In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, few industries are feeling the effects of social distancing as strongly as the events industry. These tough times are forcing organizers to get creative in how their events are hosted and some are turning to virtual events. The following six tips will help you make the most of your event, even when it can’t be held in person.
1. Consider what your event can bring to the web
First, evaluate if and how your event can even be held virtually. In most cases, a virtual event will be more of a consolation than a substitution for a live event. You will likely still want to offer refunds or transfers for ticket holders, but holding the event in some virtual aspect could help soften the blow for disappointed fans.
For musical events, see if any of the artists would be willing to record or perform a live set for ticket holders. For other events, think about which parts of your event could be adapted for the web. Performances, auctions, demonstrations and speaking seminars are all things that could either be broadcast live or recorded for a virtual event. Start brainstorming, then reach out to those involved with your event about how they can participate.
2. Come up with a game plan
Moving your event to the World Wide Web is more than just a change of venue; it’s almost like planning an entirely new event. Before hosting a virtual event, ask yourself and your event planning team the following questions:
- What kind of experience do you want to deliver?
- Will the event be live, on demand or both?
- Where do you want the content to be seen (i.e. Facebook, your website, a virtual event hosting platform, etc.)?
- What technology will you need?
- What can your vendors bring to the event?
- When is the best time for the event?
- Will it only be open to ticket holders of your original event, or will you open it to all?
- How will you promote the event?
- Will people still have access to the event once it’s over?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll be able to start putting together a strategy that will eventually become your virtual event.
3. Keep vendors and sponsors in mind
For virtual concerts, shows and music festivals, it’s a no-brainer that you’ll need to get performers on board. After all, they’re the stars of the show. But for all events, including fairs, festivals, conferences and conventions, don’t forget about your sponsors and vendors. They, too, were looking forward to and maybe even relying on the exposure your event would bring to their businesses. Plus, you want them to return next year, so think of how you can include them in the virtual festivities.
One way to include vendors in a virtual event is to allow them to host a video segment. For example, food vendors are a big part of state and county fairs. Offering each food vendor the opportunity to record a video of them making their top menu item and then sharing it on your social media pages not only gives the vendor the exposure they’re missing at the fair, but it gives fans a taste of what they’re missing and builds excitement for the fair next year.
4. Promote, promote, promote
Now that you have a plan, start promoting it! Ideally, you would announce your virtual event at the same time you announce the cancellation of your in-person event. However, most events were canceled so abruptly, event organizers didn’t have time to even consider a virtual event plan.
Start by promoting your event to original ticket holders via email. Then, start marketing the event in all the same ways you would a live event: social media, ads, email marketing, etc. If there are vendors, sponsors, speakers, performers or other parties participating in the event, put together a media kit for them to promote to their audiences as well and expand your reach even further.
5. Test your technology
With hundreds to thousands of people tuning into your virtual event, the worst thing that could happen is a technology failure. Test everything well in advance so you can remedy any issues and plan for possible glitches. This is especially important when hosting a live virtual event. It’s helpful to run a dress rehearsal with a test audience to ensure your cameras, microphones, network and any other equipment are all up and running smoothly. Poor production quality can make a lasting impression. So, if your event relies heavily on audio/video, consider renting or investing in microphones or cameras that are at least a step up from those built in to your computer.
6. Encourage engagement
Since attendees are missing out on the interactive experience of attending your live event, you should create opportunities for engagement. With social media, there are endless opportunities to engage attendees before, during and after the event that will help them feel like a part of the production and can also help create buzz around the event.
If contests or competitions were part of your original event, see how you can hold them virtually. For music festivals or speaking events, consider hosting behind-the-scenes Q&A sessions, where attendees can submit questions to be answered by the performers.You can also ask people to participate in polls or quizzes and encourage live tweeting and other social media engagement.
One great example of a virtual event is the Clay County Agricultural Fair in Florida, which recently hosted a virtual fair after the live fair was canceled due to COVID-19. Not only did Clay County come up with an exciting virtual schedule that engaged their audience, especially kids while they’re out of school, but they also involved their vendors and got everyone talking and sharing about the virtual fair on social media…all while preserving the spirit of the fair. Check out the schedule of events for inspiration for your virtual event.
We know the hard work and passion that goes into planning an event, and it’s heartbreaking to see how the pandemic is affecting our industry. But we are continuously inspired by the spirit of the events industry and everyone getting creative to deliver the best experience possible during these trying times. As always, feel free to reach out to us with questions regarding event cancellations and how you can protect your future events. We’ll all get through this together!