Virtual events in 2020 are a critical part of the commercial and social fabric of our times. Whether it’s an online business event, an internal company update or an educational course, it’s crucial to know your webinars from your workshops and your virtual conference events from your online trade shows.
What types of virtual events are there? What are some ideas for great online experiences? What are some great examples? How should I go about planning one?
These are all questions we’ve answered for you along with how these events work, the key components of webinars and other internet-based gatherings, and best practice tips for how to plan and present one.
If you want to browse quickly through the main questions about virtual events, please choose from the following topics:
- What is a virtual event?
- How do virtual events work?
- What advantages does digital events offer over face-to-face?
- What are the different types of virtual events?
- Examples of great virtual events
- How to generate ideas for your next virtual experience?
- How to source sponsorship?
- What are the types of technology you need?
- Studio-based virtual events
- What are the key components of a virtual event?
- How long should your event be?
- How to plan a virtual event?
- What are best practices for presenters?
What is a virtual event?
Also known as digital events or online events, virtual events bring people together to consume information and interact over the internet, rather than in a physical venue.
They often target prospects, existing customers, investors and other external stakeholders, though many organisations also hold internal team get-togethers such as online Town Halls.
They can be as short as a 30-minute webinar, or as long as a multi-session, multi-day summit. They may include speakers webcast over the internet, or pre-recorded and broadcast as-live or on-demand. They may also feature audio and other visual components, such as slides.
Internet-delivered experiences are a one-to-many form of communication that are designed to be highly interactive.
Interactive elements typically include chat, a Q&A with the presenters, and polls or competitions conducted by the presenters.
Modern web-based functions reproduce many of the elements of their physical counterparts — such as Q&A, networking or breakout sessions, and even coffee breaks or lunch-and-learns — and they are regarded by many as being just as valuable to attend.
Unlike physical meetings, seminars and conferences, they are highly measurable and offer tracking via viewing and engagement metrics that can provide very specific data in real time as to the topics and speakers that are of interest to the viewing group.
How do virtual events work?
Virtual events can be tailored to reproduce almost any face-to-face function in an online forum.
This can include educational courses and other learning opportunities, national conventions, marketing functions, trade shows and exhibition halls, team strategy workshops, and everything in between.
To host a great web-based function, organisations need a computer, a good-quality webcam and microphone, a webinar platform and a good broadband internet connection. Then it’s a matter of enabling your presenters to share their informative or entertaining material in an engaging way.
More sophisticated virtual or hybrid physical and virtual events may be filmed in a physical location, such as a broadcast studio or an external venue, and then streamed or made available for registered attendees to view.
To attend a web-based event, customers or prospects simply need to register to receive the login instructions. Then, rather than travelling to a physical location, they can login using an internet-connected computer or mobile device and access the content when it’s webcast or made available on-demand.
Live experiences conducted via webinar technology and broadcast over the internet may enable the participants to send in questions over chat features, respond to polls, download additional resources, and even exchange comments in chat conversations with other participants.
What advantages does digital offer over face-to-face?
While all gatherings were once only conducted face-to-face, the challenges and risks of physical get-togethers in 2020 and beyond have seen interest in webinars and web conferences increase by more than 500%.
In fact, web-based events should not just be considered as a temporary substitute for face-to-face functions in an era when physical gatherings are problematic.
Rather, they offer many advantages over physical get-togethers at any time and should be considered an essential part of any regular event program. The key advantages include:
- Physical location is no barrier to attendance: No matter where you’re based physically, or what time zone you’re in, you can attend a web-based forum or meeting as long as you can connect to the internet, providing organisers with access to a broader, possibly international, audience.
- They are convenient: Busy executives who don’t have time to travel across town to attend a face-to-face function can simply log in and attend from their desk, again increasing your possible participant pool. And if you make it available on your website, they can view it when it suits them.
- They’re cost-effective: Save on venue hire costs, catering and drinks, travel and even speaker costs. And because your costs are lower, you can charge less for tickets, again increasing your pool of likely participants.
- They’re low-risk: You can’t get COVID-19 from attending a gathering online.
- They open up a wider talent pool: Unlike a face-to-face gathering, online occasions are no longer limited to speakers who are resident in your city or country; your presenters can dial in from anywhere.
- They encourage interactivity: Any attendee can participate in a wide range of meaningful interactions — such as poll questions, chat and Q&A — that can be tracked and measured by the organiser.
