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Create a Virtual Event That People Won’t Stop Talking About

May 28, 2020

virtual event

In order to retain support, organizations and businesses need to get creative in engaging their audiences.

With the growing reliance on technology, virtual events are a great way to accomplish this.

While the value of face-to-face interaction will never dissipate, there are times when going digital has its benefits or is completely necessary. However, shifting a multi-day event filled with plenty of networking and engagement opportunities to the digital space is easier said than done.

Hosting a virtual event requires the same care and attention (if not more) than an in-person event. Fortunately, rapid advancements in technology have made it possible for event planners to shift to the digital space somewhat seamlessly. Let’s take a look at why virtual events are rapidly gaining traction in the fundraising space.

virtual event popularity

Virtual events are the next big thing in event marketing

Simply put, a virtual event is an organized experience that takes place online rather than at a physical location. Because of this, attendees are able to interact and advocate for your cause from anywhere. As a subset of event marketing, they represent a major opportunity for building momentum around your cause and connecting with new prospects.

Virtual events are highly interactive and encourage individuals to come together in support of a cause they care about. Plus, moving to the digital sphere eliminates physical space constrictions and allows you to reach more supporters than ever before. This added level of convenience allows for higher registration numbers. So long as you fully understand the registration management process, you’ll streamline planning and execution and set your team up to host a successful virtual event.

types of virtual events

5 types of virtual events

Even if you’re not solely relying on them, incorporating digital offerings to your regular mix of events can help enhance your entire program. Before diving directly into planning your next virtual event, it’s important to understand the basic foundations that make up this digital alternative.

1. Webinars

Webinars are a wonderful engagement opportunity for supporters. Typically, they last somewhere from 45 to 80 minutes, depending on the number of speakers and content you have. Since they exist in the digital space, attendees from around the world can join in and listen with ease. You may choose to charge attendees using online payment processing or offer them for free just to rally up support.

In order to make it as interactive as possible, video conferencing tools are a must. They should either enable live streaming or pre-recorded video capabilities and be offered as on-demand after the fact. For an extra layer of engagement, ensure your tools enable Q&A functionality so that attendees can interact with one another and your team. Learn the ins-and-outs of webinars with this comprehensive guide.

2. Virtual conferences

Virtual conferences pose a wonderful networking opportunity. Much like their in-person counterparts, virtual conferences are based on complex agendas that include keynote speeches, sessions, breakouts, and more.

Don’t fall into the trap of stringing a bunch of webinars together over the course of a few days and calling it a conference though. This can come across as disorganized, and sessions will only be loosely related this way. If you want to deliver real value and impact, you need to put effort into curating the experience in a way that makes sense.

3. Virtual education courses and learning sessions

Depending on your cause, you may consider hosting virtual courses or live learning sessions to share your industry knowledge with your audience. These virtual events offer many of the benefits of a live classroom experience without the associated costs. Using your web conferencing tools, you may either choose to host it live or offer pre-recorded sessions.

Although the goals of imparting knowledge might be the same as in-person courses, virtual programming requires a different approach. You’ll need to put extra care in creating an engaging and practical instructional design. Otherwise, with poor design, the learning environment may come across as unnatural and technical, turning users away. Once you’ve nailed the instructional design and gotten everything in order, be sure to proactively market your online course to jump-start enrollment.

4. Video networking activities

Online networking enables attendees to connect with one another in chat-based conversations no matter where they are. While chat functionality is an important component, you’ll find the most success with video as it incorporates the all-important face-to-face element that allows for a deeper connection.

These virtual events usually take place over the course of an hour or two, giving individuals plenty of time to connect one-on-one. Attendees will have the opportunity to exchange contact information and can end the hour with several new professional connections.

Starting with these core foundations, you can choose a virtual fundraising idea that suits your audience. Explore these ideas so that you can start your virtual event off on the right foot.

5. Online training sessions

Digital learning is revolutionizing the way companies and organizations work. In short, many online corporate training sessions are now accessed over the internet for business development purposes. By implementing online training solutions, employers help their staff members develop the essential skills needed to carry out their jobs effectively, directly impacting business success.

