Events serve a variety of important purposes for organizations, both businesses and nonprofits alike, such as fundraising, company culture, networking or new business leads. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve been introduced to social distancing and the world of online-only events. Our team has mapped out the best practices for taking your events virtual during the pandemic while maintaining as much of the experience and audience as possible.
Here are four factors that you should consider when planning a virtual event:
How to choose the right virtual platform for your event
The first and most important step in hosting a virtual event is choosing the right platform. For years, websites like Google Hangouts, Zoom, HD Meeting and Microsoft Office Teams have been championing the virtual world. Now, they have been a crucial part of keeping businesses functional during the pandemic. Facebook has even launched a new feature called Facebook Rooms where users can host Facebook Live’s with multiple participants throughout Facebook’s different products such as Messenger, a user’s newsfeed and Facebook Groups. To learn more about how Facebook Rooms works, visit Facebook’s Help Center.
Overall, it is important to find a platform that serves your needs in functionality and capabilities. Don’t be afraid to explore new platforms even if that means an added cost. For more about how to pick the right platform, please read this article by Business News Daily.
How to replicate your guest's experience from in-person to virtual
Most event agendas include food and refreshments, presentations and even live entertainment. Though this may seem impossible to replicate online, it is possible with a little creativity. Arkansas Urology, the largest urology practice in Arkansas, successfully launched its new foundation virtually with the help of our public relations team. Our team coordinated food delivery from a local restaurant to each guest before the event, organized a local band to perform via video conference and successfully scheduled moments for the foundation director to speak to its goals and mission.
To replicate your guest’s experience from in-person to virtual, it is important to familiarize yourself with the settings on your meeting platform, such as:
—Adding co-hosts and screen-sharing
—Limited guest visibility and waiting rooms
—Providing meetings links to all guests and vendors well in advance
—Craft an inclusive online space by making sure that presentations can easily be read by guests, the backgrounds of presenters/performers are well-lit and there are no sound issues.
Consider doing several test runs to walk though your agenda with all relevant parties before the time of your event to troubleshoot ahead of time. It is important to over communicate with your guests so they know what to expect when attending your virtual event because this will impact the guest’s overall experience. This could be done by sending out your agenda to guests well in advance and again the day of the event. However, you will also want to consider other factors such as if your guests have the option of having food or beverages delivered to them, you will want to make this process and any similar ones as clear as possible.
How to garner publicity/media attention for your virtual event
Media attention can help your event continue to gain attention long after the curtain falls. To garner publicity, you will need to be strategic in your messaging when crafting your media advisory. Also, be purposeful with your guest list by inviting several notable stakeholders to make sure that you’re giving the media something newsworthy to cover.
Society publications are looking for events to cover, and many of those outlets will take screenshots of the video conference, but make sure to include several high-resolution photos when following up with these publications after your event.
How to generate new business leads from your virtual event
In-person events are a great tool to reinforce your organization’s brand and strategic messaging to garner new business leads. Even though it may seem hard to replicate virtually, there are several steps you can take to reassure brand awareness and insert relevant calls to action to stimulate revenue. To reinforce brand awareness during your virtual event, follow these steps:
—Attach your logo to any communications surrounding your event.
—Utilize the “About” sections of all your event marketing platforms to be purposeful with your messaging.
—Incorporate your branding in the design strategy for any PowerPoint presentations.
—Consider either creating a virtual background with your logo on it or physically decorating your space for any video conferencing.
—Include LinkedIn/Twitter information for your speakers for furthering connections online.
Additionally, just like any new business tactic in a marketing strategy, your virtual event needs to have a strong call to action or CTA. Even though it may sound a little old school, CTA’s are a strong reinforcement tool that can push potential leads into secured customers. Is your event being held to create partnerships, raise funds or to funnel new customers? Be sure to remind your guests throughout the event.
Lastly, make sure to invite the right people. If you are hosting an event to generate new business leads, then you need to be very tactful with who you invite. Bernhard, one of the largest privately-owned engineering and contracting firms in the country, decided to utilize a webinar to discuss the foundation of Arkansas' new public-private partnership legislation and garner new business by publicly positioning their experts in the matter, our agency mobilized quickly. We put together a targeted media campaign to the business’ specific audience list to engage them in our webinar and subsequent content. Within a week of the webinar, the Bernhard team successfully connected with a new business lead.
We help our clients navigate communication strategies to be equally as effective while operating in a “new normal.” We have a team of PR and marketing experts who specialize in event promotions and strategic communications to amplify your virtual event’s return on investment. Learn more about what we can do for you and your businesses by giving us a call today or reaching out to a member of our award-winning team.