You may have needed to cancel an event. Or looking at your first online event. While you are in quarantine you still need a plan. For you, online events might be a completely new strategy to generate leads and meaningfully engage an audience.
Whether you’re in the initial development stages for an event or just announced an event, you’re looking at dozens of different variables to successfully execute it.
Which is why we’ve put together this resource to help you along the way. In this guide, we’ll cover:
- How to put together your event requirements
- Different ways to keep attendees excited for your event
- Why your content will shape whether you go live or pre-record video
- How to set up your home for recording video
- What you’ll need in your event tech stack
First, let’s talk about creating the initial blueprint for your event.
Concepting Your Event
Being quick and nimble is what’s separating many brands right now.
Within a few days of closing, my gym put together a virtual experience where we are all on Zoom calls. We’re still working out which is great and they provided a better response than many fitness facilities out there.
At the end of our session, they asked what else they can do. Someone replied, “can we do distanced outdoor workouts?”
I am recommending this to every business right now — talk to your customers. Find out their immediate needs. Ask them questions like:
- Where are they going for help right now?
- What sites are they now regularly reading?
- What devices do they use at home?
- What content did they last view on your site, and why?
You can also look at your analytics for device usage and see what social platforms they’re engaging on with your brand.
The 7 P’s of Marketing
Marketing is one of the biggest pillars of a successful digital event. To ensure you get the best results, consider the 7 P’s of marketing as they relate to event management.
The same people who would have attended your in-person event expect a high-end experience. If they flew into an event, they were likely expecting to stay at a nice hotel with all sorts of dining options available at their fingertips. Plus, all the ways they could have networked throughout the event.
They may have been ready for a night out with new friends. And a pint of Häagen-Dazs out of the mini-freezer at midnight. Then continental breakfast the next morning.
So even if that conference at the Fairmont (and room service) is off the table for now, you can still create networking opportunities. Set up a private Facebook group or Slack channel where attendees can share what they need help with and introduce themselves. During your virtual event, you can also encourage one-on-one interaction through social media hashtags and other event-specific tools. (more on that later)
That said, now might not be the time for your business to make a 100% paid event. Your focus might be on building your brand and developing a stronger following. Consider if you want to incorporate free and paid tiers for your event and what each entail. Paid tiers could include exclusive VIP access to speakers, hands-on training sessions, additional post-event content, or a subscription to your product.
Once the event is over, think about the next action you want viewers to take and if there is a specific offer you want to provide. This could include:
- Setting up an accountability group attendees can pay to join with office hours available to answer their questions
- Offering an exclusive discount on your product or service
- Pre-paid discount offer to a follow-up event
For many B2B brands, the sales cycle might be a little longer now so your follow-up event might also be more free content. With any paid offer though you should have a much better idea of what’s enticing to your audience after talking to customers.
In this case, your event is the product. Your event needs to address your customer’s needs and be delivered the right way to connect with them. Consider also reviewing competitors here, is your event objectively better?
Rather than a physical location, consider how you can make it easier for people to register and attend your online event. Can you use reminders and specific platforms so getting to your event is frictionless as possible?
Whether you’re using influencers, email marketing, social media, or other methods, which avenues have you identified for driving event awareness?
How do you want people to perceive your event? After attending your event, what do you want to read on surveys and social media?
For a digital event, this encompasses branding, site design, and any promotional materials. Consider particularly the role you want branding to play with the event’s video content and whether you need to revise branding guidelines to cover video.
Whether it’s planning or production, people are how you can successfully accomplish your business results and the event you envision.
Don’t have the right people in place? Contact us to help you plan and execute your event.
Identifying Your Needs
Once you know what your customer wants and the KPIs you want to track, write out your needs to launch an event next week or within the month.
Take an inventory of your current assets. There may be existing print collateral, social media pieces, or other content you can potentially repurpose for the event. However, that will require finesse and production skills to translate into a virtual event.
For at least the next 30-60 days, you may not be able to shoot video outside your immediate sight since many cities are shut down beyond essential travel. So you’ll need to learn how to shoot videos from home.
There’s a lot of technical expertise involved to pull off a successful digital experience. For example, if your customers use their devices to tune into your content you’ll need to ensure text is big enough to be legible on an iPhone. Or if your team is looking to record from multiple locations and you still want the same look and feel.
Beyond ensuring the production and technical components are up to par (or better), you’ll also in the initial concept phase need to brainstorm:
- Why are people going to attend your virtual event? How can you create content that addresses your customer’s needs?
