by Will Rogers
COVID has shifted the ability for many gatherings to meet in person while other events are virtual by nature. Either way, a virtual event takes time and strategy to do it well. It might be simple to slap up a pre-recorded session or live stream a Zoom meeting but it takes a lot of work to host an excellent virtual event. Let’s unpack what it takes to host a really great virtual event.
There are three major types of virtual events that you could host, which is best for you depends on your bandwidth, skill, and community needs.
It’s totally up to you for how you design your virtual event. I’ve seen all three types of events done well. You just need to have a plan and anticipate the work that each type will require
Before you do anything to schedule and plan your event, you need to determine your event’s value proposition. What do I mean? I mean, map out the core promises you are going to make to your event attendees.
Discuss how you can communicate these promises, how you’re going to reinforce in the event, and how you can use these ideas to evaluate your event once it’s all done. Keep these core promises in front of you as you brainstorm and select the next items that are going to make your event successful.
Next, you need to brainstorm and select the type of elements you’re going to have in your virtual event. You should build a healthy list of ideas so you have items you need to cut rather than trying to find ideas to fill time later.
Here are some suggested event elements:
Be sure you assign time blocks to each of the ideas you’ve had so you can see how much total time they would take.
Select the items that would get your audience most excited and work down your elements to fit your event schedule. Make sure you consider intermissions, breaks, announcements, and any other time blocks that might also require scheduling.
Now that you have a plan, it’s time to start work on all of your pre-production items to make this thing happen. Make a task list of all the things you need to do. Then, assign dates and times for when these need to happen. Lean on others with the right skill sets to make things happen that you might not know how to do.
It’s time to create a launch campaign. Create a launch marketing campaign with videos, site advertisements, email communications, social media messaging, and more. Think about how you’ll find your attendees. I recently wrote a post about how to get more people to attend your events. Consider several marketing channels to get the word out. Leverage all of your communication channels and those from your partners to share the news.
Create a communication calendar. Don’t forget to create a work-back schedule from the time of the event until today. This will save you time and stress each day.
Guide every single step. Step into the role of guiding your attendees and expect they will need you to explain every step of the process. Over-communicate at this stage.
Communicate value and goals to your attendees. You’ll want to communicate over and over the goals for your event and what they can expect. You should consider creating a Preparation Guide—something to help your attendees prepare for your event. Start by asking all the things you would want to know if you were attending.
And, don’t forget to encourage watch parties. Encourage people to join together with friends to attend your event so they can process with people and create some shared accountability.
Be fully present during the event on social and other live-feeds so that your attendees know they are not doing this alone.
Build a team to help you run the virtual event with assignments for key roles (like social media, event chat, tech support, video management, and so on.)
Make the event as interactive as possible. Build as many interactive points as you possibly can for people to digest the content and connect with others.
Don’t forget this. What will you do after the event to engage folks? Depending on your event management software, there are a few things you should consider doing to follow up after the event. Create a communications follow-up plan for after your event to evaluate the event and glean feedback for the future. Continue to guide them on how your community has things to help propel them forward.
Consider the next steps you would like folks to know about. Be sure you have a list of suggested next steps locked and loaded. Don’t make them find them on their own…give them options to choose from.
Finally, expect fatigue. Expect that people will get tired during your event. There are so many virtual events and Zoom meetings. Just accept this and make your event better than an average Zoom call. This will take being creative with how you design your event and what you offer. Think outside the box to present things that no one else would think about.
Doing these things will have you well on your way to having a successful virtual event that truly helps and connects people.
You want to have a dynamic and multi-dimensional community that thrives. In order to do that, you need a strategy of both online and offline engagement. This guide will help you think through your approach to engaging a virtual community. Download the free eBook: How to Take Your Community Digital.
About the author: Will Rogers is the Founder and CEO of CauseMachine. Will’s career has been spent leading organizations and helping to mobilize communities to a shared vision. He has served in various leadership roles to build community engagement and movements teaching him valuable hands-on skills and experience. Will has developed business and community engagement strategies for dozens of organizations in nearly 50 countries. He and his wife have two sons and now live in Kentucky after two decades in Colorado.