July 28, 2020

The Ultimate Guide to Running a Virtual Event

Pronoy Roy

Scaling a business during a pandemic is something that a business degree just does not have a class on. However, it does teach you that a good marketing strategy and a creative team can make wonders happen. From Vogue showcasing celebrities in a ‘behind the scenes’ context on Instagram Live to Spotify creating exclusive events for budding podcasters through Zoom - businesses across the globe are taking advantage of virtual events to market their products and the resulting outcome has people asking, “why did we not do this earlier?!”.

Virtual Events require days of planning and that’s not all. This is one of the few marketing strategies that relies on good social media outreach and a vast branching email marketing campaign to be successful. If all of this seems like a lot, don’t worry! This Ultimate Guide to Running a Virtual Event has everything you need to take care of for your very own and extremely successful virtual event.

P.S. There is surprise at the end of this ultimate guide that will help you get your virtual event journey started!


The Trinity of Questions for Success

To make you virtual event a success, there are three primary questions you need to answer that help make the process of running an event like this easy.


Question 1: What is the Aim of the Virtual Event?

It is important to define why you want to host a virtual event. Maybe you’re looking for improving the recognition of your brand. You could also be looking to get an influencer or a celebrity to talk to your audience about your product. Establishing the aim of the virtual event is vital as it becomes a guiding outline for the steps that need to be taken to host a successful virtual event.


Question 2: What do you want to gain from the virtual event?

While the answer to this question may seem simple - i.e. for people to buy a product, but for you to deem this project a success, you need to be more specific. Are you looking for registrations? If so, how many? If you’re trying to convince people to use a service - how many people do you expect to come from the virtual event. If the goal of the event is as simple as spreading information, you need to answer how many people you think should attend this event.


Question 3: What’s the topic that attracts your audience?

Keeping in mind the answers to question 1 and question 2, there needs to be a certain sense of value that is given to your participants. Their time is valuable and needs to be compensated for by offering something that has some value to them. Maybe you are offering them an chance to learn a skill, or an opportunity to have a Q&A session with their favorite celebrity. The answer to this question will help you create the final plan for the virtual event and set you up for success.

Now that you have these 3 questions answered, the next step is to start planning a virtual event that people remember.  


Choosing a Platform

Having answered 3 very important questions, you have a vague idea on what your virtual event looks like and you’re wondering what to do next. The immediate next step is to choose a platform. Once the goal of your virtual event has been set, you need to think about where you are going to host the virtual event. There are several options to choose from and each of them has their own set of pros and cons. The largest drawback of pre-existing platforms is that they’re largely a component of social media.

For a brand that has a limited social media presence - this solution does not offer the kind of customization you need to interact with your audience. Since this is the ultimate guide, it’s essential to look at all the options available to you.

Instagram Live

Neil Patel, the marketing guru himself, absolutely loves Instagram live. It improves the number of followers, makes the brand look audience oriented, and helps with targeted marketing. With over 200 Million people across the globe visiting at least 1 business profile daily, the market may seem competitive, but Instagram’s tools do more than just give you data analytics. They help you find your target user and convert them into followers of your business page.

From businesses that create memes to attract followers to ones that use the face of an influencer for their big marketing campaign - Instagram is community that cannot be ignored by anyone. Because Instagram live is on a mobile device, it comes with its own set of problems. It allows only the business to be seen, the followers can comment on the live but cannot interact amongst themselves. In fact, sometimes people disable commenting on their live that makes many live sessions feel very disconnected.

One of the greatest advantages is that people can go live together. That is, when a business goes live, they can get an influencer or celebrity onto the virtual event without having to go offscreen themselves. This is one of the most loved feature that Instagram live offers. Instagram itself is very Millennial and Gen Z friendly and if a majority of your audience falls in that age range, an Instagram Live is definitely an option you should look into.

Pros: Cons:
Free to use Attention span of people on phones is very limited
Ability for multiple people to go live together Comments cannot be moderated
Audience has familiarity with the platform Audience Interaction is very limited
An Instagram account is required by everyone participating
Cannot share screen

Zoom Calls for Virtual Events

This method has been opted by Spotify and Kommune to host its exclusive Podcasting Series. They presented the series as an informative supplement to those folks who want to start their own podcast, but, at the same time - they presented their service that enables users to make podcasts - Anchor. This kind of marketing allowed people to gain information from renowned people on podcasting and at the same time they were introduce to a service that makes their work easier. The benefit of having a zoom call was that they had the opportunity to make it exclusive, allowed for a more personal interaction, and most importantly targeted their service to an audience that matched their product perfectly.

