Event production, networking platforms, sponsors, and budgets — virtual events require a lot of planning to successfully execute. With so many details to consider (and things that could go wrong), the process can feel overwhelming.
Planning for success is no easy feat, but it is doable and entirely possible. This article will walk you through the virtual event planning details to consider. We will discuss four essential components (goals, production, platform, planning) and then provide a comprehensive planning checklist to follow along. Our goal is to make your event organizing job easier (and more rewarding) as you plan memorable virtual events for your organizations and clients.
Let’s get to it!
Set the Right Goals and Objectives
Your event goals and objectives are the glue that holds your event plans and strategy together. Your goals will define your strategy and the metrics you will use to measure event performance.
Your virtual event goals cover items such as:
- What learnings you want your attendees to gain from the event
- What you want your sponsors to gain from the event
- What you want to gain from the event (customers, leads, brand awareness, etc.)
Let’s say your event goal is to generate 25% more leads by the end of the year. Your objective would broadly detail how your event will facilitate this goal. Your objectives also reveal your KPIs, which allow you to measure your event’s performance.
For more detailed information, check out our recent article on virtual event objectives. We also provide you with 41 virtual event KPIs to measure performance.
Choose Your Event Management Platform
Your event management platform is your home base, where all of your virtual event components converge. It houses your virtual stage, your sessions, and where your attendees, sponsors, and presenters will hopefully engage in immersive experiences.
Your choice of virtual event platform will depend on your desired features, the size of your event, and your event goals. Do you want a full-scale event platform with networking, engagement, sponsorship, training, and professional services? Are you just looking for webinar software? In addition to software, do you want a partner to help you manage and plan your event?
For example, if you are planning on offering unique sponsorship opportunities, your platform might need the ability to host sponsored discussions, targeted sessions, promotional banners, group demos, live chat, etc.
Essentially, you want the ability to creatively design and monetize your event to smash your event goals without any limitations (or much effort).
To help you make your choice, we cover five virtual networking tools in this article.
Set Up Your Event Production Components and Prepare Presenters
The success of your virtual event hinges on your content’s success. However, you do not have a lot of control over the content since live presenters will be speaking virtually. With so many elements to consider to maintain consistency and high production value, we thought it would be helpful to offer some tips on virtual event production. Provide these tips to speakers to equip them for their presentations.
Avoid noisy rooms, doors, AC units, or any place that will distract the speaker from focusing. If your presenters cannot find a proper shooting location, consider renting out a quieter space just for the virtual event.
Camera and lighting
While your presenters might not be able to secure a professional camera and lighting, a high-tech setup is not required to put on a high-quality virtual session.
The type of camera is not as important as its position. Have the presenter position the camera opposite their face, making direct eye contact. Center the presenter’s head on the screen and include their shoulders and a little room above their head to frame the shot.
Natural light from a window is best, but it can be unreliable depending on the weather. Consider additional lighting positioned at the cheeks, not directly on the face or behind, which can create shadows. A standard desk lamp or basic studio lights should suffice.
If you want your speakers to speak in front of a branded background, send them a virtual background for live sessions. Otherwise, warm backgrounds with some delicate embellishments (bookcase, flowers, small table) will set the stage nicely. Avoid loud, harsh backdrop colors that will compete with the speaker.
Provide your speakers with microphones (at a minimum) if you are concerned about sound quality. Sound issues are one of the most common tech hindrances of live virtual sessions. Also, ensure the speaker turns off their phone ringer and all computer notifications during the live event, not to disrupt the session.
The Virtual Event Planning Process
From pre-event promotion and registration to post-event surveys, the virtual event planning process involves many moving parts, each one as important as the other.
Setting goals and choosing the right event management platform are the first steps. Next are the actual event planning steps that detail what the event looks like, the speakers, networking and interactive elements, sponsors, technology, and more.
Your event goals and objectives drill down into strategy and planning items. Here are some examples:
- Session duration
- Session content and speakers
- How to keep attendees engaged and interactive
- How to build community
- How to boost sponsor-attendee interaction
- Sponsor promotional opportunities
- How to promote individual and group networking
- Content sessions and presenters
- Event technology
- Budgets and ticket pricing, tiers
- Potential issues and troubleshooting
- Pre-event promotion
- Post-event feedback
The key to planning successful virtual events is to put yourself in your attendee’s shoes. How do you heel them fully engaged without getting distracted? How can you make the event fun and rewarding? How can you boost their networking opportunities (a top reason why attendees participate in events)?
If you want to dig deeper on running memorable virtual events, check out our recent article: How to Plan Memorable Virtual Events in 2021.
Virtual Event Planning: The Comprehensive Checklist
You created your goals and objectives, settled on an event management platform, and started your event planning. It’s time to put it all together.
We listed the following virtual event planning details below to assist your event process. Use them as a roadmap or a list of items to check off as you develop your plan.
Pre-event Promotion, Planning, and Registration
Registration website or landing page – Provide a website or page where potential attendees can find more information about the event, speaker bios, dates, content sessions, FAQs, and other pertinent information. Also, provide a way for prospects to contact you with questions.
Registration page – Your registration page gathers information from registrants. If you are using a good event management platform, it will automatically port this data into the backend. Include payment capabilities if you are charging for the event.
Attendee journey – Map out the attendee journey, so your planning includes all touchpoints attendees have with your event. Use attendee data to curate personalized attendee experiences and amplify sponsorship opportunities with targeted sessions and networking. See our recent article on virtual event design for more information on mapping attendee journeys.