- Where will your event go live and how will that content be repurposed after the event?
- What ways can you provide value prior to and during the event?
- How can you make your event fun?
- What do you want your audience to do after attending your event?
- What is the voice and tone of this content?
Need help planning and producing your virtual event? Contact us now.
All that said, in some cases, a higher-end production might not be necessary. Your audience might be solely focused on the actual content. If GitHub puts on a virtual event, their audience would likely be far more focused on what they’re going to learn far more than whether a speaker has perfect lighting.
Keeping Your Event Top of Mind
If you’re switching from in-person to digital events, the biggest change you’ll notice is people may forget about your event. You need content in place so that attendees stay excited and ready to jump in when your event happens.
Calendar invites with a link to join embedded into the emails will be important here. That way, your attendees aren’t digging through their inbox for a link to join your event or potentially needing to provide their name, email address, and other details again — and more likely dropping off before completing if they see that.
Your email sequence might also include:
- A welcome email after registering that includes an invite to a private Facebook group or Slack channel
- Announcement emails when your event adds new speakers
- Event reminder 24 hours before launch
- Two more reminders an hour prior and right when the event kicks off
- Post-event email asking for feedback and providing an exclusive offer
Incorporating pre-event video into campaigns targeting your attendees and potential registrations will also be key. Consider adding video to your speaker announcements and if there are any existing video assets you can repurpose to create awareness.
Here are a few other pre-event video examples I’m seeing right now with everyone shifting to virtual events… (click the thumbnails to view the videos in a new window)
Day-of Hype Video
Building Networking Into Your Digital Event
When you have hundreds or even thousands of people interested in attending an event, they still want to make meaningful connections. And feel like they aren’t just registering for something they can watch later.
Fortunately, there are a variety of tools you can use to create a greater sense of community. Event software like Hopin lets organizers connect people for one-on-one video meetings. Along with setting up private social groups and hashtags, you can use Run the World to segment your audience based on similar interests. After reviewing your RSVPs you can also host smaller events so these groups can have more direct conversations and network.
Personalizing is also key in post-event communication. Your CRM will be especially powerful during an event. Assign this task and let someone own recording this information so you can leverage it to create more personalized emails that mention:
- Sessions they attended
- Questions they asked during an event
- Comments they left on social media
- Specific feedback they provided
In some cases, personalizing your emails with custom snippets can double your response rate.
Going Live Versus Recorded Content
Your event’s content and audience will dictate the right type of video you need for your virtual event.
Here are a few different things to keep in mind as you decide whether to do live, prerecorded, or a combination of the two …
You may be considering live video if you are providing:
- Live Q&A after a presentation
- Small-group access for a conference workshop
- Panel featuring multiple experts
A lot of influencers are also turning to Facebook, YouTube, and other social media sites to broadcast their live video. If you’re approved to broadcast on LinkedIn Live is the most underutilized tool you can use to go live on social media right now.
Facebook and YouTube can be where your audience already visits. If you are trying to reach the masses and your event is anonymous, both sites can take the worry out of managing event registration. With Restream, you can even stream simultaneously on other sites like Facebook and even your own website.
All that said there can be other logistical requirements that hosting your event solely on Facebook or another social site won’t support.
If you’re offering free and paid tiers for access to your event, you could stream the free version on these sites. Social sites can be used to provide a preview of your event and then funnel viewers to your site with a strong CTA at the end of your video. However, you don’t have a way to capture your leads beyond retargeting them with ads if they don’t heed your call.
This is why I wouldn’t recommend just going live on Facebook or YouTube for a digital event.
If your conference has multiple tracks such as breakout sessions for specific topics, you’d also need a way for attendees to specify their schedule — and still be able to attend other sessions if they change their mind.
While live video provides natural interactivity, it can cause issues such as the host’s connection going down or a speaker not showing up on time. If a host drops off by accident or runs into a last minute emergency, you need a plan in place.
Bottom line for planning around live video: you’ll need a pre-event plan, backup plan, and testing so that everything goes down properly.
When you’re looking to deliver an event that’s also visually powerful your pre-recorded content will take center stage. To open your online event, you may run a 60-90 second clip; something that connects with viewers emotionally and gets them excited about tuning in.
If you are streaming pre-recorded content you even still have an opportunity to provide direct engagement from speakers to your audience in other ways. Your speaker can answer questions in chat and poll the audience during their talk. As long as the audience knows the video isn’t actually live they’ll understand and engage.