This method works great if you’re running the virtual event that only a select few are invited to. In fact, the exclusivity of an event makes it seem more important than it is! Take for example the sale of OnePlus phones in India - where only a select few who have registered beforehand get access to purchase the phone. It creates a sense of ‘hype’, a word used due to the lack of a better phrase and works towards more social media sharing.

There are a few major drawbacks when using Zoom for virtual events. The largest one being that unlike Instagram, Zoom costs money. The more people you expect to have attending the virtual event, the more expensive plan you would need to have. To add to that, the ways that users interact with each other in a zoom meeting is very limited. All good features that zoom offers are only deployable by hosts and it makes for a very dull audience experience.

Pros: Cons:
Face to Face interaction possible Costs money for each host created in the plan
Can host over 300 people The more people you want, the higher you would have to pay
Can share screen Zoom requires the app to be downloaded (with certain exceptions)
Sessions can be recorded to send to people later When there are a lot of people, the audience interaction is limited

Your Own website or App

Chances are, as a business you already have a website or an app that has the majority of your audience already on it. You know what’s the best way to get information to them and the biggest issue with hosting a virtual event on your own platform is that you don’t have the code and technology set up for it. This is an issue faced by some of the world's largest companies. You would assume that businesses hire coders who create the application from scratch, but that’s not true. In fact, with just $49 a month, you can employ world’s best features into your own platform in just a few clicks!

CometChat is platform that gives you chat integration with complete customization on your chosen platform. They even offer a 7-day free trial! The fact is, if you’re trying to market something - targeted marketing towards your audience is your best bet at selling the product. CometChat allows you to do exactly that. They offer completely customizable features - from live streaming yourself and your hosts to chatrooms and group communication. The features they offer make your business stand out and give you complete control over what you want your virtual event to look like.

In my opinion, having a customized platform that your users are already familiar with will make hosting a virtual event an easy task. If your website is in a language that’s not English, CometChat also offers real-time language translation in chat, allowing all your users to be on the same page. So finally, here are the pros and cons -

Pros: Cons:
Complete control over customizations Costs money
Your own branding on your platform Requires a one-time setup on your platform
Realtime Language Translation
File Sharing
Voice Calling Enabled

That brings us to the end of choosing your platform. There are other platforms out there but most of them have a similar structure to Instagram Live and require bringing your audience onto new platforms. After choosing your preferred platform, the next step is to create a structure for your virtual event.

Learn about How you can earn money by including ads in your website’s chat feature by clicking on this link

Creating a Structure

Now that you know what you want to talk about and where you would talk about it, the next important step is to give structure to the virtual event. If you have speakers that are going to join the virtual event - they can’t all go together. Creating a structure for the virtual event allows you to run the event smoothly and it tell the viewers exactly what to expect. Planning and structuring the event is not very difficult, you can follow my 5 Step Process that makes planning a virtual event easier.

Step 1: Decide the Duration of your Event

You don’t need to break up the event from the get-go. The first step is to decide on the duration of the event. Virtual events like individual speaker sessions last for about 60 to 90 minutes while larger events like a concert or DJ nights can go up till 4 hours. If you are planning to have more than 3 speakers in the virtual event, consider breaking it into a series with 1 or 2 speakers at each event. It is important to keep in mind that people get tired and need breaks. If the duration is over 1 hour, try introducing bathroom breaks.

Step 2: Selecting the Host(s) of the event

This could be you, an influencer or someone who uses your product. This person is ideally someone who can speak on the topic of the event and someone who can also attract viewers to it. This could even be multiple people. For example, a writer’s virtual event could have 3 authors who each pick up a genre of writing that they’re experts in, like fiction, non-fiction, and world building. This gives values to the viewers and at the same time all three of them can talk about how your product, that presumably helps them in writing, can be used in each of the scenarios.

