How to Plan a Virtual Event

Virtual events are quickly becoming the new standard across dozens of industries. Here are some important things you need to know about how to plan a virtual event.

Virtual events are quickly becoming the new standard across dozens of industries. Here are some important things you need to know about how to plan a virtual event.

Did you know that 67% of companies use virtual events in addition to in-person events?

The pandemic has catapulted virtual events and meetings into the spotlight, and they aren’t predicted to be going anywhere. Market predictions forecast that the virtual events market is likely to grow by a whopping 23% annually. 

The takeaway? Knowing how to plan a seamless virtual event is likely to be an increasingly valuable skill. 

Virtual events are not without their pitfalls and teething problems. To avoid these, proper planning is crucial. Fortunately, once you know about the key steps involved, planning a virtual event is not necessarily harder than a physical one. 

Are you ready to find out how to plan a virtual event like a seasoned pro? If so, keep reading as we share some of the most important steps with you. 

Start Early

One of the most important elements in planning virtual events is to start early. It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking, “Oh well, it’s all online, so how much time can the prepping take?”

Realistically, virtual events require just as much preparation time as physical events. What’s more, they also require the same amount of time to market. 

For small events, you will likely need 3-6 weeks to plan and market it successfully. Larger events can require upwards of 2-4 months. 

Pick the Best Platform for Your Needs

When it comes to running a virtual event, platform choice is key. There are numerous platforms to choose from. Some claim to be an all-inclusive option, covering things like registration, monetization, agenda, live streaming, and ways to engage the attendees, while others solve a specific need like video streaming. There are pros and cons to the all-inclusive route vs the al-la-carte approach to formulating your platform playbook, so it’s important to consider which aspects of your event are most important. One of the key platforms to get right is the tool for live content distribution. Some of the common options include:

  • Zoom
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Youtube
  • Google Meet
  • Adobe Connect
  • Vimeo
  • Shoflo Studio (coming soon)

These are just a few of the main platform choices to look into. 

When selecting a platform for your virtual event, one of your first considerations should be your users. Is there a platform they are already using? 

You don’t want to force attendees to download new conferencing software or sign up with a service they don’t typically use unless necessary. For some types of events, you should also consider where your viewer base is. For example, if you are planning a Livestream event, you may want to look at streaming from social media platforms such as Facebook.

Besides this, you also need to think about the requirements of your virtual event. Some questions to ask are:

  • How many people do you anticipate attending the event?
  • Is the event for a private or public audience?
  • What communication features do we need?
  • Do you want to customize the platform with your event branding?
  • Do you need to upload pre-recorded content?
  • Do you want an analytics capability?
  • If your event is live, do you want platforms to allow for recording and storing of the content?
  • What are the security considerations?

As you can see, there is quite a lot to consider when picking a platform. What works for one organization might not work for another. 

For instance, Zoom is one of the most prominent platforms used for virtual events and conferences. However, Zoom doesn’t allow for much customization and has been in the news recently due to security concerns.

In some cases, this might be a non-issue. However, if you are sharing sensitive information during your event, then you might want to consider a more secure platform such as Microsoft Teams that comes with SharePoint encryption. 

On the other hand, perhaps the content you are covering does not contain sensitive information. In this case, if your event will attract a large number of attendees, then Zoom might be an option to look at, as it supports up to 10,000 participants.

Select a Convenient Time and Date for Viewers

Another important consideration is what is the most optimum time and date for the event? To answer this, you will have to think about your attendees. 

Are they in different time zones? Will they be attending the event professionally, or in their free time?

Based on the answers to these questions, you should pick a time that works well for as many people as possible. 

A common trend now is stretching what used to be a one to three-day event over the span of a week or more. Most people don’t want to watch 4-6 hours of video conferences in a day. An hour or two is much more digestible and allows for higher levels of attention. 

Choose a Venue

Just because an event is virtual does not mean that it does not need a venue. The type of event you will be hosting will largely determine what kind of venue you need. 

For conferences, you might want to pick a suitable company room, preferably with the company logo or branding in the background. On the other hand, if you are planning to host an entertainment event, you might want to pick a location more suited to the entertainment performed. 

For instance, live-streamed music could be filmed from a stage set, outdoors, or a recording studio for a behind-the-scenes feel. 

Plan Your Segments and Do Dry Runs

In addition to proper planning with a run of show, dry runs are your best friend when organizing a virtual event, so don’t skip these steps.

Depending on your content type, you’ll likely have defined segments within your event. For optimum engagement, these segments should be carefully planned. The content, length, and media types should all be worked out and trialed ahead of time. 

If there are segments at risk of running overtime, such as Q&A sections—try to work in a backup plan. For instance, you might have a segment that could be condensed if needed, or eliminated in an emergency. 

If the end-time of your event is flexible, this might not be necessary. But for events that have strict cut-off times, you will need a contingency plan for any sections that might run over. 

While you can plan your segments manually, it might be worthwhile to invest in rundown software. Rundown software can streamline many aspects of the planning process, including segment planning as well as be super helpful during the event. For instance, with Shoflo, you can see in real-time how far or behind schedule you are.  

This can be invaluable and will help presenters avoid going over the allotted time. What’s more, virtual event planning software like Shoflo will also allow you to create a rundown that’s professional and fully integrated with your event. No more duplicate rundowns or agendas, and no more lost attachments.

Share the Word

A big part of organizing a virtual event is to alert participants and market the event. Some of the steps involved in marketing an online event are to create an SEO optimized virtual event page and launch an email marketing campaign. 

Besides this, virtual event planners also often choose to leverage social media advertising and promotion. Another way to spread the word is to ask any partners and sponsors to promote the event through their channels. 

Lastly, you can also look at partnering with influencers and engaging in influencer marketing to boost the reach of your virtual event marketing campaign. 

One of the key things to remember when marketing a virtual event is to start early. So don’t leave this step until last. 

Collaborate With Team Members

One of the most important aspects of planning any event is collaboration between team members. With virtual events, this can be tricky. Physical events usually entail meeting as a group for planning and rehearsing. 

On the other hand, virtual events are often organized virtually as well, with little physical collaboration.  

A great way to ensure that collaboration does take place is to look into collaboration tools. Some of these include applications such as Slack. 

However, if you are organizing an event, you can also use virtual event software designed specifically for enhancing team collaboration. Here at Shoflo, we understand the intricacies of successful event planning. This is why we have created event software that allows you to integrate planning your event and collaborating with team members.

With Shoflo, you can edit rundowns and schedules in real-time and share these changes with your team effortlessly.

Are You Ready to Plan Your Virtual Event Like a Pro?

According to a recent poll, 64% of event planners have never planned a virtual event. What’s more, only 33% of marketers had ever hosted virtual events.

However, these numbers are likely to change fast. If you want to stay ahead of the game as an event planner or marketer, learning how to host a successful virtual event is essential. For example, check out this class from the Event Leadership Institue.

Now that you have these steps and tips up your sleeve, you’re already well on your way to organizing a well-orchestrated online event. 

What’s more, you don’t need to do it all on your own. As we mentioned above, with virtual event software like Shoflo, you can save time and ensure everyone on your team is on the same page in the planning and execution of your virtual event, especially if any of your team or presenters will be working remotely.

With enhanced team collaboration, real-time edits to rundowns and schedules, automatic time calculations, role-based permissions, and more, virtual events just got a whole lot easier. With features such as Show Caller Tracking, you can be assured of a seamless event free of confusion. 

Curious to know how our event planning software plays out in the trenches? If so, simply request a free demo today.

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About Shoflo

Shoflo is an Orlando based company focused on software solutions for the broadcast and live event production industry.