This year, I’ve hosted at least 30 virtual events; From small to large events. The truth is that the general format of most virtual events is quite similar. Once you’ve done a few events, you have a good understanding of the actions you need to take to guarantee a successful event.
So last weekend, I sat down and packaged up the general aspects of a virtual event, from the planning phase to the debriefings.
The results? A virtual event in a box!
I’ve also made a Google Slides and Powerpoint presentation that you can use to help you structure your next virtual event.
You can download that below. However, I urge you to read this article carefully so that the virtual event in a box actually makes sense to you.
To manage your expectations, it’s fairly straightforward to create a virtual event in a box for small virtual events. However, it’s nearly impossible for large events as there are so many different nuances and customizable aspects.
Therefore, in this article, we will focus on smaller virtual events of up to 50 attendees. Nevertheless, you can use this template as a guideline to structure the planning for larger events too.
Start with the why
There is a reason why you are here. Why do you want to host a virtual event?
There could be many reasons such as:
- Your sales team is pushing you to come up with alternative demand generation methods;
- There is a need from the market;
- Your pipeline coverage is not on par for the next quarter;
That’s why you want to host a virtual event. But that’s not the most important “why” that you have to answer.
The real question is: why should your audience attend the event?
Without clearly understanding this, you can’t possibly create a proper promotion plan. You can’t create value-based messaging. Basically, you’d be spraying and praying.
Understanding what your audience will get out of the event will make the whole process a lot easier! Spend some extra time on it.
Defining Success Metrics
It’s unimaginable how many times I see event organizers plan events without defining clear success metrics.
You are hosting a virtual event because there is a business challenge that needs solving. Your success metrics should be based on this.
In other words, you need to define your success metrics before executing the virtual event. This way, you can work collaboratively with all stakeholders to achieve the success metrics.
This will also guide your debriefing conversations, but more on that later in this article.
When you have defined your success metrics, consider setting up a dashboard.
Here are some KPIs that you can consider.
Deciding on the format
Depending on your event goals, you need to decide on a format for the event. There are many options out there and really the only limit is your imagination.
To name a few examples, you could host:
- Virtual round table sessions
- Virtual Executive Dinners
- Virtual Lunch and learns
- Virtual Tasting events
When deciding on the format, you should also make a draft agenda and event duration. This is all in the virtual event in a box download that I supplied earlier in this article.
With virtual events, shorter is often better. We did some research earlier this year and 63% say that an event of 60 minutes is ideal.
The format discussion with your team is an important one. You also need to decide on the different elements of the event. Are you going to hire an external moderator? What other external elements do you need to factor in - such as in-event entertainment?
Here are some more virtual event ideas
Getting the budget
Small virtual events are usually fairly cheap to host. The majority of costs will go towards hiring external experts, event promotion, and event entertainment. This includes sending virtual event gift bags to your audience!
Depending on the type of event you host, I’d budget at least $5000 per virtual event. You probably don’t need it all. However, it’s easier to request a larger budget in the planning phase than having to request additional budget at a later stage.
The first step is to make a list of all the expenses you expect to make, then add 20% extra as a margin. The next step is to request the budget.
Start the planning process
Planning is crucial to executing a successful virtual event project.
You have to consider timelines for the promotion period, but also shipping times if you are sending your audience virtual event bags.
If you’re like me and you’ve hosted many virtual events, then you probably have created a planning template.
In case you don’t have a template, please look at my article here. In this article, I provided a template that you can use on Asana. It acts as a checklist.
During event planning, you also have to consider slide deck development. However, in B2B events I strongly urge you to focus on networking first.
In other words, plan on how to engage your audience. This is crucial because virtual event fatigue is kicking in for a lot of people. Here are some tips on how to combat fatigue.
Customer and Partner Involvement
In B2B, your most effective marketing tool is allowing your prospects to talk with your customers. Well, your happy customers!
So, whenever you host a virtual event, always invite a customer. The customer can present a case, but better yet, your prospects can ask the customer questions.
It should be your goal to ensure that the level of interaction between your prospects and customers is as high as possible. Therefore, avoid a death-by-powerpoint type of event.
Most B2B companies collaborate with other companies. These partner companies can help you to make your events successful.
Whenever I host a virtual event, I always try to do it together with a partner. The partner typically supplies an industry expert but we also split the costs.
Moreover, both companies will be responsible for driving 50% of the traffic. This makes it easier to generate enough registrations to ensure a successful event.
It’s important to document the agreements made with the partner. You can use the slide in the virtual event in a box template to write down the agreements. It’s important to communicate these agreements to all stakeholders.
The best part - audience engagement!
This is where you can get super creative! There are so many amazing ways to engage your audience. Simultaneously, it’s the most important part of the event which you need to nail down!
Without an engaged audience, your sales team will have a hard time following up with the attendees after the fact.
I’ve covered audience engagement many times here on Markletic so I’ll leave you some resources.
How do you get people registered for an event? Well, they need to see the value of attending.
That’s why I placed so much emphasis on understanding “what’s in it for the audience” at the beginning of this article.
First and foremost, in your promotion plan, you have to cover how you are going to communicate this value proposition to your audience.
By being able to concisely plot down the value that you will deliver to your audience, you will be well on your way to defining a successful promotion strategy.
When it comes to the actual promotion of the event, there are a number of things that you can do:
- Email Marketing
- Ask your sales team to invite their network
- Social Media
- Paid Advertising
- Content Syndication with a second CTA to register for your event
If you want more inspiration, check out the below video of mine.
For most small virtual events, you really need your sales team to help you drive registrations. After all, they are the ones with the best networks in the company.
However, sometimes it can be difficult to get the commitment of sales to invite people. They are already very busy and they are focused on closing deals.
Nevertheless, pipeline generation is key for future deals.
Whenever hosting a virtual event and you need the commitment of sales, remember this: no involvement, no commitment.
The best way to get sales committed is by involving them from the beginning. This way it will be easier to motivate them to invite their network.
Of course, you need to make it easy for them and that’s why you need to develop a sales kit with all the information required.
That’s why in the virtual event in a box template, I’ve included a sales kit template for you.
No-show and follow-up plan
According to our research, the average no-show rate for virtual events is 35%. This means that you need a solid plan to reduce the no-show rate.
Therefore, it’s a critical component of any virtual event in a box. Before you start executing, you need to understand exactly which steps you need to take to combat no-shows.
A great method that has worked for me is sending people personal calendar invitations. This way, I can see myself who accepted and who has rejected my invitation. If people reject, I get my sales team to call them.
Of course, the real work of a virtual event starts after the event. Now that you’ve hosted a successful event, you need to convert those attendees into sales opportunities.
For small virtual events, the follow-up strategy is typically quite simple. Your sales team will follow up in collaboration with the partner. However, that’s not where it stops.
What about remarketing and email drip campaigns? Check out the video below for more tips.
Debriefing and Analytics
If you’re hosting many virtual events, it’s easy to hop from event to event without ever looking back. However, this might mean that you’re hosting a virtual event that is not performing optimally.
After every virtual event, you need to host a debriefing call. You need to understand what worked well and where is room for improvement.
You also need to check if you hit the success metrics that you defined at the beginning of the journey.
I always recommend creating a virtual event dashboard. If you want to learn more about virtual event reporting, check out the below video.