Whether it be event management, sponsorships, budgeting, or scheduling, putting on a successful virtual event is a lot of hard work. Even for the most experienced event planner, staying on top of these many moving parts can be a serious challenge. And with so much to account for—and so much that can go wrong—it’s important to cover your bases.

Fortunately, that’s why we’re here. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the essential steps that every virtual event planner should take to put on a successful event. From setting event goals to event production to post-event outreach and everything in between, you’ll learn what you need to delight your audience and simplify the event planning process.

Organizing your event with a checklist

Businesswoman works on computer and write on notepad with pen

A virtual or online event is one that is attended over the internet using virtual event technology. Most obviously, they differ from a physical or hybrid event in that the audience only experiences content from the comfort of their own living space rather than a convention center.

Without any need for certain in-person factors—food and beverage, venue, travel, hotel accommodations—virtual events are generally faster and simpler to execute. But don’t let that confuse you: Event planning of any kind requires a lot of coordination. That’s why it’s often easier for event organizers to use a virtual event planning checklist. 

A checklist that accounts for every critical stage of the event planning process is key for dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s. In short, it helps you take a structured approach and ensure that all necessary components are planned and accounted for on event day. 

Setting your virtual event objectives

There’s much to be gained from hosting a successful virtual event, which is perhaps why over 80% of event organizers are planning on hosting virtual events in the future. Whether it’s increasing brand awareness, improving lead generation, or diversifying revenue streams, the virtual experience has plenty to offer. 

But before you can realize these benefits, you first need to establish event goals and objectives. In other words, what do you want to get out of your virtual event? What do you hope to achieve?

Answering these questions is a critical step in the event planning journey. Event goals not only define your event strategy, but also determine the metrics you will use to measure event success. Generally, there are three items your goals might address:

  1. What information you want your audience to take away from the event
  2. What you want your sponsors and presenters to gain from the event
  3. What you want to gain from your event (customers, leads, etc.)

Event goals should be specific, measurable, and easy to track. For example, let’s assume you want to increase sponsor lead generation by 25% by the end of the quarter. With this goal in mind, you can measure the success of sponsor campaigns using the following metrics:

  • Email click-through rates
  • Audience engagement (number of messages and conversations with sponsors)
  • Attendance at sponsor breakout sessions
  • Engagement with banner ads
  • Number of sponsored booth visitors

Setting event goals and objectives earlier in the process allows you to make decisions that will help you achieve those goals and host a successful event—no matter how you choose to define it.

Choosing a virtual event platform

Product screen showing virtual event platform

Selecting a virtual event platform is the most important decision that an event planner can make. As the center stage for your virtual experience, the event management platform has a direct impact on audience engagement (and, by extension, event success).

For this reason, event organizers place a lot of value on selecting the right solution. In fact, according to Markletic research, the majority of virtual event budgets are spent on the hosting platform. 

Although your choice of platform will depend on your desired features, the size of your event, and your event goals, you’ll ideally find a solution that isn’t limited by any of the three. Whether you’re hosting a massive virtual conference or a small virtual meeting, a true event management platform will offer all the capabilities you need to meet your requirements and maximize engagement.

To help you identify the best choice for your future events, here are a few key features to consider:

  • Live chat: Enabling live chat allows every attendee to ask questions, engage with presenters, and participate in discussions.
  • Interactive tools: Live polls and Q&A not only increase engagement and act as ice breakers, but also can solicit real-time feedback during an event.
  • Gamification: Excite your audience with friendly competition by introducing content-focused activities like virtual scavenger hunts, quizzes, and more.
  • Networking: This is the biggest reason people attend events. A proper platform should facilitate connection with breakout rooms, one-on-one conferencing, direct messaging, and more.
  • Real-time engagement data: Gathering data during an event allows event organizers to gauge audience engagement and make immediate adjustments as needed.
  • Sponsorship tools: Providing sponsors their own virtual booths, profiles, and ad placements can drive event attendees in their direction and increase engagement.

Setting up production and preparing presenters

Now that you’ve established your goals and identified an event management platform that can help you achieve them, it’s time to think about event production.