- You can replay them: You can’t pause or rewind a face-to-face get-together.
- Everything is at your fingertips: From additional resources to sponsor offers, everything is at the attendee’s fingertips — and trackable by the organiser.
- Sponsors can activate viewers: Sponsors can reach their target market for the duration of the event and on-demand — and they can make offers to attendees directly.
- They’re highly measurable: If you track attendance and engagement data, and ask participants to rate your virtual event you’ll be left in no doubt as to what they like and don’t like, helping you to plan the next one.
Types of virtual events
The types of functions, meetings and other occasions that can be conducted over the internet are really only limited by your imagination. That said, there are many tried-and-tested formats that organisations may wish to explore when establishing a program of web-based functions.
1. Lead-generation webinars: Lead-generation webinars provide educational, informative or inspirational material tailored to an organisation’s key target markets. They are conducted via webinar technology and include slide presentations, often video, and the opportunity for attendees to ask questions of the speakers.
2. Workshops: Similar to lead-generation webinars, online workshops combine educational information with the ability for participants to ask specific and detailed questions — often in chat rooms or public chat features in your webinar platform. For smaller groups or teams, conferencing technology works well, while for larger groups webinar technology gives the organisers more control over the Q&A.
3. Business marketing functions: Often featuring topical issues, expert presenters or panel discussions, the internet equivalent of a marketing function can be streamed or made available on-demand via a webinar platform, maximising attendance.
4. Company and product announcements: Company announcements and product launches can also be conducted using webinar technology. Broadcasting from a studio environment may provide the formal setting and gravitas that a webcam may lack.
5. Fireside chats: Great for in-depth interviews with C-level executives or visiting experts, fireside chats can be filmed in a broadcast studio over webinar technology to provide that intimate, informal Q&A setting, with questions taken live or submitted prior to the interview.
6. Internal Town Halls: Conferencing technology such as Redback’s OneTouch collaboration service, Zoom and similar tools (for smaller groups) and webinar technology (for larger groups) are the most effective tools for conducting an internal Town Hall meeting with your team. They enable executives to directly address employees but also provide an opportunity for controlled interaction via private and/or public chat, polls and Q&As.
7. Corporate meetings: Board and annual general meetings can be held virtually using conferencing and webinar technology. Shareholders can attend from anywhere in the world and vote or ask questions of the board via interactive poll and chat features.
8. Online courses: Internet-based education and Continuous Professional Development (CPD) courses provide the opportunity to gain and maintain professional accreditation whenever it suits them. They are often broadcast using webinar technology, which provides opportunities for Q&A and interaction as well as learning.
9. Virtual conferences: Organisations that hold regular paid events such as state or national conferences are turning to internet delivery, particularly during COVID-19 while physical gatherings are problematic. These range in length and often include a mix of formats such as live-streamed keynote speakers, workshops and pre-recorded breakout streams made available on the event website.
10. Stakeholder briefings: Industry briefings with external stakeholders and suppliers that were once held face-to-face are now being held on webinar platforms, with breakout chat rooms, Q&A, pre-recorded speakers and other features.
11. Online trade shows: Technologies like webinar platforms are being used to stage job fairs, trade shows and exhibition halls featuring suppliers that might have booked a booth at a face-to-face shindig, with product demos conducted over the internet along with an opportunity for Q&A, virtual swag bags containing offers and other features.
Webinar and conferencing platforms are the most popular tools to use for virtual events, whatever their format.
Examples of great virtual events
Web-based events have been around for many years, but in 2020 organisations that can no longer bring together large groups face-to-face are pushing the creative envelope in terms of exploring what’s possible.
Along with virtual and hybrid events, announcements and summits, we’ve seen digital galas and award nights, online concerts and performances, virtual tours and open days, and many other variations. Here is a taste of some of the best so far in 2020:
Cannes Lions Live: A free global festival focused on creativity and marketing, the online festival replaced the annual pilgrimage to Cannes, France, undertaken by advertising creatives from around the world in June each year. The week-long celebration of creativity featured live streams, online presentations, masterclasses, and networking for the global creative community.
One World: Together At Home: This eight-hour global concert, streamed on sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter — the final two hours of which were also shown on television networks around the world — reinvented the benefit concert as a connected event. Featuring performers filmed performing in isolation around the world, it was co-organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and pop star Lady Gaga, and raised $127 million for Coronavirus relief efforts.
