4 Tips on Hosting a Successful Virtual Event

Like other small business owners, you’ve already grown accustomed to meeting virtually with vendors, customers or staff to avoid in-person contact during the pandemic but what about hosting a virtual event – have you done that yet?

It may take a little more effort than your typical virtual meeting – and a different platform – but a growing number of companies and nonprofits are seemingly pulling it off just fine. Reports indicate the virtual event market sector is experiencing explosive growth.

Over the last few months we have seen our business of virtual events grow by 1,000 percent,”  said Ruben Castano, CEO of 6Connex, a San Antonio-based virtual events software company.

We have been working overtime and hiring non-stop to keep up with the demand,” he said in a statement shared in a Forbes post.

If your small business is considering a virtual event – or you just want to improve your next one – consider these 4 tips on how you can successfully host one.

Do the Prep

Planning is always a key factor for any event’s success, whether onsite or virtual. If you’re looking to duplicate an onsite event, that’s a good place to start.

Use what you already know – the strong sense of your event’s mission and focus, the audience you’ll draw, and an idea of what worked and what didn’t. Your plan can center on how these key elements can be incorporated into a virtual event.

Some questions to consider when planning a virtual event:

  • Will you need a virtual lobby or other setups to accommodate pre-event networking?
  • Will you or other speakers be broadcasting from the same space for the event?
  • What about including interactive features and post-event availability?  

To get a better idea of what you’ll need to host a virtual event, start attending ones that re hosted by others, including competitors, suggests Bridget Weston, CEO of the SCORE Association.

Research Platform

You may already have a virtual platform in mind for your event based on experience with webinars or other virtual meetings you’ve attended or are using now at your business.

Some platform companies are new to virtual events, but others existed long before the pandemic and have become popular due to demand.

“You don’t have to completely reinvent the wheel with your virtual event,” writes Weston in the SCORE blog. “As more audiences attend these virtual meetings they’re growing more comfortable and learning what to expect.”

In addition to comparing pricing, research the platform options to see what best fits your needs in terms of your event, such as expected attendance and time, interactive levels, cloud storage capacity and other customization and flexibility features.

For example, the free version of Zoom only gives you 40 minutes and offers limited cloud storage. Other virtual event platforms include Whova, Facebook Live, AdobeConnect, The Virtual Show, Accelevens, On24, GoToMeeting and SpotMe.

Create Supporting Content

Event planners tout the importance of engagement and that includes making content available to attendees before, during and after your virtual event.

This could mean sending out bags of swag before the event or a box of items attendees need to participate in an interactive event, such as wine or cocktail ingredients for a happy hour or pre-meeting networking.

Also, Weston advises small businesses to create valuable supporting content that’s available and free after the event as well, so it’s easily accessible by event participants on their own time.

Promote Your Event

Just like an onsite event, much of the success of your virtual event will be linked to how you’ve promoted it.

Use social media and emails to build excitement to help encourage people to attend. Come up with ideas that could steer attendees to your event, from bonus content to early-registration discounts or early access.

“Planning the event is going to take a lot of effort, but you’ll need to put even more effort into promoting it,” writes Jamie Johnson in a blog for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “If you don’t promote your event, you will lose out on potential sales, and all of your hard work will be wasted.”