How To Turn Virtual Events Into Successful Business Meetings: A Complete Guide

Virtual events are becoming more and more popular. For small business owners, they can be an efficient, cost-effective way to expand your business. 

Hosting or attending an online conference is not easy -- yet many organizations are doing it. Events are made to build relationships, gather insight and educate. 

This is especially true of business events where the objective is to establish personal connections and showcase thought leadership. 

In a virtual event, You will need to keep participants interested in the presentation and conversation throughout the event, and the appropriate technologies may help you do so. This guide will take you through the steps to ensure that you get the most out of your virtual event by converting leads into customers.

What is a virtual event and how does it work?

Virtual event

A virtual event is a planned meeting that allows a group of people to interact, share ideas, and have fun together. Virtual events are only distinguished from physical events by the fact that they take place online rather than in person. A virtual event does not need any specific equipment. It is also known as a webinar, which is a portmanteau of web and seminar.

The meeting takes place online, with the help of one or more web-based technologies, such as websites, wikis, email, live chat rooms, or text messages. Meeting participants connect to the virtual event using their computers, smartphones, or other devices. Online events are hosted either by the participants themselves or by an event management company.

Virtual events are a great option for companies that want to save money on travel, don't have time to fly abroad, or who want to hold a meeting more cost-effectively. It is a meeting that occurs in an online environment and brings together people from different locations. The virtual event can be recorded and archived for future use, the presenter can make changes depending on feedback from participants, and there is no need to worry about having enough space or equipment since everything will be provided by the host company.

How to plan your next virtual event? 

Virtual event planning

To create a successful event, it’s essential to have a well-planned schedule. The planning phase of the event is the time when you determine the budget, venue, timeline, and other aspects that are vital for an event. It’s also the time when you have to decide on what type of event you want to host. The strategy for this phase is about developing a clear plan to prepare for the different phases of your virtual conference.

The first step is to figure out what type of event you are hosting. A virtual event can be a webinar, conference, or any other kind of meeting that doesn't require the presence of people in person at the same time.

Once you know what type of event you are hosting, you need to consider who your audience will be and what they might need from the event in order to make their experience as enjoyable as possible. From this information, you can create a detailed agenda plan with specific deadlines for each phase of your event.

Events are an important part of organizations' marketing strategies today because they provide valuable networking opportunities that can lead to new connections and future business opportunities

The following are examples of successful virtual events. The first example originates from the branding company, TargetMarketing, and is titled "Online Marketing AMA." The video is an hour long and covers the bases of questions about branding via the internet. The second example comes from Ted Talks and is titled "How I Hacked Online Dating." This video is about how an online dating service was able to take advantage of the needs of online daters to quickly grow its user base.

Strategies for planning phase in a virtual Event

Ask why you need to create an event? 

Each of your events should have a clear purpose. There is no point in holding an event with not enough ideas or staffing. Involving our team can help us understand how to make each event special by adding a focus on ensuring the event has the features it requires for success, along with what attendees need to achieve their goals during the engagement.

So start by stripping down your event to its foundation of pillars - what’s critical for the success of your organization? What benefits do you want potential customers or partners to walk away with? Knowing these things will establish a solid foundation so you can build up from there using expertise and creativity to create something meaningful!

Understand your business objectives or the KPI's. 

Understanding KPIs

  • Creating brand awareness 
  • Generating leads
  • Customer loyalty program 
  • Growth in Membership

Return to your event plan and remind yourself of the objectives. If you no longer remember what they are, explore them instead! 

At this point, it might sound repetitive but you must define exactly what your specific purpose is for your event in concrete terms that can be easily measured. This will make it much easier for you to ensure success because there are some key performance indicators (KPIs) that need to be outlined ahead of time. 

This may seem obvious but it’s crucial to bear in mind these KPIs as part of the initial planning process so you have clear parameters on which to base things like how you construct your agenda, set up lighting arrangements, select first-rate speakers, gather vital marketing materials etc. 

Double-check if your KPIs and business goals can be achieved through a Virtual event?  

Customer dashboard

Going back to the drawing board once you have determined your objectives, why not take a moment to check if they are worth pursuing? Does your event have the foundations it needs to be feasible? If so, what does its policy need changing to?

For instance, if you organized an event to train attendees, would the material retain its integrity if presented virtually for all attendees to learn later? If an in-person event was held with little interaction between presenters and attendees, converting it into a virtual environment will be relatively easy. However, what about events that involve networking? 

