While more compact and easier to manage, organising a virtual event still poses a number of challenges for any team. Our experience was no exception, and together with TAO an advertising and events agency based in Mexico, we decided to organise a virtual event under Eventtia’s brand Get Together.
In this article, we tell you how we executed the event, what strategies we used, what we learned and more importantly, how all of this valuable information can be used to organise your events.
Get Together: A brief introduction
Before we get started, it’s important you know a bit about the Get Together brand, why we created it, and what it consists of.
So, having developed our own digital event management tool, we never had the opportunity to run our own events. However, along came the pandemic, and we quickly found ourselves with a new role accompanying clients in a new era of events. In other words, as restrictions around the world limited the organisation of physical events, organisations and companies, suppliers and agencies had to move to online events.
In the beginning, the switch was complicated, we had to reinvent events and rethink the way in which we could bring communities and audiences together. But little by little, from Eventtia, we have managed to redefine our platform and support our clients in the creation of their virtual events.
Because of this, we decided to launch our own series of online events, with the aim of reconnecting with our users, sharing knowledge, and above all to being able to learn and experience new things around the world of virtual events. The idea of Get Together came about at a time when it was difficult to get together given everything pandemic-related going on around us.
We created a digital space to bring together marketing and communication executives and professionals. Get Together events have two formats: short events and large events or festivals, with all themes revolving around marketing and technology.
This second edition of the Get Together digital event was organised in collaboration with Mexican advertising and events agency TAO. This partnership gave us the opportunity to localise a virtual event and focus on a specific location, bringing together renowned experts and professionals who have an impact on Mexico and LATAM countries.
In the following parts of this case study, we will share our steps in organising the Get Together digital event. To make it easy to break down, we have divided the article into three parts: before the event, during the event, and after the event.
⚡Before the event
The second edition of Get Together’s virtual summit came about as a collaborative proposal between Eventtia and TAO. Organising a virtual event might have fewer tasks than a physical event, but that didn’t stop us from starting the conversation and brainstorming well in advance. It took almost six months to organise the event. Here are the steps we took to make it happen...
👉 Identify your audience
The first thing worth asking before organising an event is who you are doing it for. In our case, the target audience was executives and marketing and communication professionals. Since we have collaborated with TAO, which is located in Mexico, we thought it was a very good opportunity to connect with our LATAM audience. But it is always better to have a niche to be able to speak directly to the person.
If you are in the same situation and want to run a digital event, think about your general audience and then find a narrative that allows you to really connect with them. Think about every tiny detail covering your audience, their age, profession, interests, level of education, where they’re based, what languages they speak, and so on.
👉 Decide on the core theme of the event
You can’t organise an event without defining its core theme. In this case, it is not a matter of finding an overarching theme, such as marketing or communication, but of finding an angle that is going to speak volumes to your audience. After this, it’s important to find a way to pitch your theme in a way that can be of demonstrated value to your audience.
For example, for the second edition of Get Together we focused on how to do digital marketing like it’s 2030. The reason behind this was that during the last two years all companies and brands have had to completely reinvent their marketing strategies.
The continuing health crisis of 2020 has presented us with new challenges in terms of work, business and marketing. According to experts, the pandemic has created an incremental development of the digital space. More than ever before, we have seen professionals, marketers, and brands occupy the digital space to communicate, work, find prospects and continue with business as usual.
Believe it or not, but what was planned for 2030 in terms of digital development and transformation is already happening today, in 2021. This is why it was time to rethink digital marketing, how we communicate, and how we create digital communities.
👉 Define the structure of the event
The next step is the structure of the online event. Keep in mind that this is open to change along the way, but it is important to have an overview in order to create the event and start planning for it.
Initially, we had thought of a three-day digital event. But in the end, we decided to go for a longer event over a single day. The central argument has been focused on the desire to offer a more engaging event experience. Also, bearing in mind that a digital event is different from a physical event, a three-day digital event can lead to fatigue and a lower number of attendees on days two and three.
To help you define the structure of your event, think about the following elements:
- How many days do you want the event to last?
- What kind of sessions are you going to incorporate: roundtables, keynotes, fireside chats?
- What kind of dynamics are you going to prepare for the playful moments?
- When will you offer your attendees the possibility to interact one-to-one via your online networking tool?
- When and how will you incorporate breaks?
These elements will help you create a well thought out and refined structure of the event.
👉 Agree on the working dynamics and project management (especially when working with other teams)
On many occasions, you will be organising an event in collaboration with another brand, agency or company. While this gives you more access to more professionals, helping you to design even more of an unforgettable experience for your attendees; it’s also vital that you agree on the work dynamics between the two entities.
