Let’s admit it. We adore event blooper videos, especially where people push in the wrong slide, forget to un-mute, webcams capture participants upside down, or the cat jumps up on the speaker’s head.
But if you are the organiser, every whoops moment gives you a sinking feeling. And when the blooper video or details are shared on friendly social media groups, you have to push in a smiling emoticon though you may be gnashing your teeth.
Here’s a virtual event planning checklist, short, sweet, handy. You can steal it, paste it on a spreadsheet with each point in a box, and tick mark your way through an event. Though we are writing this based on our own experience as marketers (long before the pandemic), we would be really happy if you can use it to make your own virtual event planner template.
1. Clinch on the topic: Is that even your job? It is, squarely, in the new virtual world. The earlier you can start planning, the better. And how can you plan just anything if you don’t know what is the USP of your gig? This is the first point on our checklist with good reason. We’ve seen changes in focus affect number and quality of participation, encourage tantrums from star speakers and create last minute dashes for breaks.
2. Zero down on partners and sponsors: They hold the purse strings, they are up for grabs. If you are in the pivot mode, that is, you are pivoting from venue-based events to virtual or hybrid ones, you really need to hurry. Convince partners and sponsors that virtual events are more profitable and ensure comparatively immediate analytics. Forming one-to-one business relations is also easier. With overheads like banners, stalls, brochures, food, beverage and travel removed, they would be in a position to concentrate on work. Let them know comprehensively how you can highlight their brand via digital signage. Want to see some examples? Click here.
3. Set the date: A common blooper is opening on Mondays. It’s likely that participants have spent the weekend understanding how the virtual meeting platform works. This means log-in goofs and general confusion on Monday morning, delaying the schedule, and encouraging the audience to disappear. Of course, you can avoid it if you time a practice run for everyone in the middle of the previous week. Get your virtual conference app partner to help you on this. And yes, the earlier you send out notification mails, the easier it will be for everyone to manage calendars.
4. Fix your budget: Once you pivot to virtual, you will realise that the biggest expenditure happens on technology. We have gone deeper into financial matters in another post, read it here. To sum it up, these are the ‘must-haves’ of a virtual event budget:
a) social media ads
b) meeting app
c) ticketing app
d) analytics app
e) conference microsite
f) shooting of special hybrid sessions
g) participant survey app and further analytics tools, if needed
You may want to tackle each of these individually by yourself or hire a creative / virtual event planning partner. In case you are a planner who can tackle all of it in-house, you may want to hire freelancers on contract to tackle design and content. Another, cheaper solution is choosing an app that might manage most of it, leaving out only the creative services and social media management. That takes us to the next point.
5. Choosing a virtual event platform: A really important point in your virtual event planning checklist. Look for a one stop shop. Which app does the most for the least? Can one single log-in cover most of the heads listed above? Read 10 must have features of virtual event planning apps to get a clearer view. You are looking for a multitasking platform here, not a stack of apps to tackle each function. Even if you are willing to take the trouble, most participants and partners are irritated with multi log-ins. The other important point is of course, how much you are willing to spend on customisation. Do you want a state-of-the-art microsite or would a template populated in under 15 minutes work well? Do you like the VR rooms they provide or would you want special sessions shot in a studio? It all depends on budget and how mobile your speakers are in the real world.
6. Start publicity: That early? Yep. Notifications draw limited attention in the virtual world. So once your topic, partner list, dates and virtual event platform are frozen, start blazing it out on social media, your website, industry / community forums and video consumption spaces. This is also a great way to show love to star speakers, sponsors and partners.
7. Know your audience: Run a survey, send mailers with FAQs and encourage questions. Is a webinar format preferred? Which sessions are the biggest crowd pullers? Which sessions show a rush for booking private ‘desks’? Involve participants closely. Virtual event planning requires strategic thinking to avoid bored, passive participants dosing off in the peace of their homes.
8. Tailor the content: Successful virtual event content is totally different from live event content. Break out sessions into chunks. Instead of day-long sessions, aim at intense hour long sessions followed by live Q&A maximising the hybrid experience. Use virtual activities and gamification to spice it up. The US Forest Services issued a checklist for virtual events. Among other things, it encourages organisers to train themselves and their technology moderators. “Switch up the format often (present, discuss, poll, etc.), integrate webcams for main presentations, engage participants often, and take breaks.” That’s advice from the USFS Virtual Event Logistics Template, and it’s worth taking.
9. Track, analyse, follow: Use virtual meeting app analytics, social media analytics, feedback data, sessions data, and every other bit of information you can glean from the event. This is your key to understanding participant behavior like never before. Virtual events have brought you in close, personal contact with the sea of faces you saw in the hall earlier. That makes it easier to quantify the findings into concrete ROI. Mr. A visited 2 partner sites, booked 4 sessions, 3 private meetings, liked a VR room particularly, topped in the gamification score in one session based on degree of participation. You know Mr. A for 3 years and he gets you business. But now you can customise your approach according to his preferences. Sounds like money, yes?
10. Feedback and community building: Send out feedback forms once the virtual event is over. It’s usually integrated in most event apps worth their salt by now. Continue to keep in touch, it’s easier than before. Participants are used to interacting virtually already thanks to the success of your event, and wouldn’t miss your office visits. The virtual community you build is your foundation for future events and getting you the business returns you expect.
Feel free to reach out to us and our experts will help you create your own checklist. email@example.com