The arrival of the Coronavirus pandemic has sent the world virtual. But the events industry won't simply be online for the course of the pandemic. Instead, the way that events operate is likely to change long-term, with virtual and hybrid events taking on a major role in the ‘new normal’ – check out our piece on the ‘new normal’ landscape of business and event strategy beyond Coronavirus for more.

The benefits of virtual events are far-reaching – they’re better for the environment, more cost-effective, more inclusive… but if you don’t have any experience in them, this new world can seem a little daunting. Don’t worry – we’re here to share the top things to consider when planning a virtual event. So, even if you’re new to online event planning, you can still come across as an expert and plan a professional event to be proud of.

Table of Contents

1. What Are Your Objectives?
2. Decide On The Event Format
3. Determine Your Budget
4. Remote Or In-Studio Speakers?
5. Do You Have Sponsors and Exhibitors?
6. Do You Require Audience Interaction?
7. Choosing Your Platform & Tech

1. What Are Your Objectives?

Identifying your objectives at the outset will enable you to make better decisions throughout the virtual event planning process. But don't forget – virtual events aren’t an exact replacement for live ones. Make sure your objectives can realistically be achieved by putting on a virtual event. And if not, consider whether a virtual event is really the best format for your content. Some common objectives could be focussed on:

• Maximising revenue: read our piece on how to monetise your virtual event to discover how to maximise your ROI.

• Growing your audience: check out our article on growing your audience with virtual events and learn how to expand your reach.

• Generating leads: make sure your content is highly relevant for potential leads and arrange to repurpose it so that your content continues to generate leads long after your event has ended.

Remember – your goals should be S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) so that you can easily measure your event's success once it ends.

2. Decide on the Event Format

When you’re planning a virtual event, one of the first decisions you’ll need to make is what format you want the event to take. Is it a simple meeting that could be hosted on Zoom? Or are you looking for a multi-stage, agenda-packed conference with audience engagement and networking?

Understanding exactly what the event experience will look like will help guide you in these early stages of planning. Ultimately, it’s very similar to deciding what kind of venue you want for face-to-face events – you need to decide what the boundaries of your virtual space will be so that you can prepare to find the tools and platforms that fit!

Check out our piece on virtual event formats to view some typical examples.

3. Determine Your Budget

Many people see virtual events as a great way to save money because they don’t require all the elements an in-person event does – you could do without the venue, the signage and the catering, for example.

However, budget plays just as big a factor in the quality of a virtual event as it does for in-person events – there’s always something you can add to make your event feel that little bit more special, whether that’s catering delivered to your delegates’ homes or deliveries of mini wines for a virtual wine tasting (view our piece on virtual social activities for ideas)! It can be hard to know exactly what to invest in and what can be cut.

To help you get some idea of the costs you might be looking at, here are some guide prices for events we’ve planned.

• Basic two-hour live stream session with live event production:

Anywhere from £1,000-2,000.

Two-hour online interactive workshop with audience engagement, breakout rooms, paid ticket registration and live production:

Anywhere from £4,000-5,000.

Half-day virtual conference with four speaking sessions, registration, dedicated event platform, remote speakers, live event production, dedicated event assistant & 100 attendees:

Anywhere from £6,000-10,000.

Just keep in mind that every event is different. These rates will always vary depending on your specific requirements! If you are tight on budget make sure to speak to one of our virtual event experts about where you might be able to save.

4. Remote or in-studio speakers?

If you’re hoping to have a number of speakers presenting content at your event, you’ll need to consider whether you’d like them to present from a studio or whether you’d like each speaker to dial in remotely.

Hosting your event in a studio gives a much more professional look and allows you to control exactly what impression your audience receives. When your speakers are hosting from home, there’s always the risk of an unmade bed in the background or a child wandering into shot!

Not only that but using one studio setting simplifies the production slightly, reducing the risk that one (or more!) of your speakers experiences issues with their internet connection. However, this all comes with the additional costs of venue hire, catering for speakers, on-site staff and, of course, the safety concerns of gathering people together during a pandemic.

If you’d like your speakers to dial in remotely, you’ll need to take guidance from your virtual event production company on the best setup. At the very least, you should ensure that all speakers have a good internet connection with strong bandwidth. They should also have a decent setup with a high-quality webcam and microphone. Don’t forget to spend time testing the system and doing dry runs to make sure that you resolve any issues in advance and prevent interruptions during your event.

If you really want to go the extra mile, why not send all your speakers a pack including a branded pop-up banner for a backdrop and a microphone headset? You could even include an Ethernet cable and adaptor if necessary. This way, even though your speakers are dialling in from different places, they’ll be presented in a consistent way – making the delegate experience as smooth as possible.