Although virtual events are here to stay, the whole concept is still relatively new. There are only a few companies that fully understand how they should best utilize them. You need to understand that event strategy just boils down to two things - have people join your online sessions for a specific purpose aka have people join your online sessions for a specific reason and give them an agenda! And to do this you need to rethink the very essence of what an event or meetup could be used for. You may have organized numerous events in the recent past but are you doing so by applying the very same principles?

The types of events and expected attendee behaviour are incredibly diverse. There's no one-size-fits-all definition for a successful event and the expectations and needs of many participants and marketers may change from year to year or even day today.

The key is to keep an open mind, be flexible and willing to experiment with new technologies that make it easier than ever before to engage your target audience as well as provide valuable marketing insights at scale. 

While you can develop best practices as you go, start small and learn as much as possible about what methods work best for different types of attendees.

For example, identifying those who engage deeply with rich media content vs those who enjoy browsing photos vs those who like chatting with representatives on the phone to learn about extra features might help you differentiate between how and when you should present information and drive attendees towards making a purchase.

The Challenges and How to Overcome Them in a Virtual Event? 

Virtual meetings have a lot of challenges that need to be overcome. These challenges can vary from slowing down collaboration to not being able to make eye contact with your colleagues. However, there are a few ways to overcome these challenges and make the virtual meeting experience as smooth as possible.

Some of the most common challenges in a virtual meeting include:

Losing the track of attendee engagement

Virtual event attendes engagement

The hardest part for firms who do live events is that oftentimes they lose the people who attended the event and want to market to them down the funnel. Using a tool like Eventbrite's social media sharing features and drip email marketing is a great way to help the attendees continue to grow in the funnel and assist them in overcoming challenges. While there is a heavy reliance on guest lists, having an event that is really targeted and leads your attendees to engage with other follow up marketing activities will help you grow your list and keep the leads fresh in the pipeline.

For many firms these days, it's difficult to keep track of what attendees are doing after the live events have ended because they lose them amongst other engagements. The people who plan the events should attempt to try and send attendees down a funnel to other engagements or marketing activities based on the context of what they were attending in the first place!

Personalization: 

  • Losing eye contact with colleagues
  • Lack of div language cues

When it comes to attending business events in person, networking is a lot easier than it is when one is participating remotely. Some virtual events might even feel like they've turned into little more than live television broadcasts with little time for attendees to talk directly with one another and hardly any opportunities for participants to actually connect and get on the same page. But there are a variety of approaches to overcoming these kinds of challenges and some even make it possible for people who aren't physically in the same place at the same time to still connect with one another. 

An excellent example of such an approach is using a technology that allows participants access to what's called a digital booth where people can simply walk up and chat with representatives about their concerns and needs while getting on the same page in regard to others attending the event who have similar interests.

Technical problems:

technical problems

Full of energy, highly anticipatory, personal and interactive - virtual events are none of these things. Regrettably, this misconception is held by almost every event planner. It's not uncommon for virtual conferences to have all the above-mentioned characteristics but it doesn't have to be that way. Of course, full engagement is something that will always be crucial to the success of an event. However, technology will likely never compete with human interaction because that's just how lively events are created - through live networking! 

The most important element in replicating this experience is training. Training does more than just familiarize you with best practices or provide access to stagecraft. You'll prioritise your learning on what you need specifically for your organisation/business whatever it may be whether it's customer service or new business skills. This method will ensure you are getting proper personalisation for what you really need!

Security: 

Security & Privacy

Recently there has been an increased interest in online events and presentations. With this new trend, there has also been a sharp increase in virtual events being hacked by so-called "Zoombombing." Event organizers across the nation have had a difficult time keeping their attendees' data secure. This is a result of event managers not taking the proper precautions to secure their events, particularly when it comes to private information. There is a major lack of security surrounding online presentation platforms. 

The best course of action for these planners is making the switch from single-time use presentation software to one that specializes in meetings, events, and presentations all rolled into one!

Summary: 

Virtual event technology is improving every year and with the technology available, anyone can host an event that will impress their attendees.  

We hope you enjoyed our article about tips for the next generation of virtual event planners. Have you ever thought about becoming a virtual event planner? The virtual event planning industry is growing rapidly because the demand for better, more customized events is increasing.

It’s an exciting time to be an event planner! If you are interested in starting a career in event planning, be sure to check out our virtual event planning platform at our services.