Salesforce is famous for its huge B2B conferences, and this year, instead of cancelling its Sydney World Tour due to COVID-19, it reorganised the massive B2B convention to be delivered over the internet in just two weeks. It included more than 100 speakers in a mix of live and pre-recorded video streams made available online, and an expo featuring 18 virtual chat rooms. And it beat face-to-face attendances by 3000 with 13,000 registered attendees and 80,000 views.
SXSW Online: Each year music, technology and film festival SXSW, which brings more than 400,000 people to the city of Austin Texas, streams its keynote speakers on its website. In 2020, when the face-to-face version was cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the organisation re-imagined SXSW as a virtual series in the form of weekly on-demand editions of its speaker line-up, attracting up to 90,000 viewers per stream on its website and YouTube channel.
Melbourne Digital Concert Hall: This program of live-streamed concerts sold tickets to performances at $20 a pop to support artists during the Coronavirus pandemic. The group booked out the Athenaeum Theatre for four months, installing cameras and microphones so performers could maintain physical distancing while performing on stage. All revenue from the ticket sales went directly to the artists, raising $35,000 from ticket sales in its first two weeks.
Downer Regional Rail Project Industry Briefing: This was the first ever internet-based stakeholder briefing held by construction giant Downer. It featured 9 different speakers addressing close to 400 people live and via pre-recorded video and was followed by breakout sessions featuring Q&A in chat rooms. Attendance exceeded that of previous face-to-face industry briefings by about 400%, revolutionising the way similar briefings would be held in the industry.
StayComicdom Athens: The Comicdom Con festival in Athens was founded in 2006 to celebrate the world of comics and local comic artists and this year was recreated as a web-based forum featuring video meet-ups, an artists’ exhibition and the opportunity to shop at local comic stores. On-demand viewing tripled live attendances, enabling comic fans from all over Greece to attend, and a follow-up was scheduled.
Danish Superliga’s virtual grandstand: When professional soccer matches were restarted in Denmark in May, fans were unable to attend due to COVID-19 so the Danish Superliga reimagined matches as hybrid physical and virtual events. Fans were able to film themselves watching their team play and see it appear on giant TV screens at the stadium, creating a wall of fans and sharing their excitement with the players and TV viewers alike.
Microsoft’s Virtual Partner Summit: Microsoft has reinvented its comprehensive array of conventions, Town Halls and partner summits so they could be webcast in 2020, shortening formats and making live streams available during forums such as its Virtual Partner Summit, and afterwards. The tech company also committed to planting 10 trees for every digital attendee, providing a real-world incentive for partners to attend.
My Peak Challenge virtual gala: My Peak Challenge, a fundraising community with fitness at its centre, replaced its annual gala in Edinburgh this year with a virtual gala that was streamed online. Scottish actor and founder Sam Heughan hosted it, replicating many features of the physical version, including a workout challenge, cocktail-making and highland dancing. The internet-delivered version reached more than 20,000 viewers live and a further 30,000 watched later on YouTube — many more than the several thousand that normally attend it in person.
Red Hat Virtual Summit 2020: Open source experts Red Hat took an entire summit online in April this year, with more than 40,000 attendees. As well as making the summit available on-demand for a year afterwards, Red Hat held hands-on developer workshops and created a virtual trade hall, following up with an Open House day-long web-based experience in July.
State of Music concert series: The state government of Victoria collaborated with music group Mushroom to stage a series of live and on demand concerts featuring Australian musicians. The professionally shot performances were made available for free, with artists paid by the government as part of Victoria Together, a website created to support Victorians through the coronavirus response. Viewers were able to interact with talent by posting questions in the moment as well as watch them on YouTube and Facebook, where they attracted more than half a million views.
How to generate ideas for your next virtual experience?
Now that you’ve been inspired by some of the amazing internet-delivered events that have taken place in 2020, let’s look at some practical ideas to help you conceive your next function on the internet.
For many people that haven’t run a lot of webinars or web-based meetings to date, the theme or topic is often the first stumbling block. But there are many easy ways to come up with the concept for a virtual event.
