During the past months of isolation and uncertainty, many of us have had to become creative in our endeavors to connect with friends, family, and the outside world. People are craving connection now more than ever, and they seek platforms where they can find motivation, discuss important issues, and perhaps learn something new.
Event professionals around the globe have responded to this gap in the industry by going virtual. While the shift to virtual events was initially a reaction to new social distancing guidelines and travel restrictions, it has since become clear that virtual events are likely to become a mainstream option for meetings, conferences, and keynote events. In a recent Forbes article titled “Are Virtual Events A Passing Fad Or Here To Stay?,” Jennifer Best, Head of Marketing here at AAE, outlines just how virtual events have transformed the events industry and why she believes they’re here to stay.
The rising shift to virtual events might have you wondering how to plan your own. There are many great virtual options for events, and this suggested timeline from our experienced AAE booking team will help you get on the right track to planning a successful virtual event from start to finish.
Virtual vs. In-Person Event Timelines
Before you start planning your next virtual event, it may be helpful to understand how different event formats can affect the timeline. When planning an in-person event, you need to consider the time it takes to book venues, to secure travel dates for talent, and to successfully market and prepare the event beforehand. In this detailed blog post, our AAE logistics team suggests starting to plan an in-person at least 6-12 months before the event date. As uncertainty shrouded the fate of in-person events during COVID-19, many events have also been pushed back months or even a year.
On the other hand, virtual events are typically hosted on online platforms or recording studios rather than physical venues, there are no travel requirements for talent, and participants can tune in from the comfort of their own homes. In general, this means that the turnaround for virtual events is significantly faster than traditional events, with planning starting as early as 1-3 months before the event date.
We took a look at data for in-person events AAE booked between April and August in 2019 and compared it with virtual events booked within the same time frame in 2020. For in-person events, the total number of days from first contacting AAE, to successfully booking a speaker, and finally to the completion of the event, was an average of 205 days. In comparison, the total number of days the entire process took for virtual events in the same time frame was only 100 days – less than half the time!
1-3 Months Before Your Virtual Event
Define Your Event Strategy
There is no better place to start planning a virtual event than by defining the who, what, when, where, and why of your event. Just as you would for an in-person event, determine the themes, message, audience demographic, and goal of the event you want to host. Consider the format of your event – will it be a keynote presentation, a workshop, a performance, or a Q&A?
Choose the Right Technology
There are a lot of virtual event technology solutions out there. Which platform you decide on is based on your budget, attendee goals, and event type. Let your event needs guide your decision – will you host a webinar, a live stream, or a smaller scale virtual meeting? Will you record the event to make it available on-demand, and what additional technology will you need to streamline the event or make it more interactive?
Choose the Right Virtual Speaker
When trying to find the perfect speaker for your event, you will need to consider your target audience, goals, and themes, as well as the speaker’s virtual experience. Finding a speaker whose presentation is engaging and digestible in a digital format will increase the value registrants get out of your event.
That’s where AAE comes in! From our recent talent survey, over 44% of speakers we asked have spoken at more than 10 virtual events since COVID-19 started. As a full-service booking agency, we’re here to help you find the best speaker for your virtual event, and our in-house logistics team will communicate your needs to the chosen speaker until the event is complete. Check out this list of popular virtual speakers, or these special offers from digital and virtual event speakers, to get started on finding the best speaker for your event!
Promote Your Event
Just like in-person events, marketing your virtual event is important to ensure a successful turnout. Email marketing and social media can be used to increase attendance and registration, keep attendees up to date, and share important event information.
Gather promotional materials from talent (such as headshots, biographies, etc.), utilize paid or organic promotions, and send reminders to registrants as the event date approaches. Keep in mind that in a virtual setting, the content represents the entire event. Tailor your platform, branding, and content to increase engagement with your target audience.
1-2 Weeks Before Your Virtual Event
Rehearse Your Event
Virtual events can host a variety of different obstacles than in-person events. Once your virtual platform and speaker are confirmed, prepare for technical difficulties and Internet connection issues. Wifi is not always reliable, and according to experienced virtual speaker Jaime Cassap, it is a best practice to hardwire your internet connection by plugging directly into the router. Test all devices repeatedly during rehearsals and have a backup plan for any glitches before or during your event. AAE’s logistics team will help you schedule a pre-event phone call with talent to verify the details of their speaking topics, technology requirements, and any other factors that will play into their virtual presentation.
Finalize Event Details
Preparedness is the ultimate key to success for any event. As your virtual event approaches, finalize any remaining details with talent, logistics, and online platform to ensure smooth sailing on the event date. Confirm and share any relevant details with your registrants.
During Your Virtual Event
Execute Your Event
In the hours leading up to the event, be sure to reconfirm planned logistics and registration, and double-check the technology you plan to use. Be prepared to communicate any technical difficulties to your participants and talent if they occur, and consider connecting with your speaker for a final check-in.
By now, all your hard work is hopefully paying off and the virtual event is underway. Relax and enjoy it!
After Your Virtual Event
Post-Event Follow Up
Connect with your audience, clients, and speaker after the event to thank them for participating and for helping you make your virtual event a success. Empower your audience to give constructive feedback and use those insights to make your next event even better.
Following up will also keep you at the forefront of your audience’s minds, and is a great opportunity to network and establish lasting relationships.
Congratulations! You hosted a successful virtual event and are better prepared than ever to get a head start on your next one. Virtual events and technology will continue to evolve as event planners and industry professionals navigate a socially distant event-scape, and will no doubt present innovative opportunities to redefine traditional events when we are able to gather in person once more.
Whether you’re new to virtual events or an experienced event planner, AAE is here to help you achieve success. Contact us to book a great speaker for your next event.