How to host a successful virtual event: 10 tips
Many people use the internet to get in touch with friends and family. But virtual events are also an inexpensive way to get in touch with other professionals. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses, networks, and social life have shifted to the internet, and the virtual events industry is currently booming.
In this article, we're going to explore what virtual events are, how they work, and how you can create an engaging event that will keep your guests coming back.
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What are virtual events?
Virtual events are online events. Depending on the purpose, they can take the form of webinars only by invitation, publicly accessible live streams, online conferences with paid passes or informal social media events, e.g. live tweeting or AMA sessions (ask me anything).
Virtual events usually take place on online platforms such as Instagram, Twitter or Clubhouse, where you can connect with your audience via video chat or voice call. There is also a growing market for specialized virtual event platforms for webinars and conferences.
The biggest benefit of hosting a virtual event is that it's relatively cheap – you don't have to rent a room! In addition, you can speak to a global audience from the comfort of your home.
However, hosting virtual events also has some disadvantages – namely, that you are not physically in front of your guests. Some participants may feel disconnected or have difficulty focusing on what they are saying as they struggle with video and audio quality, poor soundproofing, or background noise.
Types of virtual events
While you can host a virtual event for virtually any reason and occasion (no pun intended!), Here are some popular types of virtual events:
Virtual network events
Virtual networking events enable participants to come together and network in a virtual environment. A variety of networking events can be hosted, including happy hours, after-work meetings, and more.
Virtual team building events
Virtual team building events allow attendees to participate in a variety of team building activities and build team morale, all from the comfort of their own home office.
Virtual fundraising campaigns
It used to be difficult for a charity or non-profit to make their voice heard, but with new advances in technology, virtual fundraising has become one of the most popular ways to raise money online.
Virtual recruitment events
Virtual recruiting events are a great way to narrow down the pool of applicants and identify qualified candidates without employing too much time or money on recruiting.
Virtual shopping events
Experts believe live stream shopping is the next big thing in social media and e-commerce. Virtual shopping events are essentially online product demos where attendees can virtually “shop” for clothing, cosmetics, and other products.
Visit our Social Media Updates website to learn more about Facebook's virtual shopping event, Live Shopping Fridays.
Virtual social events
Virtual events are not just business. You can also set up small, informal virtual social events such as playing board games online with your family or friends.
Ideas for virtual events
Now that you know why you want to host a virtual event, here's the how. Consider these live event platforms and formats for your next big online meeting.
Live tweeting is the active posting of tweets that provide commentary on a live event that is known to your audience and that is likely to be followed – such as a concert, conference, or sporting event.
This type of event is the perfect way to offer hands-on training when traditional, live, face-to-face training is impossible. They are also great for training courses that may not have enough space for all participants.
Virtual conferencing enables you to host large gatherings without the need for an expensive venue or large team. Like their traditional, personal counterpart, virtual conferences offer attendees many opportunities to interact with one another and collaborate on new ideas.
AMA on Reddit
AMA stands for "ask me everything" and is a way for people to get real answers from someone they are interested in. You can start an AMA by going on Reddit and asking others, "Am I interesting enough to do an AMA?"
When answering questions in your post, be sure that your answers are thorough so that the audience can get a sense of who you are and what is important to you. A best practice is for those involved in the AMA to include links to their website or social media profiles to attract new potential followers.
Webinars are an easy way to connect with other professionals from around the world. Hosting a webinar is a great way to build your reputation and expand your network in virtual space.
Social live streams
Live streams on platforms like Instagram or Facebook can help you connect with existing and potential customers and other people in your industry or niche. They are a great way to raise awareness of your product, share new ideas and opinions, introduce yourself to potential customers, and expand your reach.
10 tips for hosting virtual events
Hosting a virtual event can be a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. There are some great tips and best practices out there to help ensure that your virtual event is a success and leaves everyone with a great experience:
1. Set clear goals right from the start
Before planning your virtual event agenda or choosing the best virtual event platform, it's important to know why you want to host an event. Set SMART goals and make sure the entire team responsible for the project understands what you want to achieve.
Source: The Reserves Network
2. Choose the right platform for your virtual event
There are many platforms that offer different features, from co-hosting with another organization or company to using advanced moderation tools.
3. Pick the right time for your event
You want to take into account how many people can attend, whether or not they are in different time zones, and how much time it takes for questions and answers.
Notice: Different countries have different vacation plans!
4. Promote your virtual event
Don't plan for an audience to come to you – make sure you promote your event in a timely manner so that attendees know when it's happening and how to attend.
5. Develop a clear agenda with speakers and time frames
You don't want your attendees to wait long. Provide a clear agenda with clearly marked times and include any relevant links so attendees can plan ahead.
6. Include moderators in your event
You want to make sure that you have enough presenters on hand during your virtual event in case things get out of hand. Remember: not everyone is as polite online as they are offline!
7. Engage your audience
Your audience doesn't need an “hourly presentation” – instead, plan activities with active participation. Encourage your attendees to engage in conversation – and ask questions of the hosts.
8. Prepare to troubleshoot
You might want to use more than one platform. Should technical problems arise with your video or audio, you can switch to another service and continue the event as planned.
9. Send out a follow-up after the event
Talk to your attendees about how they can get access to recordings of the event afterwards. This will also encourage them to come back next time!