Start by ensuring the theme is appealing to your community, relevant to your brand and that your presenters are not only experts in their field but passionate about it:
1. Webcast an existing face-to-face function: If your speakers are lined up already for a physical event, so much the better. Take advantage of the long lead times and film your presenters wherever they’re located — or get them into a broadcast studio so you can control the branding, sound and lighting. Host your digital gathering on your webinar platform of choice and make it available later on-demand. Check out our infographic for a step-by-step guide on how to do this.
2. Invite a customer to present: Webinars are great for nurturing prospects to become customers. What better way to do this than invite a customer to talk about the wonderful ways they’re benefiting from using your product or service.
3. Repurpose research reports, whitepapers, ebooks and blogs: Your existing high-quality content should be a great source of ideas. Invite a couple of featured experts, have your head of marketing present your research findings — you can even demo your product.
4. Visiting executives, internal experts and Yours Truly: Internal company experts from international locations can be called upon to present at your next internet-based function. Pre-record the session if time zones are a problem. And don’t forget to consider your own areas of expertise.
5. Your personal, company and partner networks: The network effect goes a long way when it comes to attracting speakers to take part in online debates, panels and presentations. Consider your own personal network, your broader company contacts and your business partners. As long as their expertise is relevant to your target market it can be fertile ground for a webcast.
6. External experts, authors and academics: Don’t be afraid to approach external experts. Anyone with a new book or research study is an option, and there are fewer barriers to participation than physical events that may require travel.
7. Topical debates and panels: An expert panel discussing a hot topic makes a great internet-delivered debate. You can survey your community in advance to help ensure the issues are of interest, research various hashtags on social, or check out question-and-answer-based communities such as those on websites like Quora and Reddit. Film the discussion in a broadcast studio to capture the to-and-fro of a dynamic debate.
8. Teach a course: Got some skills to share? Create a course or workshop and make it available to your members either as part of an ongoing virtual CPD program or as a one-off. If it gets traction, you’ve opened up a potential new source of revenue.
How to source sponsorship?
When you’ve confirmed the theme and format of your next event, it’s worth considering whether you should approach sponsors to help offset the cost or generate revenue for your organisation.
While internet-based events are less expensive than physical ones, they may need to be hosted in a broadcast studio, potentially edited, and made available on demand. And there’s the effort it takes to create a great digital experience: on average, it takes a couple of people at least 2 to 3 weeks to organise one.
Recent research has shown that while some sponsors prefer the face-to-face interaction of physical occasions, it helps to think creatively, and proactively offer your sponsors an effective channel to promote themselves if you’re looking to build value for sponsors in a post-COVID-19 world. Here are some ways to do that:
- Event website and landing page: Give your sponsors a page or section and interview opportunities, as well as logo space
- Banners: Include premium sponsor logos in your advertising banners, and provide sponsors with rotating banners on the website
- Social posts: Tag sponsors in your promotional posts before, during and after the event
- Newsletters, event emails and solus emails: Don’t forget your sponsors when promoting your virtual event — whether it’s via company newsletters, in registration emails and reminders or with a solus sponsored message to your database
- On-screen: Know what branding and logo opportunities you can give sponsors during the event, such as branding on your webinar platform
- In the content: Transition slides, speaker introductions and pre-session videos are great ways to promote sponsors
- Speaker opportunities: Your sponsor may prefer a direct opportunity to address their target market with a speaking slot, a spot on your panel or a less formal lunch-and-learn
- Polls, competitions and surveys: Take advantage of the interactive features of your webinar tool to create sponsored polls, competitions and surveys
- Calls to action, resource packs and virtual offers: Does your webinar tool enable your sponsor to provide offers and materials directly to your attendees? Explore the options
- Physical add-ons: Create some buzz with a sponsored UberEats delivery at lunchtime, sponsored networking sessions or a bottle of wine for your attendees labelled with your sponsor’s logo
- Online exhibition halls and trade shows: Virtual chat booths, pre-recorded demos and Q&A replicate the trade show element of many physical occasions
- On-demand: Sponsorships can appear in your on-demand content long after your event is over
- Post-event communications and snippets: Video snippets of the actiont, post-event newsletters and social posts are all great ways to continue featuring your sponsors
Above all, don’t forget to track and measure the engagement, leads and exposure generated for your sponsors — so you can prove the value of your sponsorship packages for next time.
What are the types of technology you need?
There are some minimum technology requirements for conducting a high-quality event over the internet, both for presenters and for attendees.