What does that mean? Simply put, it’s every technical detail you need to sort out to ensure your virtual event goes off without a hitch. Let’s start with breaking down event content.

Event content

This is the meat and potatoes of the virtual experience—any content that your audience might engage with during the event.

Content sessions: Map out content session topics, book your presenters, and set a duration for each session. You should also consider using pre-recorded content, intros, or outros to avoid some of the risks of a live production.

Breakout sessions: Schedule breakout sessions for more focused discussions, workshops, and other opportunities for event attendees to network and engage with sponsors.

Set up presenters: It’s best to ensure that your speakers are equipped with the technology they need to broadcast seamlessly. Supply them with a basic equipment package for the event, including a microphone, light, backdrop, and webcam.

Event production

Here, you need to think about maintaining consistency and high production value during the broadcast. Here are some focus areas to consider.

Shooting locations: Distractions are a challenge during any event, but especially an online event. Avoiding background noise, doors, AC units, and other distractions will help the audience focus.

Camera and lighting: High-tech setups aren’t required to broadcast a successful virtual event. As long as the camera is positioned opposite their face and framed above their shoulders, they should be good to go. It’s best to position yourself in front of direct sunlight, or using a standard desk lamp.

Background: It’s best to supply presenters with a virtual background to avoid potential distractions. If it’s not an option, ask them to sit in front of a warm background with delicate embellishments, like a bookcase or small table.

Sound: Provide speakers with a microphone to avoid any hindrance to the sound quality. Be sure that phones and notifications are silenced during the presentation.

Preparing for the unexpected

There’s almost no telling what might happen during a live event. To best prepare for an unexpected disruption, perform test runs of your equipment with each presenter. This ensures that their equipment is working properly and they’re ready for a live audience.

Additionally, think about any potential problems that may arise and plan out remediation steps accordingly. 

For more tips, check out our ultimate guide to virtual event planning.

Promoting your event and pre-registering attendees

Every event planner knows that there’s no point to an event if nobody shows up. Even virtually, you still need to get the word out and generate buzz before the big day.

When it comes to pre-event promotion and registration, these are the most important factors:

Event website and landing page

Your target audience needs a place where they can find out more information about the event. An effective website should contain speaker bios, dates, content sessions, FAQs, and other critical information. Be sure people have a way to reach out with questions if necessary.

Registration page

Your virtual event platform should be equipped with online registration software. This is necessary for gathering information from registrants and processing payments, if applicable. Any solid platform should seamlessly integrate this data into your event management system.

Email marketing

Promote your event by emailing subscribers, prospects, and past attendees. Email is a good way to confirm registration and blast important information like lineup changes, app downloads, and more.

Social media

Leverage your social media profiles to generate excitement and draw eyeballs to your event. Share the type of content you’ll present, profiles of each speaker, and pre-event giveaways.

Sponsors and partners

Build sponsorship packages to attract new partners. These might include targeted sponsor sessions, banner ads, and virtual booths. You can also coordinate with sponsors to send out pre-event swag bags to your attendees.

Want to learn more about event sponsorships? Check out our guide on how to acquire sponsors for your next virtual event.

Working with virtual event management experts

The truth is that no matter how much you’ve prepped, planned, and coordinated, there may still be unseen risks you haven’t yet encountered—that’s where an event management partner can help.

Partnering with a platform provider means leaning on the expertise of a dedicated team of industry professionals. In essence, it’s about taking the guesswork out of event planning and bringing your virtual experience to another level.

When you choose Webex Events, you’re choosing an end-to-end event management platform designed to simplify the process, empower you with data, and maximize audience engagement. With a robust suite of interactive tools, educational resources, and white-glove professional services, Webex provides everything you need to run memorable, immersive events.

Our team works alongside yours to plan your event strategy, troubleshoot problems, and maximize the power of our comprehensive platform. 

Schedule a free demo to see how Webex Events can help you take your event to the next level.

Yvonne deFuria
Yvonne deFuria

Yvonne is an Event Production Manager at Webex Events (formerly Socio). With over 10 years of event management experience, she is passionate about creating memorable and engaging events.