Do you need to pivot your in-person event and go virtual quickly?
A couple of months ago, we thought that we would slowly be returning to a “new normal” by the time fall rolled around. But that has not been the case. In fact, many areas still have strict guidelines or state “recommendations,” restricting people from gathering in large groups. These changes have had a significant impact on events among businesses and nonprofits.
In an article published during Spring 2020, Eventsforce reported that:
- 72% organizers postponed or canceled their events
- Among the 46% of organizers who planned to postpone their events, 36% were planning to reschedule in the fall, and 23% did not know when they would reschedule their event
- Only 20% of organizers planned to transition their in-person event online
So, what are you planning to do?
Fall is quickly approaching, and for many, these events are still not an option in-person, and it may not make sense to continue to postpone them.
At VSG, we have been working with our clients during these changing times to ensure that they are still on course and take those in-person events and bring them online.
Are you struggling with how to start planning your virtual event?
Don’t worry, we are here to help!
We have created a checklist that will help you plan, execute, and deliver your next virtual event. And we have broken it down into three easy sections: Pre-Event, Event Day, and Post-Event. Let’s get started!
- Identify The Need And Purpose Of Your Event. Clarifying your event’s goals will help plan how you will pivot, focus your messaging, and transition your event to an online format. These will vary depending on what type of event you had planned. For example, was your event a conference, networking event, fundraiser, or your company’s holiday party? It’s important to understand how you will engage attendees and successfully achieve your goals.
- Key Messaging. Your quick pivot will include refreshing your event messaging because many of the details have changed. In the virtual environment, there are a lot of distractions, so attention spans decrease. Be concise and have a clear understanding of your event goals, your messaging around the cause, and how attendees will take action.
- Planning And Scale. You will want to scale back from your in-person event and plan for teasers that will continue attendee engagement. Your event may have had several speakers planned over several hours or even days. But, because it is so easy for people to simply click out of the event (they don’t have to walk out in front of everyone physically), you need to keep it brief and engaging.
- Assess Your Virtual Audience. Because the event has changed formats, it may also have changed the audience. You may consider other audiences that may attend a virtual event versus an in-person one and reconsider your goals. If your goal is to raise a million dollars, that may not translate to the audience that will attend your virtual event. This may be that this one virtual event is part of a more extensive process to reach your goal achieved by a live event.
- Tell Your Story. When converting your event to a virtual environment, it’s even more critical that you are giving a clear and concise picture of your organization’s story. As a replacement to the ambiance of an in-person venue, make sure to utilize b-roll footage, eye-catching imagery, and infographics throughout your presentation that will allow your event participants to share your cause and story with their networks.
- Assess Your Speakers. Not everyone is great on camera. Your speakers may be fantastic speaking publicly in a room but might freeze up when they get in front of the camera. Therefore, it is essential to be mindful of the differences and check in to see their comfort level and desire to do a virtual event. For example, if one of your key leaders was uncomfortable being on camera, you could have them do the voiceover on top of B-roll footage. Make sure to have the right people in the right spots.
- Easy Access + Guide. Clearly identify how your attendees will be getting to the virtual event. Make sure it is easy, quick, and accessible. Otherwise, you will most likely lose them. If your event is larger scale and includes several sessions or your audience is not very technical, you may consider creating a guide on how to attend your virtual event.
- Livestream vs. Pre-Recorded. One of the first decisions you will need to make is whether you will stream your event live or have it pre-recorded? Or a combination of the two. During a virtual event, you will have a much narrower window to capture your audience’s attention. You won’t have the same anticipation built up and the same sensory experiences that happen in an in-person event, so it is important to consider what components will keep your participants engaged in a virtual environment. These factors will help you determine whether a live stream or pre-recorded is the best format for your event.
- Pre-recorded Virtual Event:
- Allows for more control over the event.
- The finished product will be more refined.
- It’s more accommodating for the people running the event in schedules and recording speakers
- Much of the experiential marketing environment of the event is lost.
- Prevents having real-time interactions (outside of chat boxes)/with your viewers.
- Less sense of urgency. But you can recover some of that!
- Livestream Virtual Event:
- The relational component is amplified because you can engage with your audience in real-time.
- It allows for a higher sense of urgency because people know it’s happening at a specific time.
- Live events can feel more authentic but are often less polished.
- Requires more technical support on the day of the event.
- Higher probability for more technical related issues.
- Speakers only have one-take to deliver their message.
