How To Successfully Host And Promote An Online Event
Whether it is an unexpected change in weather, a venue cancellation or a global pandemic, you cannot predict what will get in the way of you hosting an event you’ve planned.
And that’s a pretty big understatement right now. Covid-19 has given event organizers an unprecedented number of challenges to face. Fortunately, in many cases converting live events into online events has proven to be a great Plan B.
What Is An Online Event?
Just as the name suggests, an online event or a virtual event is an event that happens completely online. These events have no physical location but can still be interactive. They can be webinars, tutorials, conferences, meetings, trade shows, networking opportunities or live streams of other sorts.
Pre-Covid-19, online events had already become one of the fastest marketing strategies to gain big results and kickstart business ideas or campaigns. This is because they can help you get in front of audiences bigger than any venue could possibly hold. And you can measure every bit of engagement. This is a perk for your brand and a draw for any of your participants/speakers.
And from the audience’s standpoint, from the comfort of their preferred location, they can access content that they’re interested in. It’s a win-win. As an added advantage, online events can save you money on vendors, venues, and transportation too.
How Do You Host A Successful Online Event?
There are a few things you should consider to make your online event successful.
Create An Interactive Experience
When converting your in-person event into an online event, be sure to consider how you can make it interactive. Using social tools and chats are a great addition to any online event. They give participants the opportunities to ask questions and provide feedback and comments as you go along.
If it seems like a lot to juggle to have presentations and audience interactions taking place simultaneously, consider prerecording your content. Then have the speakers and other organizers on hand to answer questions as they arise when the event goes live.
Another way to encourage interaction is by asking participants to send in their questions in advance. Then your speaker(s) can reflect on them and address them during their presentations, in addition to addressing live questions.
Alternatively, if you have an interview format, your interviewers can pose questions to your speakers.
Choose The Right Technology
It’s important to figure out which software to use to make your event visible. There are so many options available online but some are better than others depending on your needs.
If you are aiming to share a live performance or presentation, Facebook Live, YouTube Live or Zoom can be good choices. For a summit or a conference, with more moving pieces you can use software like HeySummit, Remo or Virtual Summits.
And don’t forget to get a solid mic to capture and stream your audio. The Blue Yeti X is a great investment to make, and the Blue Snowball a more budget-friendly option.
For pre and post-event updates, make sure you have email automation tools set up and ready to go (e.g. MailChimp, ConvertKit, Campaign Monitor or ActiveCampaign)
Do A Few Test Runs
Your audience might be participating in your online event with certain expectations of your brand. Or you might be about to make a first impression. Either way, you will have their time and attention. Make it worthwhile and leave as little to chance as possible.
Test your audio and video before broadcasting. Check if your microphone, camera and lighting look professional. The experience you provide should be immersive for your audience. Also, it is important that it’s uninterrupted. Technical glitches are not fun for you, your speakers or your audience.
As you do your test runs, make sure you’re assessing how engaging the content is. Are speakers or the presenter making a lot of eye contact? Are they breaking up long explanations with anecdotes and questions? How about adding in some screen sharing and polls? Test and tweak until you’re happy.
Promoting An Online Event
Once you have decided on hosting an online event, the next question arises. How do you promote your event? The best places are through social media, your website and paid ads using a combination of videos and banners. Below you’ll find a quick overview and you can find some more tips for getting leads and brand exposure here.
Facebook – Facebook is a surefire way to get the news out. Use a combination of targeted ads and regular posts on your page about your event. Highlight all the different things that would appeal to participants. You can also create an event page on FB and get a rough idea of how many people are interested in participating. Since this page can double as a reminder for the people who are interested in the event, it is useful in more ways than one.
LinkedIn – LinkedIn allows you to promote your event by leveraging your professional connections. Use a combination of posts on your company page, targeted ads, and posting in groups whose members are likely to be interested in your event. And reach out to your participants, speakers and attendees to ask them to share that they’ll be a part of your event.
Instagram – Take advantage of the fact that Instagram is a highly visual platform. Promote your event through short video teasers and images of participants and speakers. Be sure to size your content for IG stories as well. From the time your event is announced you can keep updating your followers, and targeted audiences via ads, with updates.
Event Page – Add a dedicated event page to your website telling your visitors about the event. Include all the information that your attendees need to know. And update this regularly. You should drive our audience for this event to this page for all the details they need to know. From date and time of the event, to registration process, prices, and agendas, to speakers and their bios. Don’t skip any details.
Blog Posts – Use blog posts as teasers to give people a behind the scenes look at what they can expect from your event. Include details about topics being covered, speakers or participants and important event updates.
Banners – Add banners to your home page, as well as other pages on your site with CTAs directing them to register or learn more depending on your goal.
Email – Add details about your event to your email signature. Try to keep it to the point so that it’s as short and clear as possible. For example, a short catchphrase at the end of the signature and a CTA button for anyone who is interested. This will help you promote your event subtly to your existing network.
Be sure to include your event in your email newsletter if you send one out regularly. If not, this is a great excuse to reach out to all those on your company’s email list.
And for warm leads that you may have, try setting up an email campaign through which you highlight all the benefits of your event through a series of emails.
To add to this list there are also event aggregating sites such as Eventbrite or Meetup through which you can send out invitations for your event.
Hosting an online event is not a walk in the park. Especially if it’s a decision you have to make when an in-person event has to be canceled. But it can be a rewarding experience for you, your participants and your audience. Especially in a time when connection means more than ever.