Let’s face it – even with things opening up, virtual events are here to stay! Virtual events have created a new world of opportunities to gather, create meaningful connections, fundraise and celebrate. They’ve helped us reimagine in-person events while restrictions remain as well as allow us to develop whole new event concepts.
So where do you get started? We’re excited to be leading the way in virtual event planning to make experiences seamless and purposeful. When everyone went into lockdown, we got certified in virtual event planning so we could bring our years of experience in planning in-person events to this new age. And what we’ve been able to produce is a combination of the conventional event planning techniques with unique strategies to deliver a great virtual event.
Benefits of a Virtual Event
Anyone who has attended a virtual event over the past year would come to see some of the benefits to keep us all connected when in-person just wasn’t possible.
- Reaching a whole new audience
And yet, if we’re being perfectly honest, there’s nothing that can quite replace the sense of connection and coming together in person. So as the world returns to a sense of “normal”, virtual events won’t just disappear altogether. Instead, we envision a combination of onsite audiences and viewers at home.
But for an event planner, that means coordinating two events to keep both audiences engaged. That’s why this checklist is critical in helping plan a successful event – virtual, in-person or hybrid.
Your 10-Step Checklist
1. Understand your purpose
Why are you doing this event?
What do you want to get out of this event?
What do you want your attendees, guests, partners, sponsors, donors, staff to walk away with?
These questions are important when developing the program and content. It underpins all the decisions you make – from the program to the vendors you use – so that you can make thoughtful, purposeful decisions. This can also help identify what type of virtual event it is – and how to balance the blend between virtual and in-person elements.
2. Determine your target audience
Who will be attending the event and where will they be tuning in from?
What are their expectations?
You want to consider what your audience is hearing, seeing and doing, so that you create an experience tailored to their needs and expectations.
3. Create a vision
Draft a plan for your event by walking through the whole experience and brand. How will your guests experience this event from beginning to end? What are the challenges that may come about?
This process helps you determine all the elements you’ll need to piece together to bring this event to life.
4. Choose your team
Many of the same roles for in-person events remain the same for virtual events, with some added technical, web support and content creation. So you’re thinking Event Producer, Stage Manager, Speaker Manager, Sponsorship Manager, Services Manager, Marketing and Branding Manager.
As you’re bringing together your team, be sure that everyone is clear on their roles and responsibilities. And most importantly, define how you will communicate and collaborate when working virtually. Take the time to review new processes and procedures so that everyone is clear and comfortable on what they’re doing and are set up for success.
5. Create a timeline and budget
What are the tasks that need to get done? By what date? And by whom?
What are the projected costs and revenue? What are the new line items you need to account for in a virtual event?
Outlining these things at the beginning of your planning process makes sure that you can execute the event most efficiently and effectively. Having this readily available and regularly updating your team ensures that everyone is on the same page.
6. Choose the right platform
That’s where your event vision and purpose will come into handy. Each platform, like a venue, has different features and costs. Knowing exactly how you want your attendees to participate and how much support that requires will help you make the decision between the different platforms.
For more tips on choosing your virtual event platform, contact our team here.
7. Create opportunities for engagement
It’s more important than ever to find ways to keep your attendees tuned in and focused. On a virtual event, it’s easy to be overloaded with distractions on our screens and around us in our homes. It’s the event planners’ job to come up with creative and unique ways to keep their attention.
Some of our top tips:
- Keep content short and sweet.
- Provide breaks throughout – it gives you a chance to advertise too!
- Present in a variety of formats.
- Create opportunities for questions, comments, networking and entertainment.
8. Find the right vendors
Based on your concept and budget, you’ll have a list of vendors you need – from the production vendors to entertainment and swag for your guests.
When finding the right vendors, remember to:
- Ask questions – particularly with production vendors where the technical elements are still confusing to you. It’s better to be on the same page from the beginning to finding misunderstandings during the event.
- Support local where you can. For anything you’re looking for including gift bags, catering and photographers, there are amazing small businesses in the Bay Area that can help. Small businesses are the lifeblood of our area and collaborating with them is not only great support, but also a chance to build meaningful, long-standing relationships with vendors.
Need ideas for vendors? Contact our team here.
9. Do a run-through
Particularly with virtual events, it’s critical to do a run-through (or two) of all technical systems and do it with speakers and vendors executing on the day of. That way you can practice and mitigate any challenges that may arise.
10. Be ready for anything
Even the best-laid plans can fall apart. And as event planners, we know to be ready for anything. But virtual events come with their own challenges. Here are our top tips for being prepared:
- Have a back-up Zoom link in case the main platform malfunctions.
- Have a designated customer support person and share their contact details before and during the event with attendees.
- Check on the licensing for any music and images you may be using.
- Have messaging ready to go in response to any potential issues.
- Create an inclusive environment so that everyone can enjoy the event. That could mean having a sign-language. interpreter or translation services so all can participate.