One thing that the Coronavirus pandemic has cemented for me is that adaptability is the key to success. With no time to prepare, business owners all over have had to suddenly pivot away from tried-and-tested strategies to the unknown and unfamiliar. This shift has led to the growth of e-commerce (check out our multi-part series on eCommerce, A Guide To Getting Online, with part one focusing on business strategy, and part two focusing on technology) and the rise of online meetings, virtual happy-hours, and in-home training.
When it comes to transitioning an in-person event to a virtual one, the first thing you need to know is that not everything will have a smooth 1-to-1 transition. There are some things that your virtual event will not be able to simulate. But as Ben Franklin said, "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail," so it's essential to try and prepare for the things you can control.
Two sticky notes, with failing to prepare in one, prepare to fail in the other.
Engaging with your Attendees Before, During, and After Your Online Event
When planning for your online event, you have to be ready to engage your audience throughout. That means creating content and reaching out to your audience before, during, and after your event.
Since the type of engagement you do will vary depending on where you are in the process, here are some examples of types of engagement opportunities available to you:
Engagement Opportunities Before Your Event
Event Creation: this is where the rubber meets the road. Here's where you're going to outline your event structure.
What is the event about, who are your speakers, and why should people hear from them?
How are you going to get this information to your audience?
What are your technical requirements for running this event?
Before doing anything else, these are all questions that you are going to need to answer so you can start making arrangements and creating content.
Promotional Content: as internet marketers, this is the fun stuff that you can create to let people know about your event. That can include:
social media posts to promote registration,
promotional emails to your database (and don't forget to set up scheduled confirmation emails, follow-up emails to non-opens, reminder emails before the event, etc.),
event landing pages,
promotional videos of your speakers,
mini-event trailers that you can leverage on social media, etc.
The sky's the limit when it comes to promotional material, and what you can create will depend on your imagination. As you start pushing out all of this content to your audience, here are some tips to keep in mind:
Promote on Tuesdays (22% of registrations occur on Tuesdays);
Promote in the morning (most registrations happen between 8-11 am);
Promote your event 4-6 weeks in advance;
Email is still the best way to get registrations for online events;
Make sure to promote your event on your website (preferably a landing page with a registration form);
Partner with another company (possibly one aligned with your speakers) to help maximize your event's audience as much as possible.
Customize Your Event: for online events, you'll likely be using a conferencing tool like GoToWebinar (the preferred communications tool of WSI Consultants all over!) or Zoom. These products allow you to create registration pages for your online event, which you can then customize with your brand colors. As much as possible, you want to:
Attract the eye to the form and use contrasting, but complementary colors;
Create custom registration questions;
Keep everything important about your event above the fold;
Make your calls to action (CTAs) stand out;
Make sure to optimize your registration page for mobile.
PRO TIP: Sites like Canva or Creatopy can help you create beautiful social images and banners. Promo.com is great for professional DIY videos.
Engagement Opportunities During Your Event
You've done the hard work, you've promoted the heck out of your event, and your audience has shown up. Now it's time to calm the butterflies and get started. How do you make sure to engage with your audience during the session and keep them interested?
Use Webcams: The human factor cannot be understated. People want to hear from and be engaged by people. Making your audience sit in their homes and just stare at a PowerPoint presentation, without being able to connect with the speaker, is cruel and unusual. And your event will suffer as a result! So make sure your speakers are ready to share their cameras with the audience (check out some tips for optimizing your webcam below!)
Take Questions at Planned Intervals: Organize this in advance with your event co-organizers – and practice the transition from event to questions! Remember Ben Franklin – "by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail"!
PRO TIP: Prepare questions to answer in advance, just in case you need to prime your audience to get their queries started.
Use Polls: Again, you should prepare Philippines Photo Editor this in advance with your event co-organizers, but think about questions that you want to ask your audience.
Use ice-breaker questions, such as, "Are you a dog or a cat person?" or "What Netflix show are you currently binging?";
Use information-gathering questions, such as "How have your lead generation efforts changed during COVID-19?";
Use future-planning questions, like "What would you like our future events to focus on?" or "What's a topic you'd like to learn more about?".
You will need to practice what you'll do while the poll is running (since you'll just be waiting for answers to come in). Be ready with your comments on the top responses.
PRO TIP: Never ask a poll question that you're not ready to share the response for!
Use Videos: If used properly, videos can be a great way to give yourself a quick break during an event and to engage your audience even further. And videos let you achieve a level of perfection that you will never achieve in a live event, so make sure you leverage them!