In the end, you are dealing with two different teams, with different leadership and different ways of working. For example, in the case of Get Together’s virtual summit, we created a blueprint of the event with all the steps that needed to be taken. For each step, we defined the responsibilities and deadlines for each team member. Plus, we also agreed to meet once a week to discuss progress, solve problems, and move the project forward.
👉 Create the event presentation
Any successful event requires you to be able to communicate it and pitch it to the world. But to explain the main idea, the agenda and the value of the event, you need a presentation that explains all of this. Logically then, the next step is to create a presentation that includes all the basic elements of the event such as the name, the narrative and the added value of the topic, the audience, relevant examples from previous events, sponsors and partners (if any), the structure and the provisional programme. With this, you can go out and look for speakers, sponsors, and partners that can support you in the development of the event.
👉 Identify the speakers of your events
Once the presentation is done and dusted, start identifying the speakers you are going to contact. In this case, you have several elements to take into account. First, decide on the profile of the speakers: Who do you want to invite? Executives? Professionals? Influencers? What brands do you want to have on your programme? Who has valuable stories and experiences to share?
Once your ideal list of speakers has been drawn up, it is important to agree with your team on a strategy for contacting these people. In many cases, team members know people who have contact with the speakers on the wish list. Another strategy is simply to run a cold mailing campaign, inviting certain people to be speakers at your event. For this, you can use both mailings and LinkedIn.
In our case, LinkedIn has been a powerful tool for contacting and inviting speakers. And in the case of Get Together we have had a stellar list of speakers, executives and marketing professionals who have shared a wealth of insight and knowledge with our audience.
One essential tip is not to despair if you don't get a response to the first email you send, don't hesitate to follow up with speakers you are interested in. Usually, these people have a very busy schedule and usually receive lots of messages per day. Writing two or three follow-up messages is always going to increase the chance of the potential speaker replying to you.
It is also important to note that in many cases, the topics of each presentation or roundtable will be the result of your initial conversations with the speakers, as they will contribute their professional approaches. But that's the beauty of organising an event: it's all about co-creation.
👉 Create the entertainment program
What would an event be without entertainment? This question is valid for both physical and virtual events. So just as you are putting together the academic event program by finding speakers, you have to do the very same when it comes to entertaining your attendees. Throughout the short and long editions of the Get Together series, we have experimented with different entertainment formats.
One particular format was to offer companies to perform brand activations where we invited brands such as Ferrari and Casa Lumbre. During the Ferrari digital experience, Daniela Loera, the Marketing Manager at Ferrari Mexico City shared with attendees a unique experience of buying and customising a Ferrari car. Mica Rousseau from Casa Lumbre, on the other hand, entertained us with a mezcal-based cocktail session. We also closed the event with an online concert offered by the Pakaraima brand.
All these activities are there to accompany the digital experience of the event and to make it more real and similar to the physical events. Therefore, we encourage you to include a social programme in the programme of your virtual event.
👉 Create the event website
Once the initial version of the education and entertainment programs were decided, we continued with the creation of the event website. For this, we obviously used the Eventtia platform and its specific modules. When setting up your website, it is important to keep it informative but concise and above all to make sure that the most important details of the event are present. And, on top of this, any event website should encourage people to register for the event.
In our case, we included an introduction, general information, content, program, speakers and their biographies, entertainment, partners, plenty of call to action buttons, and most importantly, the registration form. The great thing about Eventtia is that you can streamline the whole process by simply setting up the event inside the platform. So when you’re creating the website and you select a module, say the program or speakers, all the information appears automatically without you having to enter it again.
Also, with Eventtia it is very easy to register people by creating a customisable registration form. Afterwards, you have access to the list of registrants and their profiles, making the management of attendees very easy and straightforward. For example, having access to this list, you can set up and send emails to all those who have registered, with information about the event, the necessary requirements or tutorials on how to access the virtual stage.
👉 Start promoting the event
Before launching the website, we worked on a marketing strategy for the event. In the end, you can invest a lot of resources and effort into an event, but if you don't spread the word, you will most likely have a limited number of attendees. That’s why you should always take advantage of every channel at your disposal to get the message out.
When organising an event, you usually have two types of audience. Your initial audience and your speakers’ audience. For the first, you can reach out by sending a series of mailings to your subscriber list or enlist the support of your sales and customer support team to spread the news to prospects and users.
As for the second, you have to offer them the right assets and make it as easy as possible for them to promote. That’s why we prepared a kit with customised visuals for our speakers to share with their audiences via social media. Organising Get Together, we had the opportunity to work with speakers who were very willing to help and support us.
👉 Design the virtual stage
Now that you have launched your website and have started to promote the event, it's time to create the virtual stage. For the Get Together virtual scene we have had the support of our designer to create a background. Along with a series of interactive rooms for attendees to explore.