Establish what your training content will include based on current knowledge gaps across your team. For each session, define your learning goals and design your materials to match. Then, determine the learning environment needed to conduct effective sessions, which can be:

  • Real-time learning: If your team is working remotely but you’d like them to work together, a real-time setting may be the way to go. Look for video/audio conferencing options or the ability to conduct live webinars to make this possible.
  • Asynchronous learning: If the training is quiz-based and only includes questionnaires, it might be more beneficial to provide users with personal logins and allow them to complete the material individually.

In any case, when you’re planning your next training, provide access to your registration forms through your website. By investing in reliable training management software, the entire registration process is embedded on your website and streamlined for users.

event benefits

Benefits of hosting a virtual event over an in-person event

As technological awareness grows, more businesses and organizations are coming to realize the benefits that come with virtual events. Let’s take a dive into some of the selling points that often encourage people to choose virtual events.

Lower costs

With shrinking budgets, businesses and organizations are always looking to save an extra dollar. One of the major selling points of virtual events is the incredibly low overhead costs. Event planners will save on staff, venue setup, catering travel costs, and so much more. All you need is effective registration and event planning technology, and you’re good to go!

Wider audiences

The main goal of hosting events is to engage with more people. This is easy with virtual events! Using digital marketing methods, you can reach audiences across the globe. You can easily promote your event by sharing the link to your event page online. People can join instantly without worrying about travel costs. Not only this, but you also won’t be confined to the limited space of venues, which directly enables higher registration numbers.

More accessible

Another main advantage presented by virtual events is their accessibility. For instance, those who have compromised immune systems and those who may have sensory issues and trouble with large crowds may not register to attend an in-person event – even if they’re highly interested in the subject matter.

Similarly, those with cognitive disabilities can become easily distracted and may benefit from a virtual environment with limited disturbances. Plus, with lower overhead costs, you can decrease registration fees and increase accessibility to those with less money. With the customizability of a virtual event, these individuals are much more likely to be able to attend and feel included in your cause.

Just as with in-person events, it’s crucial that your virtual events are inclusive of people with disabilities. To ensure your digital event is accessible, take a look at this complete web accessibility guide.

event setbacks

Potential downsides of virtual events

While virtual events can create serious fundraising potential, there are a few challenges that come with them. Let’s take a look at some reasons why virtual events may be slightly less desirable than their in-person counterparts and explore some tips for overcoming these setbacks.

Less collaborative breakout events

For virtual events, planners have to take extra time in deciding how to provide content. At in-person events, it’s much easier to host breakout sessions and multiple content options at once. However, doing so virtually is easier said than done.

As you plan your virtual event, consider if you need to offer multiple content options simultaneously or if you should offer a single content experience with multiple subject matters. This is highly dependent on the nature of your audience, so take careful consideration when making this decision.

Lower levels of attendee engagement

Many virtual events lack that face-to-face element that maximizes engagement. They’ll never be able to offer the same level of face-to-face interaction. Just because your event has to be experienced through a screen doesn’t mean it has to be any less engaging or personal, though. You simply need to be equipped with the right tools and take a proactive approach to keep attendees locked in.

More difficult to have sales conversations

With virtual events, it’s hard to gain one-on-one time with prospects. Networking is simply not as viable as it is with in-person events, and sales meetings have to happen after-the-fact. There’s no true way around it.

To counteract this, be extra proactive in lining up a one-on-one meeting in the days that follow. Post-event follow-up needs to happen more quickly and be on-point. Otherwise, you’ll lose momentum and risk your sales conversations falling flat.

Harder to build lasting relationships with attendees

It’s much more challenging to connect on a human level with people when they exist in two dimensions on your mobile device or computer screen. Because of this, you’ll need to work extra hard to interact in a way that enables you to build genuine relationships.

To start, note that at the core of a face-to-face professional relationship are lively interactions. With online conversations, conversations are as natural as they are in face-to-face situations, so you’ll need to proactively take part in lively discussions and do your best to connect on a personal level.

components of virtual events

4 must-have components of a good virtual event

Before you launch your event, there are several technological components that you need to consider. After all, virtual events rely solely on technology. While video conferencing tools are important for attendance, there’s much more to an effective toolkit.

