I can’t count the number of virtual events I’ve hosted this year on two hands. Since in-person events were heavily restricted by the pandemic, we’ve significantly increased the number of virtual events that we’ve hosted. You’ve probably done the same.

Some of the virtual events were great and we will repeat them. On the other hand, some virtual events just didn’t hit their mark and we won’t continue with them in the same format.

This made me wonder: what makes a virtual event successful? Successful enough for us to make the investment decision again?

Well, that depends. There is a distinction to be made between virtual events that you host yourself or in which you participate through sponsorship.

Nevertheless, there are some general guidelines to consider for both types of virtual events.

What makes a virtual event successful?

A virtual event is successful when you achieve your pre-determined success metrics and when your team is able to build meaningful relationships that directly benefit your business in some way.

Of course, this is a general statement of what virtual event success looks like. As mentioned, it really depends on whether you host an event yourself or if you sponsor one.

For events that you host yourself, you also need to consider the experience you delivered for your audience.

On the other hand, for events that you sponsor, you need to consider the leads generated and things such as awareness generation. This is especially important in growth markets.

That’s a high-level overview of virtual event success. Now let’s dive deeper into the individual items to really understand what makes a virtual event successful. 

You hit your success metrics

Your virtual event is successful when you hit your success metrics. Duh!

It’s important that these metrics are pre-determined and communicated to all stakeholders involved. This way, every person or team can be held accountable.

Typical success metrics for virtual events are:

  • Net new leads generated;
  • MQLs generated;
  • Sales pipeline;
  • The number of deals closed.

Depending on the type of virtual event, other metrics might include:

  • Number of new ambassadors acquired;
  • The number of new company reviews created;
  • The amount of sponsorship revenue generated;
  • Press coverage during and post-event.

Success metrics are absolutely critical! That’s why I dedicated an article to virtual event KPIs. Have a look!

A perfect experience for your audience

This day and age, your audience accepts nothing less than a great experience. With all the technological innovations, the expectations of consumers are increasing by the minute.

Delivering a pixel-perfect experience for your audience will directly the level of success that your virtual event is able to generate.

Most of your virtual events will target people that are familiar with your company but they aren’t convinced yet. Only by delivering excellence, they will be convinced that your product or service might be able to help them overcome their business challenges.

People want to feel important, especially in B2B environments. So by talking about a perfect experience, I’m also referring to making them feel welcome and a part of the event.

Moreover, if you’re able to take your audience through a journey - even before the event starts - then you’ll surely be a step ahead of your competitors.

Virtual event fatigue is kicking in and by taking your audience through an inclusive journey, you’ll make sure that their level of engagement during the event is at the highest level.

Have a look at some tips that I wrote related to virtual event fatigue

No technical issues

Technical issues can destroy your virtual events, where your host one or participate in a virtual event.

Delivering a virtual event without technical issues is definitely a contributing factor to a successful virtual event.

For events that you host yourself, technical issues will become a bigger issue as your audience size is increasing. For small virtual events, you can offer a level of support. However, if you’re hosting an event with 1000+ attendees, this will become trickier. 

If you’re hosting a virtual conference, make sure that you have a plan to onboard your event visitors. You can consider a guided virtual tour or just a simple video that explains everything.

Now, if you’re participating in a virtual event through a sponsorship, then technical issues can come from both sides. Meaning from your size as an attendee but also from the event organizer.

For example, your own technical issues might be from a bad internet connection. If because of a bad connection, you will miss out on valuable one-to-one meetings with potential prospects, then that will impact the level of success of your virtual event.

Of course, the event organizer might also have some technical issues, but then at least they will have to compensate you.

Deliver value to your audience

What makes a virtual event a success for your audience? It will be successful for them if they get value from the event.

And value can mean a lot of different things, for example:

  • They were inspired by keynote sessions;
  • Your audience built valuable relationships with peers;
  • They received actionable information.

When I host a virtual event, I always think: what’s in it for them?

Only when I fully understand this, I can build a successful promotion plan. Without understanding what your audience will get out of the event, it’s near impossible to position your event successfully.

So how do you measure value? 

The simplest way to do this is by sending them a post-event survey. Keep it short and simple, but do include something like a Net Promoter Score (NPS).

The audience was able to network

Audience interaction is mission-critical for a successful virtual event. Especially in B2B sales cycles, relationships make or break a deal.

If you’re hosting a virtual event, you need to take every opportunity that you can think of to allow your audience to network.

Especially if your event is a bit longer. No one wants to sit behind their computer staring at sessions all day. Give them a chance to interact with other people. It’s a much more fun experience.

People like to learn from each other and brainstorm with people who think alike. Arguably, the most powerful feature of an in-person event is networking. If you can replicate this in a virtual setting then that will significantly contribute to success.

Your colleagues gave great feedback!

Alright, I know! Colleagues might be a bit biased… However, if you feel that your colleagues have a surprisingly positive attitude towards your virtual events, then that’s a good sign.

When you’re collecting feedback, make people comfortable that constructive criticism is something good.

There is always something to improve upon.

Learn from each other and make improvements to your virtual events. Or, you might end up deciding that a virtual event in its current format is not up for repetition. This is okay! Some format work, some won’t. There is only one way to find out!

You generated a similar quantity and quality leads compared to in-person events

In-person events are notorious for high-quality lead generation. You’ve probably hosted a whole lot of in-person events. This should act as your baseline.

So when asking what makes a virtual event successful; One answer is that it should deliver the same quality of leads as in-person events.

Typically after a B2B in-person event, the sales team is able to register an opportunity in the system pretty quickly.

To give you an idea of the lead quality, there are a couple of things to consider:

  • Job roles;
  • Are they part of your named account list;
  • Industry;
  • The amount of time it takes to register the first opportunities.

Related to the latter, calculate the average amount of time it takes for the first opportunities to be registered in the systems with in-person events. This is your baseline and you should compare it to virtual events.

These are some of the things to consider when determining the level of success for virtual events.

Have you considered which hosting platform is right for your virtual events? Well, here are 6 brilliant hosting platforms for virtual events.

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Written by
Ricky Wolff
Ricky's North Star is growth. He is the founder of Markletic, a blog about growth hacking and demand generation in marketing.