Virtual events have quickly become savvy marketers' secret weapon—and it’s not hard to see why! Virtual events check a lot of boxes.
And while virtual events are often perceived as an “easy” replacement for in-person engagements, this isn’t necessarily the case. Even a “simple” webinar requires a lot of planning and preparation—but don’t panic.
We’ve compiled this handy virtual event checklist to help streamline your event planning. We fully recognize that every event is unique, so we recommend using this template as a starting point and refining it as needed for your event strategy. With that, let’s dive in!
First things first, what’s a virtual event? Simply put, virtual events are events hosted remotely through the power of the internet.
Many event marketers had to pivot during COVID-19, and virtual events are more mainstream than ever before.
Whether it’s a simple webinar or a multi-day, multi-track conference, virtual events allow you to connect with your target audience from the comfort and convenience of their own home or wherever they’re based.
All you need to execute a virtual event is a working internet connection, a computer or a smartphone, a minimal tech setup, and an event technology platform, and you are set!
While virtual events were synonymous with webinars a few years back, their scope has grown so much lately that organizations now host full-fledged multi-day virtual conferences, summits, training programs, and trade shows.
💡Need some inspo? Check out these ten virtual event ideas for every stage of the funnel.
The pre-event prep begins with the basics like setting event goals, identifying your target audience, choosing the best event format, and planning event promotions.
Here are a few things you’ll want to nail down before you go live:
Every good project starts with a goal! For virtual events specifically, it helps to approach event goal setting from two different angles.
Here are a few examples of how both angles fit together and map to key performance indicators (KPIs):
You likely have multiple target buyer personas or audiences—and that’s ok. But not every segment would be relevant for a single event. So, pick only those personas that would benefit the most from your event.
Is your event an exclusive learning event just for current customers? What about a highly-targeted AMB-style event for VIP target accounts? Maybe there’s one specific persona you’re trying to boost engagement with?
Take time to think through your goal and what audience is most relevant.
Next, you need to nail down your virtual event concept.
What’s the overarching theme? How many sessions will your event have? Will you incorporate networking and virtual engagement? What event format will work best for what you’re trying to accomplish?
Much of this will tie back to your goal. For example, a 45-minute interview-style event would be great for general thought leadership and community engagement. A multi-track conference-style event would be ideal for nurturing leads and driving pipeline.
Be sure to also think about the event branding. Remember, you want to WOW the audience with a polished and professional event.
As the name suggests, an event brief is a simplified version of your full event plan. This master document should link out to all other relevant documents and serve as the “single source of truth” for anyone on the team looking for info on the event.
Here are a few things to include in your event brief: event timeline, resource planning, master project plan, promotional plans and materials, and the event budget.
For a virtual event that packs a punch, you’re going to want a platform that delivers.
Specifically, look for a solution that allows you to fully brand your event. You want an event that looks and feels like your brand—not the providers.
You’ll also want some creative levers to engage your audience directly. Think the basics, like live chat, Q&A, and polls, plus more innovative features, like video Q&A, gamification, and embedded apps for games, photo booths, and more. Embrace creative engagement levers and watch the time spent in your event skyrocket.
Finally, you’ll want an event platform that makes it super easy to attend. Things like single-click Magic Links, scheduled email reminders, and automatic calendar holds will keep your event top of mind and increase show rates.
The Zoom fatigue is real, and attendees are likely stuck in multiple Zoom-esque meetings each day. Surprise and delight your audience with a slick, polished event experience that will have them buzzing for days.
Content is an indispensable part of a virtual event, no matter its size. It’s what drives the pre-event buzz, increases event engagement, and improves the overall attendee experience. You want attendees fully immersed in the session and eager to participate in polls, Q&A, etc.
The content plan should cover content leading up to the event, the event agenda and programming, and post-event engagement.
Let’s look at a few examples of how you can use content to drive your event:
Crafting event content also includes sourcing buzz-worthy speakers. Internal folks that are comfortable on camera are a great option for thought leadership and product topics. For external speakers, look for speakers at partner companies or within your space that share a similar audience.
And don’t forget about session content—the meat of your event. For smaller virtual events, like webinars, event content might be owned by someone on the content or demand generation team. For larger events, like conferences, event content is owned by a dedicated events team.
Don’t underestimate the time it takes to create event content. Start planning your content early, and work closely with design to make sure everything looks and feels sharp.
You’ve set some event goals and nailed down your format—now it’s time for the fun part… promotion! Event promotion possibilities are only limited by your imagination (ok, and your budget, too).
