Are you considering options for hosting events online? Countless companies across industries are, of course.
With the mass cancellations of group gatherings, COVID-19 is putting virtual events to the test on an unprecedented scale. That means many organizations are looking for new ways to meet the needs of customers and clients—without having to get together in person.
And for that, we have good news.
Whether you’re looking for a temporary solution or need a long-term strategy for moving conferences, seminars, and other events online, you’ll have a wealth of options. The most daunting task is just knowing where to start.
As a remote-first company that’s been hosting virtual events for more than a decade, Formstack has learned a lot about what it takes to make the most of digital environments.
Here are three best practices we highly recommend for every type of online event.
1. Decide what format will work best.
Are you looking to host a small group seminar or interactive workshop? If so, live streaming may work well. But if it’s a customer conference or a large group gathering you had in mind, a better bet is to record videos your event registrants can watch on demand.
In a world where people are increasingly working from home—and where 30% of the workforce may continue to do so even after the current coronavirus dust settles—recordings offer the flexibility to consume your content when it fits into remote work schedules.
As a bonus, this approach offers additional benefits in a couple of key areas.
First, recorded videos will open the door for you to engage with your audience on other key channels. As you put together your online event, look for ways to adapt content so you can interact with registrants on your website, blog, and social media.
Second, it allows you to communicate regularly through email marketing. Rather than sending unsolicited emails, you can reach out to registrants who are eager to hear from you and highly likely to be receptive.
2. Take time to communicate before the event.
According to Forrester, going virtual with events that would otherwise take place in-person will require some additional pre-event communication.
What should attendees expect from your online event? How can you make them more comfortable with the experience? What should they be prepared for? Answering these questions upfront will ensure people remain committed. Researchers recommend using speaker notices, social media sharing, and “what to expect” updates to highlight value and prevent people from “blowing off the event because it won’t be in person.”
If you’re still collecting registrations, you can collect information to help inform these communications. For example, when creating your online event registration form, consider adding a field to ask attendees what they’re most interested in learning.
Then, when you connect the registration form to your email service provider, you can use those answers to customize confirmation messages and updates based on needs, goals, or interests.
3. Use your event as an opportunity for future engagement.
All event planners know to send surveys after in-person events. But have you created a similar process for the events you host online?
Sending a simple follow-up survey can be an excellent way to gather insights you can use to continually fine-tune virtual strategies and make future online events even better. Just be sure to email your post-event survey within 24 hours so the feedback you collect will be fresh. We recommend building your post-event survey ahead of time so you’ll be ready to hit “send” the next day.
In addition, look for opportunities to engage with attendees in the weeks and months to come. By transferring registrant information into your CRM or email marketing platform, you can create some highly effective post-event email campaigns.
In fact, virtual events are among the best starting points for developing the kind of event lead management strategy that’ll bring your company huge returns.
These tips aren’t the only ways to ensure a successful virtual event, but we’ve found them to be three of the most important—especially if you want to get as much ROI as possible from your efforts. Once you become accustomed to virtual events, you’ll discover even more opportunities to strengthen connections with attendees.