Step 3: Give the Host(s) segments

You want the host(s) to stick to the time allotted to them. Therefore, it’s a good idea to give them segments. From our previous example, maybe you tell them to have a segment on starting a world building project, then one on creating rules for it, and then introducing characters to it. Most speakers will be able to work with you to create segments of their own that are most applicable and will benefit the viewers the most.

Step 4: Introduce a Q&A or Question and Answer Segment

Even with days of preparation, there is absolutely no way that you or your speaker can know what your audience wants to a ‘T’. Therefore, introducing a question and answer segment can help clear any doubts that a viewer might have and make the session more interactive. It makes the audience feel like a part of the event rather than someone just viewing it. Of course, if the event is a music event or something that has a more casual note, consider a ‘meet your artist’ segment instead.

Step 5: Assign times to everything

When I say everything, I mean it. If you have a 3-hour event, give introductions about 10 minutes. Maybe you are planning to have activities like trivia in the start, give that 30 minutes. Once you have the duration of your virtual event and the different segments that will be a part of it, assigning times to it will come naturally. Make sure that if you have multiple speakers, all of them get equal times with an exception of having a star speaker. A star speaker is ideally the most known speaker in the community and chances are that a majority of your viewers are coming to watch this speaker speak or artist perform. If that is the case, give them more time than your other panellists.

Congratulations, you have completed yet another step to making sure that your next virtual event is a complete success! There is now one last thing you need to take care of, and you’re all set to get hundreds of viewers onto your platform.

Spreading the Word

You have put in so much time and effort into curating the perfect virtual event, but no one knows about it. A scenario like that could tank all your efforts. This is the most crucial step of all that ensures that people actually attend this event.  Here are some ways you can increase the awareness of your brand as well as get more attendees for the virtual event.

Social Media

If this event has a well-known speaker or artist presenting, asking them to talk about it on their social media channels is a good idea. On top of that, if you have your audience on social media accounts of the business - try informing them there, and wherever else people consume your content. One thing that is very commonly used to inform your existing users about something new is a large image banner on your website or app. That’s the first thing that your existing user base notices when they use the platform and it get’s re-enforced, more they use it.

Free Give Away

Another strategy that many firms offer is a give-away. It looks something like this.

This helps spread the word about your virtual event like a wildfire, and who doesn’t like free things? It doesn’t even have to be a product; it can be a 10-minute one-on-one with one of the speakers or even a free trial of a service that you offer. This improves the social media presence of a brand and at the same time shows a massive increase in awareness. This could become a very useful tool for all virtual events.

Email Marketing

You could send emails to your users to inform them of the virtual event. Chances are that you already have a database with emails of your existing user-base. Emails are one the most popular ways that businesses share news with their consumers. Many even use weekly email blasts as forms of keeping in touch with their consumers. If you have such an email list, I highly recommend that you include the details of your virtual event in this list.

Advertising

If you believe that you will be getting a good revenue from running a virtual event - you can even consider spending some money on advertising the virtual event on Instagram for at least 2 weeks prior. This allows you to spread the word in a very targeted manner, and like I mentioned before, targeted marketing is the best way to convert your audience into consumers of your product. If you’re running a virtual event that is offering workplace skills or your target audience involves white-collar professionals, consider advertising on LinkedIn.  

Conclusion

Once the virtual event comes to an end, you could even ask your viewers to send in feedback. A five-star review is always worth displaying on your website and feedback is always a good tool to have! Feedback is a tool that must be a part of any marketeer’s toolbox and something that must be used judciously. It tells you what the consumer liked or disliked and can even point to issues in your business that hadn’t been noticed before.

Once the feedback is recieved and digested - that’s when the process of running such a large virtual event comes to an end. From deploying technology that everyone can access to crafting a viewer experience that your target audience loves, running a virtual event is an undertaking that you should be proud of.

That brings us to the end of The Ultimate Guide to Running a Virtual Event, but before I go - I must fulfil my promise. The surprise that helps you to run your own virtual event is a Completely FREE Expert Consultation that allows you to clear any doubts you may have about running a virtual event. Just fill out this form and the experts will get back to you in no time!

I hope you liked this blog. Stay tuned to this website for more blogs that tell you about how you can make your business more profitable by integrating a user interaction into your own platform.