Eight Best Practices for Planning an Online Event

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Planning an online event carefully is the key to success. To ensure your event’s success, here are eight best practices to follow:

  1. Identify your target audience
  2. Select an engaging topic
  3. Outline your event
  4. Choose a charismatic host
  5. Incorporate digital support tools
  6. Create a digital marketing plan geared towards your virtual audience
  7. Set up your online registration process
  8. Rehearse your event

Read on to learn more about what makes online events different than live functions, what types of events do well online, and how to make your online event a success.

What Is an Online Event?

An online event is a digital activity such as a webinar, live-streamed video such as Zoom, or podcast which brings multiple attendees together in a virtual environment. It serves as the digital counterpart to traditional real-time events such as conferences, seminars and trade shows.

Like a traditional event, an online event is organized to promote a specific agenda, and it occurs at a scheduled date and time. Unlike a traditional event, it occurs in virtual space rather than physical space.

This makes online events differ from traditional events in some other important respects. Where traditional events typically appeal to local audiences or audiences reached through traditional advertising, the intended audience for a virtual event is mainly composed of digital communities such as website visitors, email subscribers, and social media followers. The registration and payment process for online events is also handled digitally.

What Types of Events Do Well Online?

Certain types of events tend to do particularly well in a virtual environment. These include:

  • Webinars
  • Online question-and-answer sessions
  • Virtual conferences
  • Virtual summits
  • Training sessions
  • Courses
  • Workshops
  • Seminars
  • Live interviews
  • Performances
  • Art classes
  • Virtual comedy shows
  • Trivia games
  • Instructional classes, such as cooking classes
  • Group games and parties
  • Family reunion activities
  • Etc.

As these examples illustrate, many types of traditional events that could be delivered in a face-to-face format also work well online. Use this list to brainstorm your own ideas for online events.

Best Practices for Planning an Online Event

How well you plan your online event plays a decisive role in how many people attend your promotion and what business results you get out of it. Here are eight of the most important steps you can take to make your event a success.

1. Identify Your Target Audience

Both for planning your event and promoting it, identifying your target audience is critical. Some important questions to answer include:

  • What are the demographic characteristics of my target audience (age, race, income, profession, location, etc.)?
  • What are their needs?
  • What brands do they currently buy from besides mine?
  • Where are they in the sales funnel?
  • Where do they frequent online?

You can answer these types of questions by using tools such as keyword research, social media analytics and online customer surveys.

2. Select an Engaging Topic

Researching your audience can also help you with selecting a topic that will appeal to them. One of the main goals of virtual events is engaging attendees so that your event achieves your business objectives even during uncertain times. Your topic selection plays a key role in both motivating audiences to attend your event and ensuring that your event gets them interested in your business.

Use your audience research to identify which topics and keywords your target market is searching for and talking about. Craft a topic and title for your event which taps into these interests. You can also include a discussion at the end of one event to research or decide which event your audience wants or needs next.

3. Outline Your Event

Once you know your event’s topic, the next step is planning a presentation. Running through a checklist of questions can help you with this process:

  • Will there be one or more scheduled presentations?
  • Will you have multiple presenters?
  • Would having a panel make your event more engaging?
  • Do you need moderators?
  • Will there be audience participation?
  • Will there be a question-and-answer session?
  • Will the event be recorded?
  • Will a recording be made available to participants?

Carefully outlining your event from start to finish will help you prepare so that everything goes smoothly.

4. Choose a Charismatic Host

Another way to make your event engaging is to select a charismatic host(s) to introduce your event and its speakers. A good host can hold your audience’s attention, build rapport with them, and provide a sense of continuity between speakers. They can also introduce other presenters and facilitate engagement between the audience and speakers.

Look for a host who is friendly, has strong communication skills, and exhibits a good sense of humor. If the host will be introducing speakers or conducting interviews, make sure they have notes to help them adequately prepare.

5. Incorporate Digital Support Tools

A virtual environment allows you to make full use of digital tools to support your event. These can include:

  • Shared files
  • Slideshow presentations
  • Videos
  • Animations
  • Audio clips
  • Recordings

Choose the tools which best complement your presentation.

6. Create a Digital Marketing Plan Geared towards Your Virtual Audience

Successfully marketing your event will depend primarily on your digital promotional strategy. The research you did when identifying your target audience can serve you here as well, which is one reason it’s important to choose your audience carefully. To promote a virtual event, you need to reach your audience where they are online. Promotional strategies can include:

  • Blogging
  • Search engine optimization
  • Social media posting
  • Video marketing
  • Podcasting
  • Text marketing
  • Press Releases
  • In the case of local events, use local newspaper and television marketing
  • Leverage the audience of sponsors

Choose a marketing mix that aligns with your target audience.

7. Set up Your Online Registration Process

An effective digital marketing strategy also depends on event ticketing technology which allows you to take online registrations. Event Espresso’s WordPress plug-in can assist you with this process. To optimize your online registration process:

  • Choose a compelling name for your event
  • Create an engaging description
  • Offer the ticket options appropriate for your event experience (such as live vs. recorded, free vs. paid, etc.)
  • Set up registration forms with appropriate questions to elicit required information
  • Set up payment options (PayPal, Stripe, etc.)
  • Customize confirmation emails with your virtual event information

Following these procedures will help guide attendees through the registration process smoothly, increasing your attendance numbers.

8. Rehearse Your Event

Nothing can ruin an online event like a technical glitch. Make sure you do a test run of your event well in advance so that you are familiar with the technology and can address any tech support issues. Plan troubleshooting procedures with your tech support team in case routine issues such as sound problems arise. Test your event registration process as well.

In addition to testing your event from a technical perspective, you should also rehearse your presentation. Make sure that all key personnel know what they should be doing and saying at all times, from the start of your event to the conclusion.

Practicing should also help you experience beforehand what an attendee will experience. This experience can help you understand or feel what should be added or removed from the event to make it even better.

Follow Best Planning Practices to Make Your Event a Success

Following these best practices can help increase your attendance and engagement while making your event a success. Planning a virtual event successfully also takes the right planning and technology. The Event Espresso WordPress plug-in makes it easy for visitors to register for your event right through your website. Try a live demo now to see how we can help you automate your event registration process.

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