Broadband internet connection: Presenters and attendees need a good-quality internet connection. For best results, avoid streaming on any other devices during the event and remote presenters should plug their computer directly into the modem rather than relying on wifi connections.
Webinar or conferencing technology: Webinar and conferencing platforms are the main tools used to conduct events with which viewers can interact.
If your executives are comfortable operating and troubleshooting technological issues for both presenters and attendees, you may decide to go with a do-it-yourself webinar platform.
If you would like the back-up of technical support for your presenters and attendees, or the ability to broadcast from a studio environment, it may be worth choosing a managed webinar service.
If your webinar provider also offers conferencing services, you will have the option of also allowing presenters and attendees to dial into an audio stream.
Questions to ask your technology provider include:
- How can my speakers present? (Studio, Webcams, Slides, Audio)
- Which interactive features do you offer? (Q&A, Polling)
- Do you offer a teleconference as a backup solution?
- How secure will my AGM be?
- Are you able to take names of those attending upon entry?
- What reporting data will I have access to?
- Do you provide local support services for my speakers and attendees if they encounter any problems?
- How and when will I receive the recording?
- Can you provide a transcript within 24 hours?
- Do you provide a captioning service?
Webcam and microphone: A good-quality webcam, lighting and microphone will improve the quality of your presenters’ video and audio if they’re presenting remotely. Otherwise headphones with a microphone will also give you a better result than using a computer microphone and camera.
Hosting provider: If you choose to make your virtual event available on-demand, you will need to know how to host it on your site, or contract a third-party gateway to assist so you can continue to collect registrations.
Social channels: You may choose to make your content available on channels such as YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn and so on.
Studio-based virtual event: Advantages and disadvantages
Some managed webinar service providers provide the option of webcasting from a broadcast studio.
A studio broadcast will require your presenters or moderator to physically attend the studio, instead of dialling in remotely, and it costs a little more than operating a DIY webinar tool.
However there are many advantages to a studio broadcast, including:
1.Professional presentation: While webcams only ‘see’ a tiny square of space with a talking head in it studios can accommodate anywhere from 1 to 6 presenters in a professionally lit setting featuring high-definition broadcast cameras.
2. Customisable staging: Set up the stage to suit the occasion, your brand, the presenters, their subject matter by seating them at a desk, on couches, standing or on stools.
3. Interactive background: Despite the limitations on travel caused by COVID-19, green screen studio technology enables events to be set almost anywhere or customised for your brand colours.
4. Focused presenters: Studio producers can play pre-records and launch polls, enabling presenters to focus on presenting well, rather than operating the tools.
5. Autocue: Most studios enable presenters to hire an autocue to facilitate a smoother delivery for important announcements.
6. Tech support: Managed webinar service providers ensure their broadcast studio comes with built-in redundancy to ensure a stable internet connection. They should also assist remote presenters and those attending with connectivity issues as required.
Download our eBook, Best Practice for Studio Broadcast Webinars, for more information.
What are key components of a virtual event?
Planning a successful webinar or internet-based event encompasses 15 key elements. If you’ve never organised one before, let’s examine each component to make it as easy as possible. Or watch our webinar, where we run through each of them in turn.
1. The content and presenters: Compelling content that’s of interest to your community and engaging speakers are essential.
2. Event web page: Your web page should include all the key topic, time and date details above the fold.
3. Promotional messaging: To get people to attend, you need to market your summit or webinar well, including an email inviting people to register and a reminder, as well as including it in company newsletters and promoting it on social channels.
4. Sponsorship: Sponsors may help offset the cost or generate revenue for your organisation.
5. Registration mechanism: Your marketing automation system or managed webinar provider should be able to handle the process of registering attendees, including creating a database of attendee names and details and automatically emailing them with login and reminder details.
6. Webinar platform: You’ll need either a DIY or managed webinar service provider or conferencing technology, depending on the size and interactive requirements of the occasion.
7. Talent: Choose your presenters for their passion as well as their knowledge. People will not hang around if the experience is worthy but dull.
8. Slides: Webinars and other forums require a supporting slide deck including title and presenter slides, logistic details and transition slides, as well as a closing call-to-action slide.
9. Polls: Use your webinar tool to ask participants a couple of different poll questions, and offer them multiple choice answers. Close the poll after a minute or two and announce the results.
10. Q&A: Your moderator can accept questions from participants via public or private chat and respond during your virtual event.
