Changing Your Sails – How to Create a
Stand-Out Virtual Event

Changing Your Sails - How to Create a Stand-Out Virtual Event - Ultimate Academy Event & Wedding Planning Course

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination”. – James Dean

Covid-19 has changed the direction of the wind for many industries, including that of the Event & Wedding Planner. For months, restrictions and unease have prevented groups of people from congregating together. As the pandemic itself, as well as the uncertainty surrounding it, will continue in various forms for the foreseeable future, it is time to adjust your sails. If your destination is a thriving career as an Event Planner, take a deep breath, focus on the course you have plotted for yourself, and make that turn. How? Face the wind with determination and ingenuity; adjust your sails from creating only live in-person events, to also creating virtual events.

What is a virtual event?

A virtual event is “an event that is launched, delivered and attended entirely online instead of at a physical location”. The format is “virtually” the same; presenters still deliver information to attendees either live or recorded, via video, audio or text. As well, attendees can participate, often from the comfort of their own home, via live chats and by using Q & A tools. Although virtual events are not new, Covid-19 has hastened their sense of normalcy in the Event Industry. And this trend will only continue; a recent survey discovered that “over 90% of event marketers plan to incorporate virtual events into their strategy”.  Although venues themselves have changed, the type of events have not. Virtual events include webinars, workshops, small conferences, online broadcasts of speeches, interviews, book “tours” and “how-to’s”.

There are many benefits to hosting a virtual event:

  • Regarding Covid-19, there are no health and safety concerns.
  • As attendance is virtual, you can access a broader audience. Your education and networking events can be global rather than local.
  • Your attendees do not need to incur the additional costs of travel, accommodations, or food. All they require is internet access, and a tablet, smart phone, or a computer.
  • Without the need for both airline travel and catering, the carbon footprint of your event is reduced significantly.
  • As there is no venue, the cost of hosting an event is often reduced. This can be filtered down to your attendees, making it less expensive for them to attend. In fact, 80% of virtual event registrations are free to attendees.
  • Each virtual event can produce a digital copy which can be repurposed many times over.

The main drawbacks of hosting a virtual event are:

  • There is no in-person interaction.
  • Virtual attendees have a shorter attention span. This revelation has changed the Event Industry; events are now shorter overall, are more interactive, and have more numerous sessions imbedded in a single day.

As virtual events are technology-based, there is the potential for major technological issues.

What are the steps for planning a virtual event?

A great event always begins with a great plan. Here is a checklist to follow when planning a virtual event:

  • Begin with a macro view of the event; determine “why” you are creating it. What are your goals and objectives? Who is your target audience?
  • Develop the event’s concept. Create a theme that will make your event stand out.
  • Establish the event’s format. Are you hosting a webinar, a live-stream, or a symposium with panels?
  • “Walk” through your virtual event; create the timeline and delegate tasks. Is this a one-day event? How many sessions will you have? How long will they be? Will there be questions and answers?
  • Create the budget for the event. Just as you would with in-person events, list the estimated income and expenses, as well as the actual.
  • Ascertain the date and time, ensuring you are aware of competing online programing and events.
  • Create a registration form.
  • Consider micro details such as:

    • Who will be your guest speakers? Do they have experience with virtual events? Will they add value?

    • Will you have entertainment such as a DJ, a band, or a celebrity?

    • Will you utilize sponsors and/or contests?

      • When enticing sponsors, advertise your event as a global experience rather than just a virtual event.

      • Be flexible by offering both tiered and a la carte sponsorship packages.

      • Allowing sponsors to pick and choose how they want to spend their advertising dollars, will broaden your sponsorship reach.

    • What is the name of the event? What is its custom hashtag?

    • What is the marketing plan for the event? Will you utilize influencers, social media, Facebook ads, and emails?

      • Utilizing your social media platforms, influencers and their social media platforms, Facebook ads, and emails, will ensure you reach more people and gather a broader audience.

    • Who is going to create your event website?

      • A website is a great tool for marketing your event: use banners, pop-up videos, side images, and even blogs.

      • It also provides a site for collecting registrants and their information, as well as for providing updated details such as schedule changes and contests.

    • Determine the production-needs for the event. Will you be able to produce the event using live streaming tools such as Facebook Live, YouTube Live, or Instagram Live? Or will you require a Virtual Event Production company to handle the technological details?

      • This decision will be determined by your skill set and the scope of the event.

      • Either way, ensure your technology is user-friendly, not only for you while producing the event, but for the attendees as well.

The technology you utilize must also ensure that both cybersecurity and compatibility are in place.

How can you create a stand-out event?

“Everyone is racing to put together virtual events, not because they want to, but because they don’t have a choice”. So how can you make your event stand out?

  • Virtual events require extra creativity and ingenuity.

    • This is the time to utilize your creative skills and knowledge to make your event stand out. “Make it clear why your event will be magical and worth attending”.

    • When creating the event’s theme, ensure your idea is unique among your competition.

    • Emphasize the virtual experience; utilize technology such as green screens and multiple cameras.

    • If you have already paid for the venue, repurpose it; use it for the backdrop of your virtual event.

    • Add interesting speakers and “out-of-the-box” entertainment.

    • Utilize sponsorship to offer enviable prizes for contests posted on the website.

    • Offer discount codes for special purchases related to your event.

  • Be aware of the drawbacks of the virtual experience.

    • As there is no personal interaction, ensure you include ways for people to connect.

      • Develop a sense of community; create a Facebook page to share sneak peeks, updates, and conversations.

      • Tell a story; “there isn’t a stronger connection between people than storytelling”. Inspire, engage and educate your attendees with an amazing story.

      • Provide an immersive environment in which people can connect with one another. Use the event website to have attendees sign up for tailored break-out sessions, virtual escape rooms, one-on-one sessions with panelists, and interactive cooking classes.

    • Provide personal touches to ensure your attendees feel special.

      • As participants will not be enjoying the benefits of a catering company, have food delivered to their home address during the event.

      • Send them a “swag bag” full of small gifts; no more “fear-of-missing-out” for your attendees.

      • Note: if like most virtual events your registration is free, these ideas highlight the importance of sponsorship. Promote the sponsors in every marketing message and encourage them to market the event on their social media platforms as well.

    • To address the attendees’ short attention span:

      • Plan shorter sessions, even if that means scheduling more sessions in a day.

      • Ensure your content, as well as your speakers, are engaging.

      • Provide exciting and interactive breaks in between sessions.

      • Provide the event’s agenda up front. This helps to create curiosity about each session and allows the attendees to plan ahead.

Although the wind may have changed direction for Event & Wedding Planners, this does not mean you cannot reach your destination of a successful career. It simply means you must make the turn and trim the sails to your new course. 

Embrace technology and everything it offers; take advantage of the widespread reach of hosting a global event; enjoy the freedom of not being tied to a physical venue. Utilize your creative skills to entice attendees, sponsors, and fascinating speakers. Virtual events are the new norm; adjust your sails and enjoy the ride.

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