Whether you like them or not, virtual and hybrid events have been the saving grace of 2020 for many. They enabled businesses across the globe, faced with lockdowns and quarantines, to still promote products or services, launch new offerings, and engage with their customers, prospects, and communities.
The hard truth—specifically for those that love in-person events as much as we do—is that virtual and hybrid events are here to stay for the foreseeable future. In fact, it’s possible that even once the world opens up, brands might make use of virtual and hybrid events because of their various, and unique, advantages.
Ultimately, with little certainty regarding when full-blown in-person events will be allowed once more, it’s wise to know how to execute virtual or hybrid events effectively—we might as well make the most of the situation. To guide you on this journey, we’ve compiled the ultimate hybrid/ virtual event checklist for each stage of the event-planning process.
Make sure hosting a virtual or hybrid event is the best option
Before you throw yourself into planning your virtual or hybrid event, take a minute to consider whether it is actually the best format for your event. Do they make suitable alternatives or would it be worth waiting until in-person events are allowed again (keeping in mind, of course, that we have no idea when that might be)?
- Can the event’s message be fully translated into an online or partially-online event?
- Will your target audience be receptive to a virtual format?
- Will the event still be as effective and engaging if it is hosted online or has an online portion?
If you decide that it will work in a virtual or hybrid capacity—carry on! If not, put it on ice, consider what can be done in the interim. Revisit the idea for your event when it’s safe to do so.
Outline key goals and objectives
Before you delve into the details of your event, it’s vital to have a clear idea of what the event’s key goals and objectives are. What is the purpose of your event and what knowledge do you want attendees to walk away with? Your goals and key takeaways should be kept at the forefront of your mind so that each element of your event is geared at achieving these goals.
Decide on a date and time to host your event
Once you’ve decided that a virtual event is a good idea, you’ve unpacked what the event’s purpose is and what it is that you want to convey to attendees, it’s time to decide when your event will go live. Choose a date and time that you think would be best for both the event’s purpose and the audience. Mid-morning and mid-afternoon seem to be popular business event times and evenings work well for more “social events”, as examples.
You might find choosing a time challenging if your attendees are tuning in from different time zones. If that is the case, then find a time that might work well for the majority of your audience members and offer access to a post-event recording for those who won’t be able to attend live.
When it comes to the length of your event, make sure that you have enough time to cover all of your subject matter, but don’t let it run too long that it bores your attendees. If it seems like it will go over an hour, rather break it up into different sessions.
Calculate the event budget
Next, you will need to calculate your budget. Here are some of the questions to ask to help you know what you need to factor in:
- Will you be paying for guest speakers and moderators?
- Are there any virtual event software or platform fees?
- What physical elements will you need to cater for if you are hosting a hybrid event?
- Will you be sending your attendees any physical items (gift bags or anything they might need to participate in the event, such as VR headsets)?
- What are the other costs involved with putting on your hybrid or virtual event?
Once you have an idea of costs, you’ll also be able to determine whether or not you will need sponsors and if you will need to charge for the event. Keep in mind, however, you might not be able to charge as much as you would for a normal in-person event and that if you do charge, you will need to make sure your content is worth it.
Pick the best format, platform and software for your event
With your event goals and objectives in mind, as well as your target audience, decide how you would like to present your content. Which event format and platform would work best for your online event? You could host a webinar, do a live stream, include a group chat, pre-record the event, or have pre-recorded elements. There is also a host of virtual and hybrid event software to choose from, so be sure to take your time and see if these are necessary, and which might be best for you.
Choose the technology for the event
Make sure you’ve accounted for all the tech and software you will need for your event to go off without a hitch. Ensure that your speakers have access to strong and stable wifi, that all the relevant microphones and laptop cameras are working, that there is sufficient lighting, etc. If you are hosting a hybrid event, hire an AV technician for production purposes.
Create a schedule of events
Outline how the event will unfold, how long each speaker has the floor, and the order in which they will speak. If it’s suitable for your type of event, then make sure there is enough time at the end for a virtual Q&A.
Put the content together
Your virtual event content needs to be on point and valuable for attendees. Make sure it’s of the highest quality and has been tailored to be consumed in a virtual arena. Remember that you still want to encourage audience engagement, so make use of chat features, polls, and quizzes to do just that.
Promote the event
If your event relies largely on an audience you still need to grow, then make sure that you leave enough time (at least four weeks) to promote and market your event. You can make use of paid advertising, social media, and email marketing to get the word out, and be sure to advertise it on your website. If you have an established audience, start sharing the event, and tallying the confirmations.
Once you have everything in place (from the speakers and schedule to the software), then it’s time to practice until you are confident your event is ready to go live. It’s also a great time to check in with the speakers if there’s anything they still need or don’t understand.
Communicate logistics with your audience
Make sure that you communicate to your audience how they can join your event before the go-live day and test out any event links to ensure that they work ahead of time. If your event has an in-person element, then also communicate any safety and social distancing protocols with your audience. The more they understand before the time, the more likely they are to feel comfortable at your event and to comply with regulations.
On the go-live day
Explain what to expect
Let your audience know what to expect from the event in terms of the program, how they can interact, and any other instructions that may be necessary for them to enjoy the event fully.
Act as moderator
If you haven’t hired a moderator, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the chat feature to see if there are any questions, comments, or concerns from your audience. On top of monitoring the chat, do your best to encourage engagement (in the form of polls, quizzes, etc., mentioned above).
Discuss the event with your team
As with any event, when you host a virtual or hybrid event it’s a great idea to debrief with the team afterward. What went well, what didn’t and where can you improve for future events?
Send out a post-event survey
Apart from getting your team’s feedback, it’s also hugely beneficial to get feedback from your attendees. When you look at their surveys, take a look at what you can improve on.
Calculate your ROI
Once the event has ended, it’s time to calculate whether or not it was a success, and if you were able to reach your goals. This will give you invaluable insights into how your event was received, what was achieved, what was missed, and why.
Hosting online events might sound daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. At The Event Production Company, we have created an in-depth virtual event eBook that will help you navigate the online realm of events and calculate your ROI.
If, however, you still feel that you need extra support—we’re here to help. With over 29 years of experience in event management, you can rest assured that your next virtual or hybrid event will be executed to perfection. Contact us to set up your free consultation today.