One of these spaces was the sponsors’ page, which had the sole objective of promoting the brands that help made the event a reality. Each brand had its own space in which it could upload visual elements, videos, and downloadable documents.
Covering everything, the virtual stage included a video player for the live production of the event, key information (such as the program, speakers, profiles of attendees), a live chat, live polling and surveys through audience engagement app Sparkup, and live emojis for attendees to interact during the sessions. Eventtia offers the possibility to create a complete virtual scenario for your virtual attendees to enjoy the event.
👉 Define the format of the sessions and set up the backstage
The next step was to define the format of each session. To ensure that the event was dynamic, fast-paced and diverse, we chose various types of virtual and live formats. Thanks to TAO, we recorded a large part of the event from a studio. Thus, the event hosts received the speakers, who were connected from home, from the studio. And as for the round tables, each speaker was connected from a different location (home or office).
We had to set up our streaming platform, Streamyard. In some cases, we had simultaneous sessions, or in other words, multiple backstages at the same time. The backstage setup is quite simple. It is simply a matter of generating a meeting link that is then shared with the speakers. At the Get Together event, each backstage had an internal team leader who supported the speakers, making sure the live stream ran smoothly.
👉 Carry out a series of tests
To prevent any inconveniences during the event, carry out a series of rehearsals. Prior to the Get Together event, we ran rehearsals with all the speakers to see if any adjustments needed to be made. For example, during the practice session of a round table, with three participants, we noticed that one speaker had connection problems. Upon seeing this, we coordinated with the speaker to connect from another location on the day of the event.
Also, if you’re running round tables, rehearsals are great for speakers to get to know each other and talk a bit to agree on the details of the session. Practice makes perfect, so we recommend that you do this with all your speakers.
👉 Decide how attendees interact with each other
With there being no immediate in-person contact like you would find at a physical event, it’s vital that you find new ways to create the interaction and be sure to provide as much of it as possible. For example, your attendees can’t raise their hand to ask a question or interact with other speakers during the event. Yet thanks to the virtual stage format and audience interaction apps, we managed to ensure a high level of attendee interaction with the event and the speakers.
Thanks to the chat available on the virtual stage, people could leave comments and questions during each session. The moderators of each session shared these questions with the speakers for them to answer. We also gave attendees the opportunity to interact through the session with emoticons. Finally, we integrated an interactive session with Sparkup through which participants could create word clouds, ask questions, and create surveys and polls.
Before the event started, we asked our speakers if they wanted to ask questions with answer options to the audience to better understand and connect with attendees. We then collected and organised these questions well in advance, so that they could be launched without fail during each speaker’s session. People answered without fail, interacting and making the event even more interesting and lively.
👉 Configure one-on-one networking for attendees
When we talk about the interaction of your attendees, it’s important to keep in mind that the most valuable asset of an event is the possibility to interact with professionals and people who share the same interests. Therefore, you cannot ignore the networking experience even if it is a virtual event.
In the form we created for the online registration of the Get Together event, we added a field with a list of marketing-related interests. Based on these interests, people could identify like-minded professionals to schedule meetings with. Each attendee had the possibility to activate this functionality and receive requests for short meetings during the event. This way, we managed to maintain the most important element of an event: Networking.
⚡ During the event
👉 Create a minute-by-minute document
Although you should create this document well before the event, it is appropriate to include it here because this is your go-to guide for all things going on during the event. So what is a minute-by-minute? It is a spreadsheet where you outline, step by step, every possibility that could happen during the event. This covered areas such as:
- The sessions, including their times and length so you know which session comes after the other;
- The speaker or speakers (if it is a round table) who are going to participate in the session;
- The name of the moderator. In the case of keynote speakers, the moderator was someone from the Eventtia or TAO team, for round tables the moderator was one of the speakers;
- The phone number of all speakers, moderators and team members in case of an emergency;
- The link to the virtual backstage where the speakers connect;
- The backstage person who’s responsible for each session.
Remember, this document will guide your team during the event and ensure that everyone acts according to the plan. So the more time you invest in it, the smoother your event will be.
👉 Get your speakers to connect 15 minutes before the session starts
At a virtual event, the sessions follow one after the other. Therefore, each speaker or group of speakers will need their own individual backstage. This is why it’s important to agree with your speakers that they connect 15 minutes before the session. That way, you will have time to discuss with them the last details and make sure that there aren’t any technical issues.
👉 Help backstage moderators with questions from the audience
Backstage managers (if you are using any streaming tool) are responsible for facilitating the speakers' experience and making sure the session goes live at the right time. Also, your backstage team members will assist the moderators with questions to the audience. You see, if the speakers are connecting via a streaming platform, the moderators will not see the virtual stage, but the backstage, so someone needs to give them access to the questions. In the case of Get Together, our backstage managers simply copied the questions from the audience to the private StreamYard chat where the moderators could read them.