- Pre-recorded Virtual Event:
- Vendor Partners. Pivoting from an in-person event means that you will need to cancel some of your vendor contracts. You will not need a caterer, flowers, live music, beverage services, and maybe even your event manager. But, you still will need other vendor partners to help ensure a smooth virtual event. Some of these will probably include video services and technical support.
- Shifting Your Marketing Materials. If your originally planned in-person event has had to convert to a virtual event. In that case, you will need to revamp all your marketing materials to reflect the accurate date, time, and provide login details to your virtual event. If the date is the same, you may not have to reprint your invites, just assess your overall collateral plan, identify what needs to change, and include information on how to attend.
- Tech Support. Whether you are going to livestream or pre-recorded, you will want to make sure you have video and tech professionals to support your event. There are several technical decisions in setting up your virtual event that will depend partially on whether it is a livestream or pre-recorded.
- Determine where your event will be hosted:
- Existing Webpage
- New Webpage
- Separate Campaign Landing Page
- Livestream Options:
- Low Cost/Simple: 1 Camera streamed in real-time on Facebook Live, IG Live, YouTube, or Vimeo.
- Production Level/Complex: If your setup includes multiple cameras and needs to incorporate interactive elements and graphics, you will have to utilize 3rd party apps that connect all the pieces and footage together.
- Pre-Recorded Options:
- You can just post the video.
- You can premier your video using a 3rd party app at a specific time to create some urgency.
- Determine where your event will be hosted:
- Keep People Informed. Even though your event is now virtual, your participants still like to know what’s going on. A few hours before your event, make sure to send an email letting registrants understand what to expect and how they can easily log-on, participate, and donate if you’re doing a fundraising event. Also, make sure those instructions are available on your event web page and social channels.
- Tech On Standby. On the day of the event, you will want to work with your technical support to ensure that your virtual event runs smoothly. If your livestream or internet goes down, your tech support can quickly troubleshoot to get it back online. It is optimal always to have someone monitor the different channels/platforms you’re streaming to. If you have pre-recorded the event, it’s much less data transfer and lives natively; therefore, there are fewer issues on the day of the event, but you may still want someone to help ensure it is running correctly.
- Social Media Monitors. During the event, you will want to have dedicated staff on each social media channel/platform you are streaming your event to engage with attendees and answer their questions. If you have fewer than 50 total attendees, you may have an excellent multitasker monitor on all platforms.
- Call To Action. Don’t forget about your event goals. Find creative ways to ask for attendees to take action. Throughout the event, make it easy for people to take that desired action through easy, clickable links shared on social platforms and mentioning it throughout the event.
- Thank You Email. You will want to create a pre-scheduled thank you email after the event. This will include a thank you for watching the event that would go out to all who registered. The email will be asking them to share the video with their friends and like your business on social media. Finally, this would include a CTA or “If you haven’t already given” statement.
- Didn’t Attend Email. For those in your database who did not register for your event, you will want to send an email with the link to the virtual event recording and invite them to take action.
- Automated Drip Campaign. Set up an event drip campaign using marketing automation that will schedule and send personalized emails.
- Capturing Data. Data will be an essential driver for assessing areas for improvement for future virtual events. Some of the tools that will be useful concerning the actual virtual event are any streaming data that shows viewer behavior, engagement during the event, and metrics related to your virtual event’s goals. Data can be used to answer important questions about the event, such as: did 50% of attendees drop at a specific point? Why? Who was speaking at that time? Was there a bad connection? Were attendees compelled to give? When? Was the audience engaged during the pre-recorded brand story?
- Reflect. When you are doing anything for the first time, there will always be room for improvement. Build-in tasks to reflect on the whole virtual event process and identify what went well and what you can do better next time. You want to capture this information right after the event, so the process is fresh in your mind, and you can accurately troubleshoot and improve future virtual events.
- Keep It Simple! If you are pivoting to a virtual event quickly and for the first time, keep it as simple as possible to achieve your goal. There are many factors involved with taking your live event virtual, and there will be plenty of opportunities to improve in the future. There is a lot of grace during this season, so it’s better to jump in and give it a shot than to have to cancel your event altogether.
The Ultimate Virtual Event Quick Pivot Checklist is meant to serve as a guide to help you plan and execute your virtual event.
We know it may be challenging, especially for those larger-scale events that your business or organization relies on annually. Remember, every event is a learning experience. We hope you learned a lot from this checklist and are able to use it as a guide in planning and executing your online event.
If you need any help, let us know. Click here to connect with us!