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Organizing a virtual event is no small feat. From coming up with your topic idea to figuring out whether the event met your goals, you've got to be strategic every step of the way!
And let's be honest: while the barriers to entry for virtual events are lower than IRL events, which is a good thing, it also means more competition! Your audience has so many choices when it comes to available events. You have to think of ways to break through Zoom fatigue, really wow people, and ensure they'll come back for more.
At Goldcast, we've hosted well over 300 events by now, and we've learned quite a few things! We wanted to share some of our top tips with you to ensure your event runs smoothly, is a smashing success, and hits your desired ROI metrics.
From understanding your target audience to selecting engaging moderators, this blog post will help light the path to hosting successful virtual events. We'll look at setting goals, promoting the event, using purpose-built software, and so much more.
With these tips in hand, you'll feel confident and prepared to host your upcoming virtual event.
Let's get started!
If you keep up with Goldcast, you know we say this all the time—but that's because it's true! You have to start the event planning process by first identifying your goals. If you don't know what you're trying to accomplish, you'll end up spinning your wheels and paying attention to the wrong details.
Start by clarifying the purpose of the virtual event and setting some objectives for it. This information will guide every other aspect of the planning process and may even answer some other questions.
For example, if your goal is to gather with top CMOs that use your product, you're going to automatically rule out a number of event types. A general webinar isn't going to accomplish these goals, and a hybrid event in Chicago doesn't make sense if most of your CMOs live abroad!
Likewise, if your goal is to educate your audience on an upcoming product, you'll probably hone in on hosting a virtual product launch. You'll instantly gain insight into who you want to attend, what key points need to be on your agenda, and what some potential KPIs are—just by understanding your goal!
Not only do you need to know your goals, but you need to know who you're trying to reach and what motivates them.
It may seem confusing at first, but the first two tips here actually inform each other. You might start out knowing who you need to engage before knowing why or how. Remember our example with the top CMOs? It's only through knowing that audience that you'll be able to figure out what type of event will resonate most with them.
Having a solid understanding of your audience allows you to flesh out the right topics and discussion points. It also helps you to brainstorm creative ways to engage people, whether it's dreaming up the perfect giveaway item or selecting the best moderators (more on both of those soon!).
And if you want more info on your target audience, don't be afraid to go straight to the source! You can engage with people on social media, of course, but you can also use post-event surveys to get fresh insights. Follow up after your events with surveys to garner more information around what people want to learn about, what their challenges are, and other topics that can help you plan future events.
Next up: What type of event best suits your goals and your audience, and what should be included in your event schedule documents?
Once again, the type of event you go with depends on your goals and your audience. There are myriad options to choose from:
Once you choose the event structure, you need to decide how it will flow. At Goldcast, we use agendas, as well as what we call our Run of Show document. In our world, agendas are more of a high-level look at what will happen during the event.
Ideally, someone can glance at the agenda and know what should be happening at any given moment during the session. Agendas are often shared with attendees in order to set expectations for the session and get everyone on the same page.
Run of show
On the other hand, the Run of Show is an internal-only document that goes much more in depth. It lays out all of the talking points keynote speakers will use, includes information on items like event entertainment, and includes all of the finer details that don't necessarily need to be shared in a simple agenda.
As you plan out your event schedule, be sure to think about what will allow people to remain engaged throughout the event. A good formula we use at Goldcast is to have roughly 25-30 minutes of speaker and presentation time—broken up by polls and the like—and then use the rest of the time for Q&A sessions.
Booking great speakers for your event—whether they're sourced internally or externally—is a critical part of a successful virtual event. You want someone who is knowledgeable about the topic, dynamic, and confident leading events in the virtual space.
If you don't already have someone in mind, create a list of potential speakers based on the topic you've chosen. This might include influencers, people within your professional network, or recommendations from trusted colleagues. You can also search online to see if there are any videos of talks people have done; these will give you a firsthand look at their stage presence.
It might seem like a lot of research, but the upside is that once you've identified a shortlist of great speakers, you can hang on to those names in case they match up with the needs for your next event.
Another awesome thing about speakers is that they can help attract more attendees to your event. If you book someone really popular or well-known within your industry, and they share about the event on social (which hopefully they will, since, as you'll see soon, you'll have amazing on-brand graphics for them), that might bring in a flood of new registrants!
You'll also need to ensure you have a moderator for the event. Many times, this person is internal, but there are times when it may make sense to have someone outside of your company moderate instead.
In contrast to speakers, who are there to deliver a great talk and share their expertise, moderators are there to make sure everything runs smoothly and keep folks engaged. Remember that run of show document we talked about? Your moderator's the person who's following that to a T as much as possible and making changes when things don't flow as planned.
The moderator is simultaneously public-facing and behind-the-scenes, meaning it's important to pick someone who can be calm under pressure and enjoys interacting with others.
Moderators generally set the tone for the event, and a strong one can draw people out of their shell and get them to engage more than they might have otherwise.
Once you've chosen your moderator (or moderators, if you'll have more than one), prepare them before the event. Give them any guidelines they need to know, and communicate what's expected of this role. Make sure they know how to use each aspect of your event platform (see #10 for info about the dry run, which is a great time to test all of this!) and outline any "Plan B" scenarios they should know about.
