a ticket or registering for your event.
- Plan your communications to cover these details at the appropriate time.
- Get sponsors, partners and speakers involved in promoting the to their audiences. Give them the tools and assets they will need to clearly communicate to their social audiences.
6. Not Planning the Virtual Attendee Experience
Even with hybrid events, many attendees are on the fence on whether they will attend in person or online. Add value to your event by increasing attendee interaction and create a memorable virtual attendee experience.
How will your remote audience arrive at the event? Will your event just randomly start, or will there be a host welcoming the virtual audience, introduce sponsors and give a preview of the day’s sessions? This sounds so much better, doesn’t it? The virtual experience can easily be enhanced with some added content between sessions, for example:
- Short video vignettes with industry experts
- Capture the vibe of the event with a roaming reporter interviewing in-person attendees
- Take a poll or survey, present the results in real time
The goal is to connect your attendees in both environments to close the gap between in-person and virtual.
Event planners agree that most events moving forward will continue to have a virtual component. Planning virtual events just requires a shift in mindset and a few planning adjustments. Also, give yourself some time to focus on production of the virtual component.
We’re here to help organizers and businesses plan successful virtual events. We’ve also created a guide to virtual events that walks you through the basics of planning virtual and hybrid events.