Virtual events have moved from becoming nice-to-haves to becoming need-to-haves for businesses around the world.
In a world that has drastically changed, and one in which businesses have been quickly pivoting, a few trends have been rising to the top. Including the one about free events.
I have worked in events for the past 7 years, organising something that spans from 30 to 35 events. We started off quite inexperienced as a company, in a small yoga studio converted into a venue for the day. During our last event, before the pandemic hit, we took over a stage with over 300 people capacity.
Yet, as everyone has moved their events online (and competition is fiercer than ever) so many people miss out on the chance to create unforgettable experiences. Whether you’re looking to test the waters with your first virtual event or increase virtual event activity and engagement, you want to ensure that your brand image meets attendee expectations, company objectives and global standards.
In the past, free long-day events were a rare occurrence, something you’d find here and there, especially as an upsell for a specific product, offer or service. Webinars have been booming something rounding up to 200% with the rise of Zoom and online gathering. These days, free conferences and virtual events are everywhere. This means preparation is key.
This is why I wanted to share a few things you can do to create events that hit the mark every single time.
Rethink the user journey
Make sure you have the time to welcome attendees and round up each day. This sounds obvious, but so many people forget how important it is to take the time to set expectations at the beginning with a welcome session, and end the day (or days) with a closing session.
Do not worry if people do not take you up on that at first, I find that the more you educate your audience, the more they’ll be receptive to it. You can even create a “brochure” or a free document your audience can use as a workbook to interact and learn more about each speaker – which can turn into a great way to upset your conference.
Always add a ‘welcome’ and a ‘farewell’ session to your day (or multi-day) long events to outline the journey.
Invest in the right tools
For our conference, we invested in something known as HeySummit. One of my favourite features allows people to pick their favourite sessions based on categories and interests.
It’s not as cheap as Eventbrite, for example, but the experience for both attendees and speaker is second to none. Guess what, in a virtual event is matters as much as the talks and sessions.
This is probably what your attendees and speakers will remember the most, aside from takeaways and lessons, so truly do not go cheap on your platforms.
Providing a great experience for speakers encourages them to share your amazing event with their very own audience.
Adapt your event to the IRL experience
This is such an important part of your virtual event. The connections and networking (albeit more controlled and less physical) can be replicated in an online setting. You have to be quite smart about it, though. This means you have to learn not just how to be an excellent host, but also a wonderful facilitator.
You can encourage connections and reflection as pure networking, or as something we call integration sessions, where people take the time to reflect on what they learned so far. Use this time to highlight a few key lessons from some sessions from the day, or maybe ask relevant questions that can help attendees look back at their notes.
Depending on your scale of the event, you can even look into creating Zoom sessions with breakout out rooms and let your attendees network.
Make time for breaks
The worst mistake you can make is to fill the day with loads of live sessions. Whether you have a mix of live and recorded, or simply have fewer things going on, making time for breaks matter. It’s that ‘decompressing space’ we all need to truly digest what we have learned.
This means making sure you do not cram too many live sessions together and allow even gaps of buffer time when nothing is truly happening.
Allowing attendees to ‘choose their own journey’ truly enriches the way the event is set and boosts the value by making it all feel a lot more premium.
I cannot stress this enough. People will invest money for things they can recognise the value of. There is a lot more I’d be wanting to share on the matter, but I hope these first tips can make you feel more confident about creating amazing virtual events, maybe even paid ones.
Paying attendees are 75% more likely to tune in to join sessions, be active participants and so much more. They are more receptive, the dropout rate decrees by 50% or more, and are also 30% likely to take up any offers you may present them on a later date (something we tested with our first ever paid event last year).
If you are looking for more ideas on hosting the greatest virtual event yet, click here to learn about tips and tricks in using events to grow your audience and move the needle in your strategy.
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My name is Fab Giovanetti and I am a writer, author, marketing consultant, founder of the Creative Impact Group and professional troublemaker. I help people grow their online audience and monetise their content and unleash their potentials as creatives.