11. Training: One element of a successful virtual event not to overlook is training on how to use your webinar technology as well as what to do if something goes wrong. Plus, don’t forget to have a dry run-through of your material to ensure your material and transitions work well.
12. Testing: Technical testing is just as important as training. For remote presenters, test their home internet connection a week in advance to ensure it’s stable. If not, consider an audio presentation, or bring your presenter into a broadcast studio.
13. Post-event survey: At the conclusion of your virtual event, ask people to rate the topic, speakers and format so you can collect some data on what they liked.
14. On-demand recording: Record the event and make it available to within a few days.
15. Reporting: Track data such as the number of people who registered and attended, average attendance length, engagement in polls and Q&A, proportion that downloaded resources, and so on — so you’ll be able to draw firm conclusions about the value provided.
How long should your event be?
While there are no hard and fast rules, there are some rules of thumb when it comes to deciding how long your virtual experience should be: Internet-based events should be as concise as possible and make the most of every minute.
Let’s go through some of the more popular formats and lengths.:
- Lead-generation webinar: 45-60 minutes.The most popular length for webinars in 2019 was 45 minutes, according to the annual Redback Report, stretching to 60 minutes in 2020.
- Educational webinar: 45-60 minutes. Internet-based learning — such as shorter industry association professional development and training courses — should maintain a 45-minute presentation schedule. Avoid going longer than 60 minutes.
- Complex event topics/formats: 60-90 minutes. If your topic is complex or involves a multitude of speakers you may need to schedule a longer event, but be sure to communicate this in advance to your viewers.
- Half-day courses: Many CPD courses run for half a day — but they should be broken up with regular breaks.
- Full-day conferences: Full-day summits should be split into sessions with time out for lunch, or run over two days. Include a mix of live-streamed and pre-recorded content people can view at their leisure.
- 2-3-day annual conference: Longer conferences and festivals should be converted into a blend of keynotes, panels, workshops, networking opportunities and exhibition halls provided over a week or more and made available on-demand.
How to plan a virtual event?
Planning a digital conference, seminar or meeting can take anywhere from three weeks to six months, depending on the size of your event.
And if you hold a big, multi-day annual summit that you’re turning into a hybrid physical and virtual event, you will probably want to begin planning the next one a month or two after finishing the last one!
Regardless of the type of occasion you’re planning, there are some key steps to go through:
1. Plan your agenda: Choose your format, structure and confirm your speakers.
Ensure your structure is suitable to be delivered over the internet: mix up the session types, keep sessions concise, include interactive elements and build in breaks for technical checks.
2. Choose a technology provider: Select a managed webinar service provider or webinar platform. Consider how you will handle any technical difficulties and whether your provider provides local technical support.
3. Confirm your locations: Book studios or conference rooms and ensure your technology provider can help create the event you want.
4. Set your price: If your line-up is strong, consider charging. Take into consideration lower travel, accommodation, venue hire and catering costs.
5. Plan sponsor packages: Talk to your technology supplier about sponsorship options, which include utilising your on-screen real estate, creating call-to-action buttons and providing resource packs or offers over the internet.
6. Start marketing activity: Create your event web page, email your database, create your ads. Build your auto-responders confirming those that register and include at least one reminder for any latecomers.
7. Measure success: Talk to your technology service provider about how you will measure the success of your event, whether it be number of attendees, revenue generated, average time attended, proportion of those attending that engage with your polls, resources or speakers.
8. Pre-recorded video: Film any pre-recorded streams and some short clips with your live presenters foreshadowing their session to build anticipation in the lead-up.
9. Plan your interactive elements: Whether you’re planning to run polls or a Q&A conducted over your webinar tool’s chat feature, schedule and plan your interactive elements. For more information, check out the 9 ways to take questions in a virtual event.
10. Test your presenter formats: Work with your technology supplier and presenters to test each session format to ensure it works the way you expect. Decide if your speakers will present from a studio or remotely, and if they will use video or audio.
11. Stage your virtual event: If presenting from a studio, decide how it will be set up for each session, select your backgrounds, brand colours and how you will display your slides.
12. Brief and train your speakers: Confirm your speaker content. Remote presenters will also need to consider lighting, background, and the quality of their camera and microphone as well as their internet connection. One week ahead of the event they should be trained on how to use your webinar technology. Studio presenters may wish to take a physical or virtual tour of your studio environment.
