Great virtual events start with a well thought out project plan that details everything that must happen from event conception to event archive. If you try to wing it, or become undisciplined and skip steps in the process, you’re setting yourself up for a failure that will have a negative impact on your brand.
Here are 10 steps we’ve identified that should be a part of any virtual event project plan:
- Define your event’s goals and objectives – what do you want your event to be? Is it an event to generate demand and drive pipeline, an event to enhance the customer experience and forge stronger relationships, or something else? Defining the goals and objectives of your event will set the tone for how you promote it, who you promote it to, and what your virtual environment will entail. Just like every marketing and demand generation campaign begins with laying out goals and objectives before officially executing, you should take the same approach with your virtual event.
- Create a budget – the type of virtual event you plan on hosting will dictate how much you should budget for. When you’re looking at 100% virtual events, the amount of event spaces within your environment, how much content you’ll have, and how many concurrent users will attend your event will determine your costs for the most part (other a la carte items and extras can impact pricing as well). If you’re going the hybrid route, you also need to consider the costs involved for the in-person setup and everything that entails. Whereas 75% of your budget would typically go to the venue for your in-person event, 75% of your budget will most likely go to your technology provider/partner for your virtual event. Plan accordingly.
- Build your content and event space plan: quality and on brand – now that you know the type of event you’re going to execute and how much it’s going to cost, you should build out your content and event space roadmap with a focus on quality and being on brand. What impactful speakers will you be bringing to the table? How are you going to personalize content to your specific audience? Whether it’s webinars, videos, or a piece of literature, you want to provide content that is engaging and gets your audience touching their keyboard. As you look at your event spaces, think about the different ways you can highlight your brand and products through logos, banners, advertisements, and various CTA’s.
- Identify a PARTNER for your specific event and technology needs – executing world-class virtual events aren’t easy. They take a lot of meticulous planning and work to get it right. It’s imperative that you align yourself with a PARTNER, not just a technology vendor, that will act as an extension of your team and help manage the event process from A-Z. Your ideal virtual event partner should have great technology, be in constant communication with you, and bring an unwavering commitment to impeccable customer service. That’s what we bring to our customers every day, and you shouldn’t settle for anything less.Registration page and promotional roadmap – when you build your registration page, there are several things to consider: will your platform provider have registration page capabilities, or will you have to host it on your side or through some other 3rd party? How will you highlight your company, brand, and agenda for the event to increase your chances of driving quality registrations? What information do you want to capture about your event registrants? You need to make sure you get the registration page right because it’s the first impression your target audience will have of your event. Next, think about how you’re going to promote the event and for how long. As with all digital events, we highly recommend a multi-pronged approach that leverages several channels to attack your audience and drive the event traffic you’re looking for. While email is still the most effective way to generate registrations, use every promotional tool at your disposal – website, social, press releases, partners, 3rd party publications, etc. In terms of the time needed to promote, it really depends on the size and scope of your virtual event. While the average promotional window for a webinar is around 4 weeks, for example, you’re looking at about 8 weeks on average for virtual events.Attendee engagement action plan – many companies make the mistake of only thinking about engagement during the event. You need to be thinking about how you’re going to engage your audience before, during, and after the event. When somebody registers, sending them a gift box or pre-event swag can increase the chances that they will attend. Providing your registrants with relevant information and content before the event could increase your chances of them becoming event ambassadors. And think about allowing your registrants to set their agenda beforehand, so they can maximize their time and be efficient the day(s) of your event. During the event, think about the different ways you can engage your audience – personalized content and webinars for their specific job function; video chat and breakout sessions that connect them with peers and industry experts; gamification that immerses them in your event experience and separates you from the competition, etc. Post event, the engagement shouldn’t stop. Archive your event on-demand and continue to give your attendees access for a certain amount of time. Create snippets or highlight reels of the virtual event and deliver it to your registrants and attendees…essentially key moments from the event that they can easily consume. And finally, get their feedback. Send them surveys that ask them about their event experience – what did they like, dislike, and what would they like to see from your digital events moving forward? This feedback can be critical in setting up your virtual event roadmap moving forward.Education, training, and testing across the board – before the event, send tutorials to your registrants that show them how they can navigate the environment and make the most out of their virtual event experience. Educate your speakers, exhibitors, and sponsors (and educate them again) on how to use the technology so they’re prepared to execute on the big day. Finally, test your event environment and test it some more. We recommend that the last 7-10 days before your virtual event is dedicated almost solely to testing and ensuring that everyone is fully comfortable with the platform and their role in the virtual event.Live day support – if something goes wrong, how are you going to troubleshoot it? What does your customer support team look like to ensure that your attendees, presenters, sponsors, exhibitors, and partners are having a great virtual event experience? These are things that need to be flushed out well before your event goes live. As noted above, properly testing everything before the event can drastically limit the amount of support tickets you have to deal with, but if you’re hosting a virtual event with a lot of participants it’s likely that someone out there is going to have a technical difficulty. We’ve found that it’s almost always on their side and not the platform provider, but it’s your event and your job to put your best foot forward in helping them have a glitch-free virtual event experience. This is one of the areas where having a managed-service virtual event provider really helps. At Elastic, we put together a team to help manage your virtual event and this includes customer and technical support for your live day(s). Your technology partner should be able to connect with your event participants through email, text chat, video/audio chat, and phone. As your go through the virtual event technology selection process, ask providers about their support capabilities. It could make or break your event.Event intelligence through analytics and reporting – there are two things that will set the tone here:
Extend the shelf-life of your event for greater ROI – for the most part, when an in-person event is over it’s over. With virtual events, you can extend their shelf-life through on-demand archiving so that they continue to generate ROI over a longer period. However, don’t wait to set your on-demand plan until after the live event is over. When you’re determining how you’re going to promote your event to generate live day attendees, you should also be putting your on-demand plan together. You should promote your archived event with the same urgency that you promoted your live event with. Virtual events are a content marketer’s dream, and you have a wealth of content that can continue to generate leads and drive pipeline for your business long after the live event is over. Capitalize on it!
- The registration fields you require on your registration page. It’s extremely important to determine upfront the data you want to capture from your attendees.
- The virtual event partner that you work with. As you source platform providers, ask them to see what their reporting and analytics look like. You should be able to see all movements attendees make within your virtual event environment. One of the great things about virtual events is they offer a wealth of data and superior metrics and attendee insight compared to physical, in-person events. Make sure that you choose a platform provider that can equip you with the data and insight you need to make smarter sales and marketing decisions post event.
Jason Stegent is the Founder & President of Elastic Solutions. Email him @ firstname.lastname@example.org