Guide to Virtual Events

While face-to-face interaction is important, there are times when virtual events are necessary. If you're wondering how to turn a multi-day conference into a virtual event and ensure attendees stay engaged, you're in the right place.

A man is presenting in a conference.
Photo by Teemu Paananen on Unsplash

Virtual events require a lot of planning and attention, like any in-person event. You must craft an event strategy to promote the event, engage attendees, create memorable experiences, and measure event success. The only difference is that the venue and attendees are not physically present.

But, by thinking of virtual events as engagement-driven experiences rather than just presentations or webinars, you can create an impactful event that extends beyond the computer screen.

What Is a Virtual Event?

You've likely participated in a virtual event, such as a webinar, an on-demand workout class, or a video conference meeting. You may have even attended a conference from the convenience of your own desk. Virtual events are those that individuals experience and engage with online rather than in-person. In the past few years, the world is increasingly shifting towards virtual events.

Main Types of Virtual Events

Virtual events can be included in your event program alongside the events you host, attend, and organize internally. They are not meant to replace other types of events but rather to complement and enhance your overall program.

1. Webinars

Do you know what a webinar is? Typically lasting anywhere from 30 to 80 minutes, webinars allow attendees worldwide to join and listen to the speakers present the content. Companies can charge attendees to participate in paid webinars or offer them free for promotional purposes.

Webinars usually use video conferencing tools that support question-and-answer sessions, the ability to present live or pre-recorded videos, and can be viewed on-demand after the event. Due to their one-time educational nature, webinars have enjoyed widespread popularity with 100% virtual attendance. These can also include both internal and external training.

2. Virtual Conferences

Virtual conferences are similar to in-person conferences because they have a complex agenda that includes keynotes, sessions, breakouts, and other events. They offer multi-session content and community engagement tools. Although virtual conferences are less effective than in-person events in lead generation and networking, attendees can watch keynotes in real-time, create their own agenda from content relevant to their interests, and interact with other attendees with similar interests.

3. Internal Hybrid Events

An organization has various types of events, including town halls, sales kick-offs, companywide events, training, department meetings, and more. Internal hybrid events are often utilized to communicate with the entire company when employees are not all gathered in one place, especially for companies that span across countries or continents. While having every employee attend events in person at the organization's headquarters would be ideal, it would be expensive and time-consuming to schedule. Therefore, hosting events that are part in-person and part virtual is the next best option. Internal hybrid events can also include virtual team-building activities.

4. External Hybrid Events

These events are held for attendees from outside your organization. They can be user conferences or industry conferences. These events require higher levels of video production so that virtual attendees are provided a similar quality to in-person attendees. These events allow attendees unable to travel to the event to participate and learn. Providing the same value at external hybrid events is challenging, as in-person attendees can network more freely and engage more easily with content than those attending virtually.

5. Virtual Exhibitions

Despite some feeling pressured to adopt this new approach to events, virtual exhibitions offer many benefits for all parties involved. They provide an enhanced experience for both audiences and event organizers. Like other virtual events, they have become increasingly popular worldwide, allowing for greater reach and audience engagement.

6. Virtual Seminars

In the past, these types of events were usually held in person at intimate venues such as restaurants, where product offerings were showcased. However, with the rise of digital technology, these marketing and sales events can now be held online, provided the right technology is used. If planned properly, they can still offer the same level of engagement.

7. Virtual Trade Shows

Although trade shows were initially designed as in-person events, they have also proven to be effective in virtual formats. Forbes predicts a resurgence of trade shows, and we already see evidence of this trend. However, it is essential to approach virtual trade shows differently and have a solid strategy to succeed online.

Why Host a Virtual Event?

Like in-person events, virtual events are held to achieve various goals, such as communicating your company's message, generating leads and revenue, fostering adoption, and building customer loyalty.

Event planners must choose between in-person, virtual, and hybrid events, each with advantages and disadvantages. For example, webinars are better suited for virtual settings as they can reach a broader audience and deliver valuable content such as training and thought leadership.

On the other hand, regional training programs or user conferences are designed for in-person interactions that enhance face-to-face delivery. Microsoft's Build developer conference went virtual this year. To decide whether to hold a virtual event, weigh your goals against the benefits and limitations of in-person and virtual settings.

There are several reasons why hosting a virtual event can be beneficial:

  1. Accessibility: By offering virtual options, attendees who cannot attend in person can still participate in the event.
  2. Budget: Hosting smaller events and webinars virtually can help your organization cut costs and allocate more resources to the larger event of the year that typically generates the most leads. Additionally, having a virtual or hybrid option can help attendees with budget constraints for travel expenses.
  3. Limited options: When travel is restricted due to extreme weather, travel bans, or unforeseen circumstances, there may be other options than hosting an in-person event. A virtual event can be a viable alternative to canceling the event altogether.

In-live Or Virtual Event

When it comes to event planning, it's essential to focus on the basics. Whether your events are in-person or virtual, they should be considered as part of your overall marketing strategy. It's crucial to take a holistic approach to both types of events, as your customers and potential customers will attend both. By integrating virtual and in-person events, you can effectively engage your audience and gain better insights into their interests. Don't isolate your virtual events - include them in your meetings and events program for a more comprehensive approach.

Virtual Event Planning Fundamentals

Just like physical events, virtual events require effective marketing to increase attendance. Without targeted promotion, attendance may not be as successful.

Your content is the main attraction in a virtual event. It is what sets the tone and captures the attention of your attendees. Therefore, it is essential to have compelling keynotes and sessions that are tailored to their interests.

Being alone doesn't necessarily mean feeling lonely. To keep virtual attendees engaged, offering options relevant to the attendees and utilizing online event guides for virtual events is important.

To demonstrate the success of an event, data is crucial. Measuring engagement levels and gathering attendee information are the key ways to prove the event's return on investment and drive the buyer's journey forward.

Virtual Event Components

A virtual event is built on content, attendee engagement, and data. Video production quality and connectivity and the site that hosts the agenda and content will be required. Here are the elements that make up a virtual event:

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Virtual Event?

A virtual event is an online gathering or experience that takes place over the internet, allowing participants to interact and engage remotely.

What Are the Types of Online Events?

Online events come in various types, including:

How Do I Host a Virtual Fun Event?

To host a virtual fun event, you can choose a suitable online platform, plan engaging activities, promote the event through different platforms and channels, and ensure seamless virtual communication.

What Is the Best Virtual Event Platform?

The best virtual event platform depends on your specific needs and preferences. Popular options include Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Hopin, and Google Meet, each offering unique features for hosting successful virtual events.