Email messaging – Send emails to promote the event to subscribers, confirm registration, and send reminders leading up to the event. Blast pertinent information about the event, such as lineup changes, app download requirements, session scheduling, and other necessary details.
Social media – Use your social profiles to post buzz-generating content that details the type of content you will present, speaker profiles, and pre-event giveaways. Get presenters involved and posting on their channels as well.
Sponsors and partners – Build sponsorship packages to attract new partners to your virtual events, such as targeted sponsor sessions, banner promotions, and virtual exhibits.
Pre-event swag – If you’re offering pre-event swag, prepare the items for sending and connect with sponsors if applicable.
Technology and Troubleshooting
Event platform – As discussed earlier, your event platform can handle most of your event management and facilitate engagement, networking, analytics, and more. The event platform is one of the first decisions you will make when event planning.
Test runs – Perform test runs with presenters to ensure their equipment is working and they are prepared for live sessions.
Problem-solving – Identify critical problems that could occur during the event, and plan out remediation steps. Assign roles to individuals so they know who is responsible for putting out what fires.
Content sessions – Map out the content session topics, speakers, and session durations. Think about intros, outros, and pre-recorded sessions, if necessary.
Breakout sessions – Schedule additional session times for topic-focused discussions or workshops where attendees have more space to discuss with fewer attendees.
Content schedule – Schedule the flow of content and session times, including any workshops, Q&As, networking sessions, sponsored sessions, product launches, and scheduled chats. Consider all timezones of your attendees and schedule sessions accordingly.
Set up presenters – Presenting seamless talks from different locations and environments will take some work to plan. Send presenters an equipment package (microphone, lighting, backdrop, webcam) just for the event. Technicians can walk presenters through setup and test runs. For a lower budget option, send presenters a list of preferred equipment, along with a virtual background to use during the live presentation.
Event Activities and Engagement
Live chat – Enable live chat on your virtual stage and during live sessions so attendees can ask real-time questions, provide feedback, and fully engage with the sessions. Schedule live chat sessions where presenters have an opportunity to get involved in on-topic discussions.
Live polls – Use live polls to engage attendees and get real-time feedback. Ask attendees content or trivia questions, get feedback on content, or get a little more personal with attendees using polls as icebreakers.
Gamification – Gamification is an essential activity for virtual events that brings excitement to attendees. Gamification can be content-focused, promote networking sessions, or just bring fun like virtual scavenger hunts or themed games for prizes.
Virtual stage – Set up a virtual stage, a homepage for attendees to gather, view session times, chat live, and interact.
Networking – Networking is the #1 reason people attend events. Facilitate group and one-on-one meetings and rooms so attendees and sponsors can interact freely. In addition to breakout rooms, power your networking with targeted sessions based on attendee preferences, and create focused attendee segments to provide unique sponsorship opportunities (targeted talks, one-on-one sessions).
Real-time engagement data – Gather real-time data during and after the event. Socio’s Data Dashboard allows event organizers to view real-time analytics and determine how attendees are enjoying (or disliking) event features. Make immediate changes during the event and gather event data for stakeholders.
Want to see these virtual engagement features in action? Register for our upcoming webinar, “The Fun Starts Here: How to amaze, delight, and engage your event attendees!”
Roles and Responsibilities
Make sure attendees recognize team members who are organizing and moderating the event. Name tags and brightly colored branded shirts will not work for virtual events. Instead, add unique badge icons or bright bands around team member profile pictures to be easily distinguishable. Below are some more team member roles you might need to recruit for your virtual event.
Virtual event roles:
- Moderators for live chat/social media
- Emcee – for intros and outros, direct people to upcoming sessions, host games, challenges, etc.
- Customer service
- Virtual producer – event production, recording, setup
- Technology technicians – audio/visual, technical issues
- Event organizers and managers
- Sponsor managers
- Event marketers + creatives
- Business development
Post-event Data, Followup, and Feedback
Data gathering – After the event, gather data based on the metrics and KPIs you determined in your planning steps. Assess whether you met your goals and use any learnings to inform future events.
Followups – Send follow-up messages and communication to warm leads and sponsors
Post-event surveys – Gather feedback from attendees and sponsors on event logistics and any room for improvements
Socio Seamlessly Manages All Of Your Your Virtual Event Planning
Juggling the planning and management of a comprehensive virtual event is no easy feat. Partnering with an event management platform that can do the heavy lifting takes the guesswork out of planning and elevates your event experience.
Socio is an end-to-end event management platform that enables event managers to run memorable virtual events effortlessly. With a robust feature deck, educational resources, award-winning support, and white-glove professional services, Socio provides event managers everything they need to run memorable immersive events.
Video rooms facilitate group and one-on-one networking and discussions. Host roundtables, small group presentations, and enable attendees to engage in 1:1 video chat. Curate Q&A sessions, meet and greets, and sponsored video rooms to boost sponsor ROI.
Socio’s interactive features, such as live chat, Q&A, gamification, live polls, and more, allow virtual attendees to engage with your event and avoid getting distracted.
Socio’s state-of-the-art analytics functionality via its Data Dashboard powers real-time and post-event data. At a glance, view your event’s performance during and after the event, and get 360-degree insights and unearth data gold to prove ROI and satisfy event goals.
Socio has powered state-of-the-art virtual, hybrid, and in-person events for clients such as Microsoft, Google, Stanford University, and thousands more globally. Socio’s integrated virtual software and live event app have facilitated seamless, high-powered customizable events and rewarding attendee experiences for years.
Want to see Socio in action? To see how Socio can help you manage all of your virtual event planning with ease, schedule a personalized demo today.