13. Technical tests: Test local broadband connections for remote speakers and external locations; if the connection is weak, consider switching to audio presentations.
14. Build your slide deck: Whether it’s session titles, presenter details, presenter content, logistic and support details, polls or post-event calls to action, there are some key slides you’ll need for your event.
15. Plan your on-demand presence: Two-thirds of attendees typically view them on-demand. Consider if you’ll host these on your website, social or via a third-party.
16. Rehearsal and content run-through: Rehearse the structure of your digital event as you would for a face-to-face event. Pay particular attention to how you manage transitions between remote speakers and how you keep your viewers informed as you move through the event and through each session.
17. Formulate your back-up plan: For each remote session, have a back-up plan in case of connectivity issues. Ensure your speakers know how to phone it in if necessary.
18. Send a reminder: Resend event and login details the day before the event.
19. Pre-write posts and tweets: Schedule your posts in advance to save stress and time on the day.
20. Technical run-through: Run a technical test an hour before the event to ensure your presenters’ internet connection is stable, and their webcam and audio are clear. Remind remote presenters to lock the door and put phones on silent.
21. Troubleshooting: Have IT support on standby if you’re providing your own technical support.
22. Rate your presenters: Ask people to rate each presenter and the overall event via a closing poll.
23. Share it widely: After the event, send out links to your on-demand version and promote and share it across your various channels.
24. Track your event metrics: Liaise with your webinar platform provider or check your web portal to measure how successful your event was. Report to sponsors. Calculate your return on investment. For more detail, check out list of the 8 must-have metrics to measure webinar performance.
25. Conduct a post-event review: Conduct an after-event review to gain learnings while the event is fresh in your mind. Make your recommendations for how to improve your next virtual event!
If you’re translating an existing physical event into an internet-based format, download our infographic and checklist which will walk you through exactly how to do it.
What are best practices for presenters
There’s an art to presenting events over the internet, whether it be remotely or via a studio. The most important thing to remember is to be your most engaging self: if you’re disengaged, your viewers will see it.
It’s also good practice to have a moderator or facilitator for each virtual event session; they will ensure your entire event stays on time, tell your audience about logistics such as how to access technical support, they may moderate questions from viewers, and they should introduce different speakers and manage your transitions so that your audience always knows exactly where you are in your event, and what’s coming up next.
Having a moderator will also ensure your speakers are free to focus on one thing: presenting their material in the most engaging way they can.
The thought of presenting a webinar or other virtual event for the first time can seem daunting, but there are some simple tips to keep in mind that will help keep you on track:
1. Wear what suits you: If you’re presenting on camera, wear colours that suit you, avoid stripes, checks, glittery fabrics and — if you’re presenting in a studio with a green screen background, avoid green.
2. Don’t slouch: The camera sees everything and you’ll come across as being much more engaged and organised if you simply sit up straight.
3. Make eye contact: Look at the camera when you’re addressing the audience and if you’re presenting from a studio don’t forget to look at your co-presenters.
4. Use conversational language: Save the technical jargon for your boardroom; be accessible and use conversational language if you want viewers to be engaged. Don’t read from a script as it will show — use notes and rehearse well instead.
5. Avoid dead air: If you have some technical difficulties with a remote presenter’s audio, know how to ‘fill’ dead air. You can sum up what’s been covered so far, promote an upcoming event, remind people to send in their questions, and so on.
6. The show must go on: Rehearse your event well and make sure you’re familiar with the technology you’re using. If you make a mistake, keep going. Chances are viewers won’t even notice, unless you draw attention to it.
For more on how to present like a rockstar, check out this list of best-practice presenter tips.
Almost any face-to-face event can be translated into an internet-based environment, and in 2020, organisations in Australia and around the world are using virtual events to reach a wider audience, to overcome geographic barriers and to communicate effectively with a wide variety of stakeholders.
Whether you’re planning a 30-minute webinar, or a multi-day virtual summit, it’s critical to ensure your content is relevant to your target market, your presenters are engaging and your technology or webinar technology is robust.
There are some key elements to any virtual event, and some essential planning stages to go through to make your virtual event fun, informative, engaging and successful.
Redback Connect conducts more than 2500 virtual events a year. Reach out to one of our consultants if we can help you run a brilliant virtual event in 2020.