How do you plan an online event?
That’s the question most companies, organizations, and brands are focusing on while trying to figure out how to strengthen their event marketing strategy. Recent unexpected circumstances took us all by surprise; however, every crisis comes with new opportunities and enough space for innovation.
And most certainly, we’ll learn how to leverage these online experiences and articulate them as part of our marketing efforts. Having this in mind, let’s discuss online events a bit, focusing on their particularities, elements, and structure.
Let’s start by defining what an online event is.
The obvious definition is the planning of events using an online platform, through which people can connect from different corners of the world. It’s similar to an online meeting you’d usually run with international clients or remote teams. But instead of connecting with a camera and microphone, you’ll have people as passive participants on their phones or computers listening to a speaker.
A better example is the YouTube live streaming videos. People connect to listen to an influencer or top professional and have the option to chat with them virtually.
In-person events versus online events: timeline
Two parameters make online events different from the face-to-face ones. The first one is the timeline. An in-person event will have a structured and linear timeline. Usually, a face-to-face event can span from one day to several, with multiple dynamics such as round tables, keynote speeches, workshops, and networking sessions. These dynamics usually fill the entire day.
An online event, however, doesn’t require a linear timeline. You can have a one-hour online event or a three-day online event, with one keynote speech per day. While a face-to-face event revolves around a packed agenda and keeping the attendees engaged from morning to evening, online events are less structured.
With live events, you have a physical experience. You have to travel, get to the venue, and enjoy a fully packed day. Your senses are involved in the experience, and you’re dedicated to learning as much as you can throughout the day. During online events, however, you can’t keep one person focused on the screen of their laptop or smartphone for an entire day. Sure, you can pack a 10-hour online event into one day, but chances are your attendees will disconnect (physically and/or mentally) after one or two hours.
When running online events, it’s important to consider people’s online behaviors. Even during in-person events, people will lose their attention from time to time and start scrolling through their social media feeds. When attending an online event, however, it’s a million times easier to be distracted or simply turn off the computer. So you’ll want to keep the timeline as friendly and comprehensible as possible.
In-person events versus online events: venue
The second parameter that makes in-person events different from online events is, obviously, the space. Usually, you’ll have to rent a venue for your in-person events. Online events, however, don’t require a physical venue. What you will need, though, is a virtual launchpad or online video platform that allows people to connect, interact with each other, and enjoy the presentations.
This element provides you with a certain degree of flexibility. Just think about it: To attend your event, people had to travel from different countries or cities. The venue is physically conditioned, meaning space was an important component.
The reach of your event was limited to the space itself, since venues can only accommodate a limited number of attendees. Online events, however, are limitless. Online platforms allow you to reach out to an international audience and connect with people all around the world. And that’s what makes this type of event truly unique.
Now, that we’ve discussed the main two differences between in-person and online events, let’s see what it takes to plan an online event. You’ll notice soon that face-to-face and online events are similar in terms of structure. There’s a pre-event phase, a during-the-event phase, and a post-event phase. In many terms, the pre-event and post-event phases of both online and in-person events are similar. The difference lies in the way we run these events.
📌 Planning stages: The pre-event preparation
The pre-event preparation is alike in both face-to-face and virtual experiences. First, you need to create an event website and set up the registration process. In both cases, you need to display the description of the event, the program, and your speakers’ biographies. You can also set up different attendee categories that will determine the fee types or access rights.
Next, in both cases, you need to launch a series of email campaigns and communicate with your virtual attendees. So in terms of planning logistics, you’ll need the same things, except you don’t have to work with event providers such as a venue, AV professionals, and a catering service.
📌 Planning stages: The post-event
During the post-event, we’re also encountering the same needs. We may have to continue nurturing the relationships with our attendees and send them email campaigns and satisfaction surveys. Also, we may find it appropriate and necessary to repurpose the event content and use it as lead magnets. That’s valid for both in-person and online events.
📌 Planning stages: During the event
What’s different, though, is the entire event experience. An online event will require a virtual session launchpad, a virtual stage for your speakers, an online engagement process, and online networking spaces. And instead of renting a venue, you’ll need to work with a strong event technology partner. Apart from that, you’ll also need additional insights to evaluate the behavior of your online attendees.
For example, you’ll want to know how many people disconnected from your event and how many engaged multiple types. Also, you may find it useful to identify those attendees who reconnected or shared your online event with their network. This information will help you see what you need to improve for your next event and understand how to strengthen your online event strategy. Also, it will give you the necessary insights to evaluate the ROI of your event.
As you can see, face-to-face and online events are pretty similar. Both require intricate logistics and communication campaigns, and the quality of the content and networking opportunities are still important.
The only thing you’ll need for your online events is to have a platform with a strong online infrastructure to sustain the entire event, and that’s not an easy task to accomplish. Search for your event tech partner carefully and make sure the platform you choose suits your needs and interests.