From event registration and reminders to engagement and follow-up, make it easy for people to attend! Remove any potential points of friction throughout the customer journey so that people find it a breeze to locate, sign up for, and attend your event.
It starts with your registration and landing pages. These should be easy to navigate and provide all necessary information about the event. The Call to Action (CTA) to sign up should be clear on the page; if the reader has to scroll down the page to read more information, consider adding extra CTAs so they're never far from one.
When someone registers, we send them a confirmation email with any relevant information, a calendar hold, and a personalized Magic Link that they can use to access the event. But we don't stop there—we continue to send reminder emails leading up to the event so that it never slips from someone's radar. The day of the event, we're in their inbox with that Magic Link again so that no one has any questions about where to go or how to attend.
After the event, at a minimum, we send out an email with the on-demand viewing link, a quick wrap-up of the session, and additional resources if we think there's anything else attendees should know.
If that sounds like a lot of work, rest assured that all of these steps can be automated—making it easy for you to make it easy for your attendees!
There are few things more "blah" than going to a registration page for an event and seeing standard branding for a web conferencing platform, instead of the branding of the company that's hosting the event. You want to feel the personality of the brand you're interested in connecting with—not the platform itself!
One of the best parts about Goldcast is that B2B marketers and event planners can create on-brand registration pages and marketing assets that can be easily shared with your team, speakers, partners, and more. This helps your event stand out from the crowd and creates continuity within your brand story. People start to trust that no matter where they land, they're seeing you.
Your particular branding will depend on your company, but we recommend going back over your materials before promotion starts to make sure everything is consistently branded, matches your brand identity, and works together to tell the story of why people should attend your event.
Strong promotion doesn't just encompass before-event marketing; you should be promoting during and after your event as well.
Here are some ideas:
During the event:
Again, it's easy to feel overwhelmed when you're looking at this list, but automation is your friend! We automate emails, social media posts, certain aspects of follow-up—anything that can be streamlined so that things run as efficiently as possible!
Sometimes, it makes sense to partner with another company to host an event. While working with another company can bring a few challenges—namely, that you'll both need to agree on who owns what throughout the process—this can also bring big rewards in the way of more attendees and boosted brand awareness!
Generally, you should partner with companies whose expertise complements your own and who bring something unique to the event. For example, if you're presenting a demo on how your product integrates with another, maybe it makes sense to partner with the other company so they can be at the event to answer questions as well.
Be sure to include your partners in the promotion plan. That means making sure those branded assets have their information, too, and shouting them out on social media as you talk about your event. The hope is that your shared event brings new eyes to each of your businesses and helps you forge a fruitful professional relationship!
You don't want to get caught off guard in real-time by a technical glitch during your live streaming event, and you want to be sure that your event organizers, moderators, and speakers have all of the information they need to be successful on the day of.
This is why we recommend doing a dry run of the online event. Set aside some time to not only test the technical setup with your team, but walk through the agenda as well. This can also shed some light on times where your event might need an interactive break, like a poll or an icebreaker question dropped in the chat. It's good to get those adjustments made now!
A major thing that people say they miss from in-person events is the ability to network and connect with others, face-to-face. This is why it's a good idea to be intentional about enabling a high degree of interactivity for your audience. After all, you want people to walk away feeling like they gained something of value and would attend one of your digital events in the future!
Here are some ways to foster networking opportunities in your virtual environment:
Though some networking of course happens organically, creating moments for people to connect really adds to the attendee experience and sets your event apart.
This is our final tip, and it's a good one to end on—because who doesn't love free stuff?!
Offering swag is a great way to show appreciation and reward attendees for their participation; it also incentivizes certain behaviors. For example, we might say someone's entered to win a raffle only if they attend the event and stay for longer than 30 minutes and answer at least one poll question.
That means we'll probably get a lot more attendees who stay for the whole event—and a lot more attendee engagement. People love to win! Even better if the swag item ties into your event somehow or reflects your brand in a unique way (think: branded throw blanket for the winter months).
You could also create swag bags with smaller items that you give to everyone who meets the criteria, instead of drawing names for just one person. Again, these make folks feel appreciated and also add to the feeling they're part of a larger community after attending your event.
If you'll be giving out swag at your event, be sure to mention this in your promotional efforts! It can draw a bigger crowd and tip people who are on the fence about attending into signing up, just to see what you're all about.
We hope by this point, you've got some ideas on how you can implement these best practices for your next virtual experience! Whether it's leveling up some of your marketing assets or setting up automations for reminder emails, we think taking these steps will lead to a big difference in how your events turn out.
If you don't have an event management platform that you can trust to help you execute on your plan, let's talk about Goldcast for a second. Our platform is the only one purpose-built for B2B marketers; our whole goal is to make your lives easier and bring home the ROI!
Any platform can allow you to have an event; Goldcast allows you to host an event experience. With Goldcast, you'll wow attendees, keep them engaged throughout your event, and head back to the office afterward armed with powerful information you can use to boost revenue.
Goldcast allowed our thousands of customers to engage and connect more than they ever have before!” Sydney Sloan, Chief Marketing Officer at Salesloft