5. Do You Have Sponsors and Exhibitors?

Not every event has to make money. After all, there are many other goals you could hope to achieve! But if you are looking to monetise your event, think carefully about the options available.

Selling tickets is, of course, one possible avenue – especially if you have some high-profile speakers involved. However, it can be difficult to hit the right note with an event you’re charging for during these difficult times, due to the vast number of free events out there. So, make sure your event offers enough to justify the price.

Some good alternatives (or additions) to charging for tickets are sponsorship and exhibitors.

Sponsorship

Sponsors are usually looking for more than just a place to display their logo. So, if you're looking to attract sponsors, consider all the ways in which you can provide them with value. Perhaps you could give them opportunities to distribute their content, such as white papers and articles, or invite them to talk in an online session.

If their content is useful and relevant then it's a win-win for both your sponsor and your audience!

Virtual event platforms offer tons of ways to offer value to sponsors, from displaying their branding to offering speaking opportunities. Here are some ideas:

Headline Event Sponsorship

Individual Session sponsorship

Speaking opportunities

Stage Sponsorship

Hosting ‘demo’ presentations live in the platform

Displaying video ads

Exhibitors

If you’re planning a conference, exhibition or trade fair, hosting exhibitors can be a great way to monetise your event. And it's certainly no different when it comes to virtual events!

The best all-in-one event platforms will usually offer plenty of opportunities to provide value to exhibitors, from offering virtual exhibition stands to providing opportunities to network with relevant delegates and to host demo presentations live in the platform.

Don't forget, as long as you believe in an exhibitor's product and it's relevant to your delegates, any opportunity your exhibitor gets to showcase their services should benefit both them and your delegates too!

One to One Matchmaking & Networking

Dedicated 'Virtual Exhibition Stand' where they can showcase their products and services.

Access to analytics and lead retrieval

Hosting ‘demo’ presentations and video live in the platform

It's always worth considering, at these early stages of introducing virtual sponsorship or exhibitors, often the ROI on virtual sponsorship isn't yet proven. So keep this in mind when developing pricing for your sponsorships and exhibition packages.

6. Do You Require Audience Interaction?

While virtual events can’t fully replace in-person events, audience interaction is one way in which they can start to come close. And of course, while social distancing measures are still in place, virtual events can offer a lot to delegates who have been starved of social interaction!

Networking

Before choosing an event platform, consider how important networking is to your event. Large-scale events that are focused on offering stakeholders the opportunity to network should definitely look to offer high functionality networking tools where attendees can be matched with relevant delegates.

There are many platforms that offer AI-powered matchmaking but some are better than others and  the best do tend to fall into higher price brackets. That said, the quality they offer is definitely worth it if networking is central to your event.

Engagement tools

Networking isn't the only way in which delegates can engage with one another and interact with your event. Many platforms also offer live chat, Q&A features and polling. These are all elements that can help your audience to participate and feel more involved, so you should definitely consider all the options before picking the perfect tools to elevate your event.

Some platforms even offer ways in which delegates can be split into teams to work on tasks, such as collaborating on a group picture. Read our piece on all-in-one virtual event platforms to check them out.

Remember that you can inject some audience engagement into even the most basic of events by getting attendees to post questions on social media or send them to you by email.

Get creative

There's no shortage of ideas and activities to keep your audience engaged and to make your virtual event stand out from the crowd. From virtual escape rooms to toasting s'mores around a virtual campfire, read our piece about virtual team building activities for some fun ideas.

7. Choosing Your Platform & Tech

If you’re wondering which are the best virtual event platforms, there’s no easy answer. With so much choice out there and so many different factors to consider, there’s just no one size fits all!

Every piece of technology has its pros and cons and, at the end of the day, often it comes down to budget. There’s no need to spend £10,000 on a basic live stream session that you could just as easily have pulled off for a fraction of the cost. We've put together this piece on our top picks for all-in-one event platforms.

8. Speak To A Virtual Event Expert

If you’re trying to find that perfect balance between budget and wow-factor, why not contact Hire Space’s virtual event experts? We’re here to advise you on where your money can go that extra mile, and where you can definitely save a few pounds – helping you to plan a slick and impressive virtual event that meets all your objectives.

Plus, we’ve managed to negotiate deals all of the top all-in-one virtual event platforms, so that no matter what kind of event you're picturing, you can make your vision a reality for less.

If you’re ready to start planning, simply get in touch and book your free consultation.

 

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