Typically, how far in advance you promote your event is directly correlated to how large the event is. A webinar might only have a one to two-week promo period, while a flagship annual event might be promoted for several months.
Here are a few ideas on how to promote your event and drive registrations:
You’ll want to make sure all speakers and guests are super comfortable before the event.
Schedule dry run sessions with folks a few weeks in advance to be sure their tech setup works, their background is quiet and professional, and they fully understand how your virtual event platform works.
If your event has sponsors, you’ll also want to get all sponsor materials uploaded to the platform in advance and give sponsors a chance to review and make any necessary changes.
You’ve made it to the big day! The day of your event is likely filled with high-octane activities.
You’re on the hook to assist speakers and attendees, encourage everyone to engage during sessions, and be the point of contact for the entire event experience. No big, right?
Here’s a quick rundown of things to add to your to-do list during the event:
As we mentioned earlier, Zoom fatigue is the curse of virtual events. It’s harder than ever to capture and keep attention. You’ll need an A+ engagement plan to keep folks active and interested during your sessions.
Here are a few ideas for engaging attendees during event sessions:
Breakout sessions are a great way to break up individual sessions and get folks together in smaller rooms. There are several creative ways to use both breakout sessions and networking rooms, so let’s break it down.
First things first, decide whether you want to allow folks to choose-their-own adventure (via Rooms) or if you want to randomize or pre-assign sessions (via Breakout Sessions). The main difference between the two is that folks can voluntarily enter Rooms versus Breakout Sessions, where they are added to groups by the event organizer.
Here’s a quick summary:
Do not wait until the last minute to plan for event support. The last thing you want is to put out fires at the eleventh hour!
As noted above, event organizers are often on the hook for live event support. This might include moderating the live chat during sessions, assisting speakers with slides and videos, or providing technical support during the event.
Depending on the size of your event, it’s helpful to have a few folks on the team available to help with behind-the-scenes event support. People on sales, demand generation, content, and more should be fully equipped to help with these activities.
For larger events, having a platform partner that offers event support is a huge game-changer. Look for a provider where you have a dedicated point of contact and customer support to ensure your virtual event is flawless.
Whew! The event might be over, but the work is far from done. After the cameras turn off and attendees go about their day, the post-event work kicks into high gear.
Now, it’s time to send out post-event emails and recaps, analyze event data, engage sales for timely follow-ups, and start planning for the next event.
There’s nothing more powerful to a business than data. Robust analytics is another key feature you’ll want to look for in your virtual event provider.
Specifically, look for a platform that provides data beyond just event registrations and attendees. You’ll want to go deeper into individual attendee engagement on a per-session level and import all of that rich data into your other tools like marketing automation and CRM platforms. This will allow you to score leads based on their interest and engagement level.
On a broader level, check other platforms like Google Analytics, social media management tools, your CRM, etc., to analyze the effectiveness of your event marketing campaigns across various channels.
Be sure to map relevant KPIs back to the event goals that you set at the beginning of this process.
You put a ton of time and energy into planning and executing stellar virtual events. While your internal team might be great cheerleaders, it’s important to get direct feedback from attendees and partners on their perceptions.
These event surveys can be as high-level or granular as you like. For a webinar, a short 5-question or less survey will likely cover your bases. For larger events, individual session surveys can be helpful in understanding the relevance and impact of specific topics and speakers.
Don’t forget specific surveys for partners or sponsors. You’ll definitely want to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience to keep these folks happy.
Include these surveys in your post-event email, and consider a giveaway or another incentive to increase the submission rate.
Remember—feedback is a gift. As Bill Gates once said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”
Take any and all feedback in stride. Share wins with the broader team and take critical comments into consideration for future events.
Attendees took valuable time out of their busy day to participate in your event. So, be sure to thank them for joining!
Thank your attendees, speakers, and sponsors for participating in the event. Take this opportunity to share links to the on-demand content, relevant online communities, and anything else you can think of that would be helpful for attendees.
After your post-event emails are sent, make sure your event data is connected to your CRM for appropriate sales follow-ups. Make sure the sales team follows up with the hot leads in a timely and personalized manner.
Last but certainly not least, compile key event takeaways and share them with relevant stakeholders.
What went well? What can be improved from last year? Did you crush your goals or fall short? What did attendees and sponsors have to say?
The best post-event reports are clear, concise, and include both qualitative and quantitative insight to tell a complete story.
There you have it, our simplified 15-step virtual event planning checklist!
Remember—this is just a jumping-off point. Take these steps, think about your own event strategy, and perfect your own personal event checklist.