Online events have become the new standard for the event industry. In less than a year, thousands of seasoned specialists have become beginners in the organization and promotion of their events …
However, these digital meetings are not really new, and existed long before the pandemic. However, the quality requirements and the expectations of the participants have become much higher. And the formats available have grown surprisingly diverse, ranging from webinars to online exhibits.
From an external point of view, knowing how to organize a digital event can seem much simpler than for a traditional physical event. And yet, a lot can go wrong due to poor preparation or poorly thought out strategic choices. All the more reason for take advantage of the experience and expertise that fortunately exist in this field to avoid making mistakes that could cost your organization dearly.
Here is the 5 most important elements of planning a virtual event. And some tips and best practices to make them the engines of its success.
Define the objectives of your online event
As with any event format, the definition of clear strategic objectives is absolutely essential. This preliminary reflection will make it easier to orient the decisions to be taken for your organization. But also to acquire effective tools to measure results and improve its event orientations.
Consider the goals your organization wants to achieve with this event. Whether you want to reorient your brand image, convince potential partners or investors, reach out to a new market or present your latest product … The format of your digital event, the way you will communicate with its participants, and down to the budget that you are going to award it will not be the same.
Once defined, your goals may also guide your planning strategy. And determine which members of your team to mobilize for their organization.
The trinity of the digital event: the format, the place and the platform
A digital event will be defined mainly by the format it will take, the place where it will be filmed. As well as the platform on which you will distribute it. Most of the time, these three elements will be closely related to each other.
Choose a digital event format
When it comes to choosing a virtual event format, there’s no shortage of choice. It is necessary to quote for example:
- Online training or workshops : sessions where participants acquire a skill, take a course or a certification. The trainer can have one-on-one interaction with the participant, answer their questions via live Q&A, share content and more. Business seminars can also be classified in this category;
- Summits or virtual conferences : this type of digital event format brings together several speakers. And to facilitate two-way communication between them and in real time;
- The webinars: a virtual seminar on a given theme and led by a host. It is the most popular format to reach a very large audience;
- Virtual meetings : to connect people who share a common interest;
- Virtual fairs : acclaimed for online product launches. They make it possible to network the partners of an industry and to receive live comments from its target customers;
- The Ask Me Anything: a unique format for interviewing an expert or speaker who will answer questions from the audience in real time;
- The fireside cat : Very popular within the startup community, this is an informal discussion between a guest and a moderator. Its informal and intimate setting makes it more attractive to the public.
Rent the right space to shoot your digital event
The organization of a digital event will also require the rental of physical space. Since it will be filmed, it may be a typical studio environment, but it will also require good lighting and sound installations.
Your digital event can also be a hybrid format between face-to-face and virtual. In this case, the place must be appropriate not only to accommodate an audience, admittedly small, but no less present alongside the audiovisual production team.
A good rule of thumb to remember is to avoid the easiness by opting for a business conference room. They are generally not suitable for organizing a digital event. And the firewall that protects your IT infrastructure can also cause nasty streaming issues. It can be difficult to resolve each issue in advance, and the quality of the download may vary from day to day.
A dedicated space will therefore make it possible to avoid technical boondoggles. And not having to invest in equipment that is all the more expensive as you will not always expect to reuse it on a regular basis.
Choose the right platform to broadcast your event online
It may seem easy at first glance, because there are many online event broadcasting platforms. Some of these platforms have already gained popularity, such as Hopin or Airmeet. Others are still trying to find their way to more users. But almost all of them offer features like live streaming, networking, live chat, registration, ticketing, etc.
Making your choice will be much easier if your requirements are modest. And that the expected number of participants is less than a hundred. But when you’re targeting a larger audience, or working with sponsors that have their own set of specifications, things get a bit tricky. Take the time to compare their performance on different browsers, but also the responsiveness of their technical support before making any decision.
Prepare the content and speakers for your digital event
The speakers of your digital event will have a considerable impact on its success. The way you integrate them into its organization and the creation of its content will also give you the possibility of making them long-term partners. And even ambassadors for your company.
To satisfy both your speakers and your audience, it is especially crucial to prepare them well. For a physical event, this preparation is usually done via test or rehearsal sessions ahead of D-Day. For an online event, this is an absolute must, as your speakers won’t always know how a live is going. Neither will know the technical requirements of a digital event.
Organizing a preparation session a few days before the event will be a big asset. This is the right time to pre-record their speeches or keynotes, in order to overcome any technical problem during the event itself. But also to explain to them how to use your streaming platform, determine when they are live, or interact with your audience.
When you promote your event online, Always keep your target audience in mind. For example, ask yourself where, how and through what type of content to engage potential participants. And above all what is your marketing argument to convince them to register, to be present on D-day and especially to buy their place if you have opted for a paying event.
For example, you can create engagement by highlighting your stakeholders. Or by emphasizing the learning / networking opportunity that your digital event will offer. Whatever your strength of proposal, take advantage of your communication channels, and in particular social networks, to broadcast your virtual event to the right people. For example, you can create a countdown and tease your event via your Instagram or Facebook stories. Or list your event on a How Eventbrite platform to get more exposure.
Support participants during the digital event itself
Providing the most relevant and personalized support possible to your participants is as crucial for a digital event as it is face-to-face. Several lines of thought to be carried out to ensure this support can, for example, relate to anticipation of their demands. In particular by providing an FAQ around the use of the broadcasting platform, and certain features such as live chat.
For the organization of a larger digital event, the provision of a trained and qualified technical support team will often be necessary. Especially to manage the most complicated situations, for which a video call with the participant will be inevitable.
In addition to technical questions, take the time to set up feedback collection tools so that you can measure the impact of your event. And improve yourself if you think about organizing more later. A thank you message in the days following your webinar or online conference, replaying or sharing the full video of the event will also go a long way in terms of loyalty. And transforming your listeners into future partners / customers of your business.
We hope that the guidelines shared in this article have given you the weapons you need to get started with the organization of your digital event. The first attempt will certainly always seem a bit chaotic to you. But with a minimum of experience and a lot of planning, your virtual events will quickly become second nature. And effective tools to achieve the most strategic goals of your business.
Laurent Arpino, Associate Director of the Lieux-evenementiels.fr site.