While the COVID-19 pandemic response has sent everyone home to work, companies are also seeing their in-person employee and customer events canceled or indefinitely postponed.
However, there is an alternative that can keep communication and revenue flowing in these uncertain times. Turn your all-hands meetings and customer seminars and gatherings into virtual events.
Virtual events let you stay in touch with employees through live-streaming Town Halls, and host customer seminars to showcase strategies and solutions. Before you get started, though, consider these five keys to a successful virtual event.
Make your virtual event interactive
Start by building choosing your presenters and building your agenda. Try to select a host who is comfortable using online tools and can engage a virtual audience. For example, someone with experience leading webinars is a desirable choice for your virtual events.
If your team hasn’t presented online in the past, just allow time for practice so they can get comfortable with the technology and engaging the audience online.
Since your attendees will be remote, it’s essential to work interactive elements into your virtual event agenda to encourage participation. You’ll also discourage participants from attending in listen-only mode while multitasking.
Some ideas include:
- Allow attendees to ask or submit questions on the materials
- Take polls about activities related to the presentation
- The presenter can ask the question and ask attendees to respond in the chatbox
- Include an open Q&A Session
- Share downloadable content via the chat window
- Add a mix of material such as a live speaker with slides, and recorded video
For smaller events, include a live Q&A session where you can turn the audience’s mics on. For larger meetings, ask participants to submit written questions in the chat or Q&A boxes.
Allow the presenter to focus on presenting while another team member monitors the chat and Q&A window and passes questions on to the host. Add a few minutes at the beginning of the session for the host or event coordinator to review the question procedure with attendees.
End your session by thanking everyone for attending and reviewing how you will follow up with the audience.
Encourage people to attend
Once you have your virtual event plan, it’s time to invite guests to register and attend your event. Your plan can include sending out regular communications, ensuring invites have your contact information, and offering incentives to attendees.
Schedule a regular cadence of invitation and reminders emails
While everyone has good intentions to attend your event, they may forget or lose motivation when other issues consume their day. It’s helpful to build an email invite and reminder schedule to encourage people to attend your virtual event.
It may look something like this:
- Invite 1: four weeks prior
- Invite 2: one week prior
- Invite last chance: one week prior
- Confirmation email with session instructions: ongoing upon registration
- Reminder to attend 1: one week prior
- Reminder to attend 2: one day prior
Include contact information
Potential attendees may have questions about your event content or technical issues with the online registration. Include a contact email and phone number in all your email communications.
Assign a team member to answer calls and check emails to respond to questions quickly. Be prepared to take phone registrations if need.
Office incentives to participate
If your budget allows, consider offering an incentive to attend the event. Use items that are easy to deliver electronically after the event.
Some ideas include:
- e-gift cards for coffee or online shop
- Long-form, value-added content such as an eBook or white paper
Choose your virtual event solution
For complex sessions, such as an all-hands virtual Town Hall live stream, you may want to enlist the help of a video production partner. Your partner can manage the production and quickly resolve any technical issues.
You can host smaller events on your preferred meeting platform like Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, or Zoom. Be sure to activate all privacy features for your meeting, such as requiring a meeting password and restricting who can share content on the screen.
Also, check your app subscription to ensure you can host the expected number of attendees and record the event. Upgrade your platform if needed.
Hold a dress rehearsal
It’s helpful to do a complete run-through of the presentation before your live virtual event. Have all presenters and staff ensure all technical elements are working.
A dress rehearsal will help you:
- Show the host and presenters know how to log on, take control of the session, and share content and video
- Learn how to mute and unmute all attendees to avoid noise
- Test everyone’s mics, cameras, speakers, and Internet connections
- Time each part of the session to see if you need to streamline your content, and ensure you allow time for audience Q&A
Follow up after the live stream
As with any event, it’s essential to follow up with attendees after the session to keep the conversation flowing.
Town Hall virtual events can include a survey or an email with the recording. Customer event follow-up can be managed by marketing or by sending qualified leads to your sales team.
Provide email templates with any slides and content that the host shared during the event. Offer attendees the option to subscribe to your e-newsletter program and send content relevant to the event presentations.
If your virtual event promoted a solution, consider adding an incentive to purchase in your follow-up communications.