As you might have noticed, virtual events are big right now. The pandemic forced the cancellation of countless events that have gone online as webinars, virtual conferences and digital meetings.

But just like putting on an in-person event, staging a virtual one is no walk in the park. It takes skill to do it right. As someone with experience in this area, I’ve learned several “tricks” to putting on a great virtual event — one that won’t make people say, “What a headache, I can’t wait until we can go back to doing this the traditional way.”

1. Start with Defined Goals
The sky might be the limit, but the possibilities presented by the online world are limitless. Almost everything is possible virtually these days, but clearly defining the scope and goals of your virtual event sets the foundation for success. Is your virtual event a conference, field day, meeting or a trade show? What are your objectives and what goals do you want to achieve? How many attendees? How many days?

2. Pick the Right Platform
There are number of platforms that are available for hosting a virtual event. You can pick one or custom design a solution to meet your needs. Choose the one that is scalable, flexible and familiar to you. Speaking engagements and sessions can either be live, semi-live or on demand. All these have their pros and cons. Carefully pick the right combination that resonates well with your audience.

3. Set a Realistic Timeline
Going virtual doesn’t mean there are no logistics associated with the event. Create a comprehensive project plan as you would do for your actual traditional event. Setting up the environment, plugging in the content pieces, testing the platform — everything takes time.

4. Engage Your Audience Well Before the Event
If it is a free event, there is a huge possibility of people registering for the event but not attending. Send the right reminders with the right content. Build excitement for the event, have an engaging landing page showing what the environment will look like on the live day and what to expect, and why someone should not miss this event.

5. ACID — Remember This Acronym

  • Right Accessibility: The majority of your audience will be accessing the platform through their mobile devices. Make sure you have a responsive environment which is accessible through all devices.
  • Right Content: Content is still king but choose wisely the type and volume of content based on your design and event type. A video greeting is always a good option to build excitement for the event. Content should always be precise and timely. Include takeaways that attendees can add to their virtual briefcase.
  • Right Interactions: Allow attendees to ask or post questions during the sessions. If it is a virtual trade show, include the option of interacting with booth reps (text chat, audio/video conference), and the option to collect and download different digital content items. Keep the audience engaged for the whole duration of the event. Throw in notifications for any upcoming activity or session.
  • Right Design: A virtual event is not a website or a blog. You want your attendees/audience to spend a considerable amount of time on your platform. Mimic the actual environment. If you would traditionally have your event in a hotel, design a virtual lobby. If you are hosting a field day, design an outdoor interface.

6. Do a Dry Run
Make sure you test the platform, especially if you have multiple speakers/panelists. Train them on the tool if they will be presenting live. Test their internet connection and their audio and video devices well before the event. Pre-record their session for a backup in case they are not able to join.

7. Mimic a Traditional Event Experience (Beginning – Middle – End)
Follow a schedule. Incorporate a flow. Your audience should know what’s over and what’s coming next.