How to Plan a Virtual Event:
A Complete Guide

Over the last year and a half, the pandemic has made a huge impact on the way we live. It hit some industries hard, and the event planning business is no exception.

However, very often adversity leads to innovation. The limitations of the pandemic has led to an explosion of interest in hosting virtual events, and event planners are keen to adapt, even as the pandemic is slowly beginning to subside.

As in-person events take a temporary backseat to their virtual rivals, virtual event planners are wondering:

  • How do you plan a successful virtual event?
  • What are the most important aspects of virtual event planning?
  • What ideas can you incorporate into your next virtual event to make it a success?
  • What is the best virtual event platform to use?
  • How do you promote virtual event engagement at online events and virtual conferences?
  • Are virtual events here to stay?
  • What is the most versatile event planner software on the market?

First thing’s first, let’s start with the basics.

What is a Virtual Event?

Simply put, virtual events are the opposite of an in-person event; they are events held online. They come in a number of shapes and sizes, and an online event can generally be categorized as one of the following:

person working on a laptop using a stylus

Webinars

Often used in an educational capacity, webinars are organized using video conferencing tools, can include live speakers or pre-recorded video, allow attendees to listen to speakers present their material. Examples can include company online training, product demonstrations, customer onboarding, thought leadership, personal development courses that focus on subjects ranging from technology and innovation to career development and beyond.

Online Conferences

Slightly different from webinars, online conferences are built around live content presentations, and also include audience interactions and Q&As, workshops, and time for interacting with other attendees through the use of virtual engagement tools. Online conferences may lack the magic of meeting others in person, but can lower the cost and expand the attendance dramatically.

Internal Hybrid Events

Mostly used in the business world, an internal hybrid event is designed to connect internal staff, clients, or other stakeholders through a mix of live and virtual content. Examples of hybrid events can include corporate training, interdepartmental meetings, town halls, team-building events, and any configuration that allows information to be shared to a group that are not all gathered in the same place.

External Hybrid Events

Much like an internal hybrid event, this kind of virtual event is distinguished by the audience it targets, and is generally held for those outside an organization. This would include potential customers, suppliers, stakeholders or clients. Examples can include virtual trade shows, sales presentations, workshops, classes, or seminars.

Other Live Events Online

Outside the business world, other examples that don’t fit perfectly into the above-mentioned categories include gatherings on social media such as live tweeting, online workout classes, live-streamed video games or “Ask me anything” events (AMAs), among many others.

man attending an online event on his laptop

Why Do We Host Virtual Events?

As we can see above, there are a number of different formats and virtual event platforms to choose from, but at the most basic level, you might also wonder: why exactly does a virtual event planner put together an online event in the first place? What are the benefits?

Benefits of Virtual Event Planning

Virtual event technology provides a number of advantages over hosting a live event, but the exact advantages will always be related to the goal of the virtual event.

For example, if you’re hosting a training webinar for your employees on a number product or software, the advantage would be that a virtual event saves a lot of time and money. When you host the educational content online, nobody needs to fly into headquarters, book hotels, spend per diems, and arrange their schedules to match the presentation. Instead, the presentation can be watched at the viewer’s convenience, and can be watched from anywhere.

Another advantage of using virtual event planning software is that event organizers can expand the reach of their virtual event at no additional cost. In other words, a virtual event vastly expands accessibility. This way, you can have 10,000 employees view a pre-recorded training module or sales presentation without having to fit them all into one room.

Drawbacks of Virtual Events

One of the elements in a virtual event that is sometimes impossible to replicate from a real-life interaction is the power of networking. Sure, having a one-on-one conversation with someone through Google Meet or Zoom can be great, but in many ways, there’s nothing like the real thing. Just like online dating, you often can learn a lot more about a subject in person.

Another drawback involves audience engagement. Being in a room with someone delivering a presentation, and then separating into smaller groups to participate in breakout sessions or workshops is just not the same as when you’re alone, in front of a screen. Following up with new contacts or developing leads can be more difficult in a virtual setting as well. Connecting with audience members and event attendees may prove more difficult, and increasing audience participation can also be limited in a virtual environment.

coffee cup in the foreground, event attendees in the background out of focus

How Do I Plan a Successful Virtual Event?

Whether you’re planning your first virtual event or if you’re an old pro in the event promotion and live event planning world, you need to put the same amount of attention and care into your preparation, and this starts with ensuring that:

  1. The event marketing is properly promoted and communicated
  2. You understand your target audience and promote attendee engagement
  3. You deliver value during the virtual event experience. Content is key.

Although there are many types of virtual events, every virtual event requires organization, and a lot of it. Very often you’ll need an event website, you’ll need to figure out how to coordinate event registration, and determine the right mix of live and pre-recorded content.

You also might consider factoring in ways to allow for audiences to be polled, to interact through Q&As, and also try to gain a sense of how successful you were by preparing feedback surveys for your virtual attendees.

So how do you accomplish everything on your virtual event planning checklist? One of the ways to make sure all the moving parts come together seamlessly is to use the right event planning software. Companies like EventPro combine everything you need in just one place, and they help their clients build both successful virtual events as well as in-person events.

What is the Best Option When Planning a Live Event?

Companies like EventPro help venues or event professionals save time and money, streamlining every aspect of the event planning process. And because their software was purpose-built for in-person events, once the pandemic subsides and in-person events become more common again, they’re the go-to for an all-in-one solution.

Their value-added is a comprehensive, integrated software system for event management, venue booking, and catering management, designed for event venues, planning professionals, and top caterers. They can help your event through:

  • Venue & room scheduling
  • Online registration
  • Attendee management
  • Speaker & VIP management
  • Table & seating management
  • Floorplans
  • Exhibitor/Booth management
  • Travel/accommodations
  • Budgets & finance tracking
  • Contracts, deposits & negotiations
  • Resource & equipment management
  • Comprehensive catering management
  • Staffing task management
  • CRM (Customer Relationship Management)
  • Built-in document storage
  • Reporting & analysis
  • Communication logs
  • Full event and attendee itineraries
  • And much more...
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