After the event, take some time to get in touch with your team and discuss what worked and what didn't. So you are better prepared for your next virtual event!
Virtual event platforms
If you've never hosted a virtual event before, one of these 4 platforms will help you get started.
If you have a large following on Instagram, live streaming on the platform is your best bet. Use Instagram Live Rooms to host a stream with up to 3 other speakers. Your viewers can comment on the stream and ask questions, and you can access the stream's analytics when you're done.
This fast growing audio app is perfect for events that are more of a discussion than a presentation. You can send out event invitations with links to create rooms, and then anyone who has the app installed can overhear and comment on what is being said live.
If you have a large following on Twitter, try the platform's alternative to Clubhouse – Twitter Spaces.
And if you want to learn more about Clubhouse, check out our guide to the Clubhouse app where we explore how businesses can use it.
GoToWebinar is popular virtual event software that is perfect for events with a limited number of participants. The screenshare option ensures that everyone can see all slides in real time and guarantees a great participant experience.
An easy-to-use, no-download webinar tool. BigMarker allows you to create digital whiteboards for your live event. Participants can comment on the board and post questions in a group chat in real time.
Examples of virtual events
If you're looking for inspiration, here are some examples of virtual events that companies and influencers have hosted on social media and beyond.
Make-up tutorials from Benefit Cosmetics on Facebook Live
More than 2.4,000 spectators tuned in to learn how to create a stunning glow-up.
We're serving up some big eyebrow INSPO this Halloween! 😉🎃 We are here today with the BOO-tiful @SabrinaXMakeup and she will show us how to conjure up a breathtaking glow-up.
Posted by Benefit Cosmetics on Thursday October 25th, 2018
The Earful Tower Podcast's live pub quiz
Oliver Gee, host of The Earful Tower podcast, hosts trivia events on the subject of Paris on his YouTube channel – and even offers prizes for the winners.
Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood's Facebook Live Concert
The country superstars held a jam session on Facebook Live and took requests from fans on time and during the broadcast.
Monday night at 7:00 p.m. ET, the Queen and I play your requests during #StudioG! Post your song requests below and …
Posted by Garth Brooks on Friday 20th Mar 2020
Antron Brown's behind-the-scenes tour on Twitter
The NHRA driver led Twitter viewers through his shop, which houses dragsters and trophies, among other things.
. @ AntronBrown shows you around his shop! Take a look behind the scenes of the @ NHRAJrLeague dragsters that he and his kids build, edit and drive. pic.twitter.com/n7538rPwqU
– #NHRA (@NHRA) March 23, 2020
Live baking classes from LinkedIn's senior pastry chef
LinkedIn's pastry chef teaches members how to make croissants and bread pudding.
The sleepy Facebook Live from Purple Mattress
More than 295,000 people have seen this 45-minute video of a woman yawning and brushing her wig.
Dear Insomniac, we are here to help. We present a woman who can't stop yawning and brushing her hair. Happy sleep.
Posted by Lila on Monday 1st May, 2017
Lunch Doodles from Mo Willems
Every day at lunchtime, the Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence hosts doodle sessions for kids on YouTube.
Lululemon's Yoga Live Streams
The yoga brand's global ambassadors lead workout, meditation and yoga classes live on Instagram.
VanGogh Museum online exhibitions
The VanGogh Museum in Amsterdam allows its followers to walk through the gallery from the comfort of the couch.
Our tour continues! Today we're delving into the bright and vibrant paintings Vincent made in Paris: https://t.co/Yz3FpjxphC What is your favorite piece of art from this part of the museum? #museumathome pic.twitter.com/k8b79qraCX
– Van Gogh Museum (@vangoghmuseum) March 24, 2020
British Museum opens its doors to Google Street View
More than 60 galleries in the British Museum can be visited via Google Street View.
🏛 Did you know the museum is the largest indoor space on Google Street View?
Take your time browsing through more than 60 galleries while we #MuseumFromHome – visit the Egyptian Sculpture Gallery here: https://t.co/y2JDZvWOlM pic.twitter.com/0FyV4m6ZuP
– British Museum (@britishmuseum) March 23, 2020
Fire Drill Fridays goes virtual
Jane Fonda's organization brings climate activism online with virtual rallies every Friday.
Join @JaneFonda, @greenpeaceusa and @SenMarkey this Friday at 2 p.m. ET / 11 a.m. PT for a #FireDrillFriday 🔥 teach-in on the importance of engagement in the age of # COVID19.
To participate, register here and please spread the word: https://t.co/7eE9aZV57I pic.twitter.com/W7JdPLco7T
– Fire Drill Fridays (@FireDrillFriday) March 24, 2020
Girlboss Rally goes digital
Girlboss founder Sophia Amoruso plans to host her brand's annual conference entirely online this year.
Skifts Business Travel Online Summit
Skift will be using Zoom to host this multi-speaker and participant online summit. Guests will have the opportunity to ask questions and will be given access to a recording of the event.
Announcing New Skift Online Business Travel Summit << Start of a new series of Online Summits on the Path of Travel into the Future. https://t.co/mKTcX3jCpB via @Skift
– Rafat Ali, media owner and operator (@rafat) March 23, 2020
3% conference livestream presentations
This organization, which was founded to remedy the fact that only 3% of creative directors were women, offers live streaming of their conferences at a reduced cost. The group also regularly hosts Instagram story takeovers to inspire followers.
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