👉 Troubleshoot problems that may occur during the event
During the event, we had great help from Eventtia's Customer Support team. We also set up a support chat where attendees could post their issues regarding the event. The team was very attentive to each comment, making sure everyone had a pleasant and stress-free experience. Also, we recommend that if you are creating a virtual stage, set up a space with tutorials to teach your attendees how to navigate the platform, how to interact with other speakers and how to take advantage of the agenda.
👉 Continue promoting the event
When we started the event, our metrics showed almost 1,000 people had registered for the event. Still, we decided to live blog the event on LinkedIn and keep encouraging people to sign up for the live event. The idea was to arouse people's curiosity by sharing some interesting information or quote from a speaker during the previous session.
Each post had a call to action encouraging LinkedIn followers to sign up for the event, even though it was already in progress. The surprising thing was that this strategy helped us attract almost 200 more people to the event. The moral of the story is don't stop promoting and communicating your event, especially once it’s already underway. Normally, this element generates FOMO (fear of missing the opportunity to attend an event that is already taking place) and increases the rate of attendees.
👉 Run a competition to get to know more about your attendees
To get to know more about your attendees, consider running a competition in the way of a survey. This is what we did at Get Together. In the lefthand sidebar inside the virtual stage, we created a space for a post-event survey. By answering the survey, each person had the chance to win two bottles of mezcal offered by Casa Lumbre. What's more, to encourage people, we indicated that we were going to announce the winner at the end of the event.
The result? We encouraged a large number of attendees to leave their opinion about the event. This valuable information can be used to help us run better events and get more insight into who’s attending Get Together and why. Also, we have increased people's interest in staying with us until the end of the event.
👉 Publish pop-ups throughout the event
Another essential element is to be able to communicate with attendees during the event. Thanks to Eventtia and the configuration of the virtual stage, this is possible with pop-up notifications.
⚡After the event
👉 Send a thank-you email
This first step seems obvious but has to be mentioned: After the event, it is crucial to keep the relationship going with your attendees. The first action is to send them all a thank you email with the possibility to access the virtual stage in case they want to rewatch the event again or if they want to view a particular activity that they were not able to see during the event. Also, don't forget to send a thank-you email to everyone else that made the event possible.
👉 Create a post-event survey
As already discussed, we ran a competition during the event which required attendees to complete a survey. However, you’ll also want to get post-event feedback about the whole experience and to do that, you’ll need to run another survey. Importantly, this gives attendees a bit of time to digest how they found the event, providing you with plenty of insight on how to improve future virtual events.
To give you an idea of how this looked, here’s the survey…
Thank you for attending Get Together! Your feedback matters to us. That’s why we’ve created a quick, eight-question survey to get your opinion on Get Together and how we can improve for the next one.
- How satisfied were you with the event? Rating 1 to 5
- How did you find out about Get Together? Word of mouth, Ads, the LinkedIn event, Promotional emails, Social media
- How can we improve the next one? Open-ended
- Why did you decide to attend? Content, Speakers, Networking, Entertainment, Other, please specify
- What did you enjoy the most? Production, Audience interaction, Content, Entertainment, Networking
- What, if anything, did you dislike about this event? Open-ended
- How accessible/easy to navigate was the virtual event platform? Rating 1 to 5
- Do you have any other questions or feedback to share? Open-ended
A few pointers, keep the survey as short as possible, you want to make it as enticing as possible for your attendees. And provide a variety of questions - such as open-ended, a 1 to 5 rating, and single choice options - this way you’ll give yourself a selection of quantitative and qualitative answers, key for getting insightful data and improving future events.
👉 Run a debrief
After each event, it is crucial to bring the team together for a debrief. Here are the questions you should ask your organising team members:
- What worked during the event?
- What didn't work during the event?
- What details were missed?
- What are the areas for improvement?
- How will we nurture the relationship with the event attendees?
- How will we make the best use of the material we already have?
These meetings and conversations are very useful to identify how to improve the next version of the event and to simply share personal impressions and assessments.
👉 Decide how to reuse content from the event
Finally, compared to physical events, virtual events stay recorded ... forever. So it's a shame not to take advantage of the video content you've generated. You can either post the sessions on your company's YouTube account or you can edit the videos to produce short versions of the conversations with the speakers. You can even write articles, in which you share your experience in organising an event (like we’re doing here). All this will help you in your marketing efforts to increase the visibility of your brand and to bring more value to your audience.
👉 Final thoughts
As a team we came to a clear conclusion: organising events is a big challenge, but it is an activity that we are very excited about and that generates very powerful results and relationships. We will continue to organise events and grow the Get Together brand. All this, to bring marketing and communications professionals together, to generate value, to start difficult conversations, to encourage and inspire, and simply to connect people.