In 2019, 42% of surveyed organizations chose to plan virtual events. Now, in 2020, that number has doubled to a whopping 84%. The majority of marketing professionals (51% of them) believe virtual events are here to stay long term, even if that means adding a virtual component to in-person gatherings. That’s exactly why we’ve created this guide to virtual event planning.
Whether you’re prepping your first virtual event or want to find creative ways to engage audiences at your next one, this guide has you covered. Learn more about the benefits of virtual event planning and what types of events you should consider hosting.
Read our step-by-step instructions and check out our virtual event planning checklist that breaks it all down for you. After, explore answers to your most important virtual event technology questions and check out how Wrike can help you maximize your next digital get-together.
What is a virtual event?
A virtual event is an event that is hosted online through live streams, recorded videos, audio calls, or any other form of digital communication. Virtual events do not take place in person and are accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
Some virtual events require little planning (like impromptu live streams on Facebook or TikTok) while others need quite a bit of time to plan and execute (like a multi-day conference with live speakers and breakout sessions).
Different types of virtual events:
Virtual conferences typically happen in real-time, like Inbound 2020, and may or may not offer access to recorded sessions online afterward.
These are done as standalone sessions or in a series covering a central theme. They’re educational and how-to driven.
- Internal hybrid events
Internal hybrid events live stream a physical, in-person gathering between employees and partner of your brand.
- External hybrid events
External hybrid events live stream physical get-togethers with customers, attendees, and other participants outside of your organization.
Why host a virtual event?
You should host a virtual event because it will reach people who normally wouldn’t be able to attend because of physical disabilities, busy schedules, or financial restraints. They’re cost effective because they don’t require a physical event space and they give hosts lots of great opportunities to capture meaningful data about their audience.
Additionally, many companies across industries have turned to virtual event planning, following the cancellation of in-person conferences due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Going fully digital has allowed these organizations to continue brand awareness activities and create new strategies for reaching critical audiences.
Why virtual events are the events of the future
Virtual events are the future — according to the tech venture capitalists whose job it is to invest billions of dollars into the most promising tools available. Not only is this event type more sustainable, it’s also easier for speakers and attendees alike to join in without the usual barriers that physical/in-person events present. Plus, there are many perks of being able to easily measure engagement as it pertains to future event planning.
Does a virtual event need a presenter?
A presenter at a virtual event is a single host or group of speakers who offer their knowledge on a given subject matter. And no, a virtual event does not need one. Not all virtual events need to revolve around learning. Some do better as social or networking opportunities. And not all virtual events need to rely on a singular source for leadership. Instead, they can function more as group-driven experiences like accountability workshops or topic masterminds.
How do you plan a virtual event?
To plan a virtual event, you have to do a lot of the same things you would if the event were entirely in-person. But what makes virtual event planning different is how you research your audience, which virtual event type you choose, where you choose to host it, and what virtual event technology you partner with to run it all from start to finish.
Step 1: Research your virtual audience
Your virtual event audience might not look the same as your in-person event audience now that it can be accessed by nearly everyone on the planet, so create target attendee profiles with this in mind. Choose one main problem you’d like to solve for them. Then, consider hosting speakers that couldn’t normally attend physical events. Be sure to offer digital tools and resources (like workbooks and templates) that add even more value for your target attendees.
Step 2: Choose a virtual event type
Choose between livestreams, pre-recorded sessions, or a combination of both. Livestreams are best for conferences or workshops that involve a Q&A section between the presenter and the audience. Pre-recorded sessions give virtual attendees the freedom to view when they have time or download and save the content for later.
Step 3: Decide where to host it
If your event will be live streamed, consider sharing it on social media sites like Facebook or TikTok if you want to build or engage with target audiences there. If it’s pre-recorded, try hosting the session videos on a dedicated website with a unique URL. Grow your email list by requiring virtual attendees to share their address at the virtual door.
Step 4: Grab virtual event technology
You need virtual event technology to help you plan, execute, and measure the success of your efforts. Once you have your goals nailed down, organize your action plan with virtual event planning software. The rest of your tools will be determined by what kind of virtual event you’d like to host and your chosen KPIs.
The virtual event planning checklist
- Create lead goals that directly support your marketing, sales, and big picture business targets.
- Define your audience by reviewing your customer personas and researching their online habits to find which high ROI groups would be the most likely to engage with this new content.
- Pick a topic or group of topics you want to focus on based on the needs and wants of your target audience.
- Come up with a name, tagline, and hashtag that are unique and haven’t been used by other events in your industry before.
- Choose a structure for the event like a multi-session conference or a quick, one-time workshop — depending on what subject or subjects you decide to cover.
- Pick a timezone, time, and date or dates that best suit the technology habits of your audience.
- Outline or record any content you’ll handle in-house.
- Invite speakers, partners, and team members to speak and facilitate.
- Draft a digital marketing and promotion plan.
- Get virtual sponsors onboard.
- Set up your website, landing page, or host platform.
- Use a virtual event planning software to organize all the moving parts.
What virtual event technology do you need?
There are five main types of virtual event technology you need to smoothly run a high quality gathering online. They include:
- Website builder to promote and host the event information
- Registration tool to capture emails, share updates, and send access links
- Physical equipment like cameras, lights, and microphones for better quality video
- Video editing software for pre-recorded sessions
- Virtual event planning software to keep track of it all
How to choose the best event planning software for your virtual event
Check out reviews on sites like G2 to read unbiased testimonials from real users and get ideas for what event planning software is right for you. Look at other virtual events that are popular with your audience then ask around to find out what tools and software they used to run it. And consider using your project management tool to create your roadmap for everything.
What features to look for in a virtual event planner?
A virtual event planner should help you organize your entire team, log every task no matter how small, and provide a visual representation of your plan so you can see whether you’re on or off track at any point.
Introducing Wrike as your event planning software
Many event professionals and marketers are using Wrike as an event planning tool.
To build an event planning template in Wrike, just create a folder, start a new project, and add a list of tasks. Then, assign deadlines, expected efforts, and team members to each task. Add task dependencies to relevant items so that team members are automatically notified when it’s time to start their portion of it. Plot tasks out on a visual timeline so you can spot issues before they come up and monitor progress as you go.
To build an event marketing plan, you’ll need to list out:
- Marketing goals and KPIs
- Event target audience
- Potential speakers, sponsors, and vendors
- Physical and digital promotion strategies
- Marketing tasks
Once you have all of that information neatly stored in Wrike, where all of your team has access to it, you can add your tasks to a timeline. Discover conflicting items, look at employee workload, and view progress side-by-side with any other existing marketing projects you have on your plate.
Plan to use Wrike for your next virtual event
Whether you need help getting your team on the same page or capturing the many event management details you need for promotion and execution, Wrike offers highly collaborative solutions for virtual event planners. Check out our two-week free trial and see firsthand why we’re a highly rated tool among virtual event planners.