The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your First Virtual Event

May 12, 2022 Jessica Stewart

As a blossoming event planner in New York, you know the key to your company success lies in how well you can adapt to industry changes and client preferences. For many of you, one of the most significant event planning changes over the last two years is the adoption of virtual event planning.

How comfortable are you when clients ask about your help with a virtual event? Of course, nothing compares to the engagement experience an in-person event has to offer. But there are ways to plan, organize, and execute a great virtual event, too. Today, we’ll shed light on what you need to know about incorporating virtual events into your roster of event planning services. And this is the ultimate guide to virtual events you’ll want to bookmark and save for ongoing reference.

Key Advantages of Virtual Events

First off, let’s get past the misconception that virtual events are ineffective. Sure, it’s not going to be the same experience you might plan for an in-person event. But virtual events work. A Harvard Business Review study found that 86% of attendees in virtual, online meetings “report higher or as high levels of engagement as those face-to-face” engagements. 

Here are some of the other important benefits of the virtual event:

When there’s no other option, virtual is better than nothing. Sometimes, certain factors play into event planning where you might decide the in-person engagement just isn’t feasible. Maybe it’s extreme weather, travel bans affecting attendance, or last-minute venue cancellations. But in the event something forces your hand, the virtual event can be a great alternative.

Accessibility is a big advantage. Whether your virtual event is a stand-alone engagement or a hybrid feature of an in-person event, more people can attend. Any guests hindered by travel or personal reasons can still hop online and share in the excitement. 

Virtual events are often easy on the event planning budget. If you have a client who is restricted with this year’s budget, a virtual event can be a more cost-effective way to host an event. Again, even hybrid adoption of a virtual event, in conjunction with a small, in-person engagement, can present significant event success results without the exhaustive budget.

The Four Primary Virtual Event Types

Remember, virtual events don’t have to necessarily replace the in-person engagement. Instead, they work best as an addition to your event planning strategy. And as an event planner in New York looking to enhance your core offerings, these are the four primary types of virtual events to explore.

1. The Virtual Conference

Typically, the virtual conference is centered around a live engagement. There can be formal agendas, much like you’d have with an in-person conference, including breakout sessions and keynote speakers. But these are great for those clients who are looking for a real-time event option online, with digital interaction capabilities and on-demand content.

2. The Webinar

If you’re looking to plan a digital event that offers tutorials, guest speakers, and precise content within a narrower timeframe, the webinar is a great virtual event to do the job. These tend to be shorter in length, under two hours, with condensed information and content presented either on-demand or in real-time. Hosting these types of virtual events can be more valuable in terms of the content provided, thus an ability to charge more for attending. And with video conferencing tools for live and pre-recorded presentations, it’s a great virtual event option. Consider adding in some Q&A among guests or offering training or educational material. These tend to be 100% virtual, making it convenient for almost anyone to attend, too.

3. The External Hybrid

You may have clients who want to host a hybrid virtual event outside of their core organization. These might be industry-based or conferences intended for customers. But most will include an invite list of guests from outside the client’s company. These types of virtual events usually also require a higher caliber of video production capability, so digitally attending guests can experience the in-person engagement as much as they can without actually being present. And these virtual events will often allow in-person guests to interact with virtual guests.

4. The Internal Hybrid

Some of your clients will want your help with planning more internal events, like training, new product launch initiatives, corporate meetings, or company-wide celebrations. These internal events can also benefit by incorporating an internal hybrid, virtual option. It can be pretty costly for a company to fly every employee to one central location. So, these virtual events are great for connecting all guests without the added hassle. 

Every Great Virtual Event Has These Four Things

Once you’ve selected the type of virtual event to meet your client's needs, you can then move to the must-have list. Every successful virtual event will have these four pillars:

- Great Marketing – How You Attract Attendees

- Great Event Content – What Your Event Has to Offer

- Great Virtual Event Guides – So Guests Feel Connected at Every Moment

- Great Virtual Event Data – For Measuring Success and Engagement for Your Clients

You might also want to include some of these key elements in your next virtual event. According to the industry experts, the best virtual events incorporate and leverage:

- A dedicated virtual event website

- Organized virtual event registration

- Live content (presentation form and one-way communication)

- FAQ and Live Q&A sessions

- Real-time polling of guests

- Recorded content

- Host contests with great swag giveaways

- Interactive video elements

- Attendee surveys

How to Successfully Host a Virtual Event

Next up in this ultimate guide series are actionable suggestions and insights about hosting a virtual event. Much like the in-person engagement, you’ll need to monitor and manage details from the first minute until the final sign-off. If you’re looking to host an unforgettable online event, these are the tips you need to see.

As an established event planner in New York, you know the value and importance of keeping guests engaged. That same in-person event philosophy also applies to the virtual event. The more interactive you can make it, the more successful your event will be. 

Some of the features you can tap into to keep virtual attendees from feeling isolated from the group include:

- Tech features that allow smaller group breakout sessions

- Chat features with high-volume capability

- Webinar tools that allow for customized engagement between guests

- Polling features where guests can weigh in and participate 

- Animations are great engagement tools

- Augmented reality software for more in-person illusions of stage presence 

Remember when you’re planning a virtual event that you’ll want to take extra steps to prepare attendees for the online engagement experience. Send out notices about available tools, timelines, and troubleshooting directions should guests struggle to properly connect and engage. 

Use this guide to help you incorporate virtual events into your core service offerings. And for more tips from the absolute best of the best in the events, marketing, and hospitality industries, you have to come to The Event Planner Expo 2022 and 10th Anniversary Celebration!

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