Recorded content from your audience can also be a great way to get viewers involved. Ask them to send in pre-recorded videos or video questions and use those when streaming the event.
Or you can host a trivia giveaway contest. Viewers submit their answers as recordings and their submissions play throughout the event. Then trivia winners could receive a prize.
The best-case scenario for your event could incorporate both live and pre-recorded video. Pre-recorded videos, graphics and animations can bring in more value to the virtual event but you are still having the live interactions from a combination of the host, panel, or small group sessions.
For example, let’s say you’re doing a live keynote from Tony Robbins. You can show Tony’s story to excite viewers and get to know him on a deeper level. Then maybe even do a Tony trivia contest. Follow that with a high energy video to get the audience excited so that Tony comes out and nails the live stream portion. After that, the event could stream pre-recorded audience questions answered by Tony.
P.S. I am just using Tony as an example — this could obviously work for anybody and everybody in so many different ways.
Whether you choose to do live, pre-recorded video, or a combination of the two, you have additional content you can now use to continue to drive new leads to your site. After the event, these videos can be used potentially as gated lead generation pieces or outbound content to deliver more value to your leads who missed the event.
Run Through Your Event
To help prevent issues, I recommend doing a test run of different facets of your event.
Your potential attendees may be getting payment errors and you don’t even know it. Don’t assume your payment and ticketing gateways work. Some platforms offer a test credit card feature to do a mock transaction. However, you can always run an actual credit card to ensure it’s working properly and then process a refund for it.
During a practice run of your event you can also test:
- Audio and video run in sync
- Last-second session reminders go out properly in real-time
- Mute, polling, Q&A, and other features specific to your session platform work
You can also test your bandwidth or have a speaker test theirs using tools like SpeedOf.Me.
A dress rehearsal of the event can also catch other issues like a speaker accidentally staring at the computer screen instead of the webcam while recording.
One more pro-tip: If an animation doesn’t load or you have any other technical issues running live on a Powerpoint presentation, have a backup PDF file ready to go and share.
Building an Event Tech Stack
For managing speakers and sponsors, you can use Clust to build an input form and complete eSignatures for agreements. For communicating with speakers, sponsors, and attendees at scale, check out Mailchimp.
Event Registration and Session Management
Some SaaS event management platforms might also be helpful if you are running a large scale event such as HeySummit and other tools for event registration and session management. Just keep in mind it won’t be a solution to 100% of your event needs.
For the actual presentation and recording of video, your stack might include:
- Camtasia for screencasting
- Wistia for streaming pre-recorded content
- Zoom for pre-recorded and live streaming video
For virtual conference tools that also encourage 1:1 interaction and networking, you can also use (as mentioned) Hopin.
During the COVID-19 crisis, a number of software companies are offering free or discounted plans including:
Zapier can help you partially or fully automate a range of tasks including:
- Sending a welcome email after each attendee signs up
- Slack channel notification for everyone on your team each time someone registers
- Uploading post-event content from Google Drive to Wistia
Consider also adding a live chat tool like Intercom to answer questions as prospective attendees browse the event website.
Ultimately your full tech stack will depend on your event needs and goals. Reach out if you need help with narrowing down to the right solutions for you.
Setting Up Your Home for Recording
Whether you’re recording in your place or need to provide guidance to your event speakers, here are a few things needed…
- Lighting: Since everyone’s working from home you may only have natural lighting as your best option
- Webcam: Built-in or external
- Microphone: You can get a solid one from Maono for less than $90.
- Camera: If you’re looking to catch multiple angles or enhance the look of your event consider an additional camera such as a DSLR
- Hardware Encoder: Support multiple video inputs including DSLR along with professional mics; encoders can also include the ability to switch between inputs for a multi-cam shoot
- Backdrop: Consider whether you want a minimalist background versus branding that potentially has to go out to multiple speakers depending on your ends
Extra mics, webcams, adapters, computer, and anything necessary for live events can also help you avoid a potential headache. Having a backup internet connection if possible can also help if you’re live streaming.
And just to give you an idea, here is Rob Lester, Creative Director at True Film Productions’ current in-home setup:
Get the Expertise Needed to Execute Your Virtual Event
Reach out for a free consultation and quote to help you develop a virtual event that will align with your business goals. Our team of digital producers and event planners have the experience, the know-how, and the drive to take your virtual event to the next level.
Our free consultations are no risk, no pressure. We know you’ll love what our True Film Productions team comes up with, and we’re ready to help. We look forward to hearing from you and working together to create great mojo for your brand.