Below, you’ll find the most important pieces of event tech for effectively planning and executing your next virtual event.

An event website

Just like an in-person event, you’ll need to develop a well-designed event website. This serves as your central hub that houses all information related to your event. Creating an eye-catching website is the first step in effective event promotion. It’s your key tool to capture prospective attendees’ interest and entice them to register, so be sure to communicate the value of your virtual event by incorporating the following elements:

No matter the format of your virtual event, effectively marketing it is essential for sparking interest. Take time in creating a captivating event website that keeps people from wandering away.

A registration tool

Before you announce your virtual event, you’ll need some way to measure attendance and collect important data, and the quickest way to accomplish this is with automated registration. Here are some tips for selecting one that captures all vital information:

  • Customizable fields. If your registration process takes too long, people may get frustrated and abandon the process altogether. Ensure you can customize your fields and make them optional, so you get the information you actually need and quickly facilitate users through the process to payment.
  • Secure payment processing. A secure integrated payment processor allows registrants to pay directly on the form rather than through a third-party website. Upon completing the form, registrants should instantly know their payment has gone through with automated payment invoices.
  • Mobile optimization. Chances are, many of your registrants will sign up through their mobile devices. After all, 53 percent of last year’s web traffic worldwide came from mobile users. By enabling mobile users to easily register for your event, you make sure people can sign up for your virtual event the moment they decide to attend, maximizing your registration potential.

A virtual event registration tool is the staple of your event. Take time in choosing the one that not only enables easy registration but also provides planners and marketers with the data they need to pull off a successful event. 

Video and audio conferencing software

Whether you’re streaming in coordination with an in-person event or relying solely on the digital space, video adds a personable touch and an extra level of interactivity for your remote attendees. There are two ways you can go about this:

  • One-way webcasting. Depending on the nature of your virtual event, you may consider using one-way webcasting. With this option, the audience doesn’t contribute much to the content, but this option is great for handling a large number of viewers.
  • Q&A capabilities. Think of your event as an opportunity for two-way communication. With commenting functionality, you can invite supporters to interact with you and other attendees, maximizing their engagement. Be prepared to ask relevant, provocative questions during your stream to spark meaningful conversation.

Video is an important part of making your virtual events more interactive, especially since you’ll otherwise be missing the important face-to-face element that comes with in-person events. Make sure you choose the right tools that support your needs.

Surveys and polls

Similar to in-person events, feedback is vital for effective virtual events. One major advantage that virtual events have over in-person ones is that attendees are constantly online, meaning they can easily answer real-time polls or surveys during sessions. Not only do polling capabilities give your supporters a chance to voice their opinions, but real-time feedback can help presenters know how their session is going. This is especially valuable since speakers can’t see attendees’ faces during some virtual events.

Go further and enable discussion between sessions and beyond the event itself by asking attendees for honest feedback using surveys. You may even consider starting a collaborative conversation by using online discussion boards. Using this feedback and online discussions, you can measure the overall success of your event. Then, you can refine your strategies and improve your future virtual events.

Conclusion

Today, you can turn on your smartphone, tablet, or computer and won’t have to look far to find a live virtual event. Because we live in an increasingly digital world, virtual events are on the rise, and it’s not hard to see why. They’re incredibly convenient for both your team and your attendees, and you don’t have to worry about the coordinating venues, traveling, and the associated costs.

Whether you choose to host your event solely in the digital space or in conjunction with an in-person event, be sure to take extra care in tailoring to your audience. The planning process takes just as much effort and detail as an in-person event, but the rewards are surely worth it.

Virtual events will never fully replace in-person gatherings. Nothing can replace the authenticity of shaking hands or chatting one-on-one with knowledgeable speakers, but they do pose several benefits. Because of this, we’ll surely see a rise of the hybrid event as time wears on, so it’s important for event organizers to learn how to engage supporters virtually. Take these best practices with you, and set your next virtual event up for success!

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