Last summer, we wrote a blog about why virtual events don’t have to be second-best. It’s funny looking back at that not-so-long-ago time when we thought our virtual event was a one-time-only situation. Well, even though we can’t wait to get back to being together in-person, virtual events are here to stay.
As marketers, we’ve found that we can put on virtual events, and do them exceptionally well. In fact, we just hosted our second, fully virtual Acoustic Go Sales & Marketing Kickoff (SMKO) event.
Based upon our experience, here are 6 best practices for executing a virtual event with in-person quality. We’re sharing our thoughts based upon our internal event execution, but many lessons learned are universal.
1. Use the tools at your disposal to their maximum value
Chances are your company has already chosen a tool that enables virtual conferencing. Whether your team uses Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or another provider, you must understand the full scope of the product at your disposal.
Understand all the benefits of the solution you’ve chosen and build your event around them, such as breakout room sessions and app integrations. For example, we used Kahoot! for a fun employee engagement and trivia activity survey as a part of our SMKO. We didn’t realize until after the event that Kahoot! integrated with our video conferencing tool, Teams. If we had known, it would have made the process more seamless.
2. Plan a robust communications strategy
You’ll want to plan a communications strategy to remind your attendees of the event as it gets closer. And of course, get it on everyone’s calendar. Don’t just send reminder emails, though. Use each email to offer up details about the event including valuable things they’ll learn, fun festivities, competitions, and guest speakers. Muster up excitement for the event!
The team putting on the virtual event doesn’t have to do all the communications labor, either. If it’s an internal event, have team leaders across the entire organization trickle down information to their teams to encourage attendance and communicate why the event is important.
At the conclusion of each day of the virtual event, ask for feedback and make content readily available. Send a post-event survey to those who attended on what they liked and what can be improved. And for those who couldn’t make it, store content and recordings in a centralized and easily accessible location.
3. Think of how you want to present content on-demand
You’ll want to offer content on-demand after your virtual event has concluded; however, you’ll want to think ahead about how the recording will be presented. If you want the focus to be on the speakers only, ask all your attendees to turn off their cameras during the event, or else you may find a recording of a variety of faces multi-tasking.
4. Utilize this internal event to showcase your brand externally
In our case, we were hosting an internal SMKO. But even if it’s an internal event, you should offer ways to showcase it externally. External communications can showcase why your employees love working at the company. For external events, you’ll want to showcase the value of your events to drive interest for the future.
Set up a social media strategy for the event. Make it as easy as possible for your attendees to post about the event to LinkedIn, Twitter, or any other social platform that’s relevant to your brand. Write up easy copy/paste social copy for your attendees and visual templates for easy customization. Our designers created PowerPoint template frames that each employee could personalize with their own photo and save as a .jpg social tile. The easier it is to share, the better your odds of more attendees posting. We also offered up prizes for the most social engagement using our designated hashtags.
5. Bring in third-party experts
As much as we love our in-house subject matter experts, bringing in an outside perspective can create an engaging conversation and presentation for your virtual event. Traditional SMKO activities, such as sales coaching, training, and in-house expert presentations, can be engaging and enriching for your revenue team. If every voice in your virtual event is internal, though, it can create a microcosm of perspectives. Bringing in outside voices can bring new ideas, new processes, and offer an engaging presentation for your teams. We were fortunate to bring in partners of ours from KPMG and Accenture, as well as an expert analyst from Forrester.
6. And most importantly, have fun!
The last thing you want to do is bore your attendees with your virtual event. Remember, it can be draining to sit on camera for hours. Pre-COVID, we would go out as a team after the event, we’d socialize during, and we’d have mini-breaks. You want to create an event that’s engaging and fun to be at.
For our SMKO, we offered each team the opportunity to pick the Airbnb Experiences session of their choosing for team-building. There are so many fun options on the site. Our teams picked a wide variety of activities — a pasta-making class with an Italian family, a gin-tasting experience, a virtual improv show, a drawing class. The options are almost endless and they can offer a fun respite for your teams.
Host fun activities during the event for the entire audience to take part in, too. We held a daily fashion show and our coworkers came in with some impressive outfits. Play a trivia game as a break from the presentations and offer a prize to the winner. We worked with a company called Song Division to offer break-time entertainment. Events included fun aspects when we were in-person, so don’t forget to include them in the agenda for virtual events.
Virtual events don’t need to be any less valuable or less engaging than in-person events. They’re likely here to stay even in a post-COVID world — so it’s crucial to continue to improve the virtual event experience. Learn from ours! Plan your communications strategy early, use your tools to their maximum abilities, and of course, don’t forget to have fun.