5 Steps To Planning an Online Event

When you get started with your first event, there are a few things you’ll want to make sure you have considered as you get things rolling.

  1. Why are you doing this event?
  2. Who will be your audience (and therefore, what type of content will attract them)?
  3. Who will be your speaker(s)?
  4. Do you want sponsors? If so, who will your sponsors be?
  5. How will you market your event to your potential attendees?

Why Are You Doing the Event?

This question is key because it will drive your choices for all of the others.  Your typical choices are 1) to generate awareness of your brand, product and/or service, 2) to generate sales, 3) to generate leads, or 4) to create dedicated fans of your products and/or services.  These choices impact the type of sessions you’ll want to have in your virtual conference.  It’s a simple thing after deciding this, then, to drive the content agenda and make your selections for what will best serve your attendees, speakers and sponsors for your virtual event.

Keep in mind that no matter what reason you have for doing the event, no one wants to come simply to attend a sales presentation.  Make sure you have good materials and informative presentations with worth-while information.  Work with your presenters to produce good information that includes how-to instruction, tips, tricks, and lessons learned.  This not only gives the attendees a solid take-away from the sessions in your virtual event, but also establishes the speaker’s knowledge.

Who Will Your Audience Be?
Determining your audience will drive the types of content that you’ll need to present in your sessions for your event.  For example: if the audience is of a managerial level, you’ll want to have information on that level that they can use.  Putting out information on the nuts and bolts might be less useful while how to manage or help others that you’re working with may be more interesting to these types of folks.

Try thinking about a “model” attendee or attendees.  This means trying to think of an imaginary person that represents your target attendee.  Use this model person to drive your decisions on content, duration of your event and so-on.  You can have more than one, but limit the number of model attendees to two or three.  This can keep the scope from becoming too broad for your event.

Some areas to consider (as examples):

  • What types of information would be most helpful to your model attendee(s)?
  • What level of information (think on a college course scale, 100, 200, 300) should be presented?
  • What would make the virtual conference a truly excellent experience?  “If only I could learn about…

Cater your content to that model attendee.

Who Will Be Your Speakers?
Speaker selection is a key element to the marketing of your virtual conference.  People are very interested in coming to hear from people that have “been there, done that.”  In studies completed by vConferenceOnline, attendees were more interested to hear from real-life experiences and less interested in presenters that relied solely on their name recognition.  Of course the best of all worlds is a speaker that will talk from experience and knowledge, while at the same time being well-known in the industry.

Do You Want Sponsors?
If so, this adds a layer of complexity, but certainly helps to pay for the event as well.  Make sure your sponsors are closely related to the topic at hand.  If you’ll be doing a virtual conference in the B2B marketplace about a technology idea, having a sponsor talking about planting a garden might not be the best fit.  People do look at the sponsors to get a feel for the types of information that will be presented, so seeing sponsors in the same field and in related areas is optimal.

Consider having multiple packages available for sponsorships.  You can offer “Bronze,” “Silver,” and “Gold” packages for example.  Each level can and should have different price points and features.  Perhaps one is a logo-only and the top package includes a sponsored session in the virtual conference.  You should work closely with your virtual event platform provider to determine best package ideas for your audience, but typical considerations include elements available to attendees, access to attendee marketing lists, logo placement and promotion before, during and after sessions as the event progresses.

How Will You Market Your Event?
The final piece will help determine the attendee-success of your event.  You should take careful stock of how you’ll market the event.  This will typically include your different sources of attendee information:

  • Email lists
  • Snail-mail lists
  • Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.)
  • Other customer lists
  • Partner lists and customer contacts

You can use this to determine your target, and lay out a marketing plan.  You’ll want to make sure you provide excellent information about your virtual event, provide a taste of the virtual conference platform and show people what to expect at the event.  A sample video with the platform and the sessions is helpful, as can be an introductory video from a key presenter or two.  Keep it short and sweet and make sure that people understand what they’ll get (remember: you defined the target attendee and what they’d want from the event above in a prior section) when they attend your virtual conference.

Target your contacts as much as possible, reach out to people with a well thought-out message and offer and you can be amazed at how people will respond to excellent content and participants for your virtual event.

Have a great virtual conference event!

Events, Conferences, Continuing Education and More

Understanding Different Types of Events
I realize that the name of our platform might lead some to think that we only do conferences online. However, there are so many different kinds of events that you can create with any online event platform.

Conferences
These may be the most popular and well known types of events simply because there are so many and they generally happen in every area of interest. From finances to comic books, there are people with like interests that need to gather and communicate. For the most part these consist of keynote sessions to start off and general sessions combined with a show floor or exhibition hall for vendors to tout their offerings to attendees.

Depending on the area of interest you’re probably going to a conference for the sessions or the exhibits. A subgroup to conferences would be shows or exhibition events for vendors. The attendees at these events only represent a very small portion of the actual audience for their topics.  Many can’t get away from their daily lives or simply can’t afford to travel and attend.

Continuing Education (CE)
This is also a very popular type of event. In most professional industries there is some sort of CE implemented to keep pros up to date. There are requirements and standards that must be met to qualify for these CE credits. Professionals are usually busy, and time is money, so fitting in travel or even leaving the office for CE is usually a struggle.

Training
Training events are usually done on a smaller scale in person. There will be an instructor going over hours if not days worth of courseware with a select group of people. Some training programs will do a circuit or tour run to try and reach as many people in different locations as possible. Still, the reach is limited and you have an instructor repeatedly delivering material to a small audience. This requires higher registration prices due to trainer costs and can eliminate some potential trainees due to travel or costs.

Promotions
Marketers have long been creating events to attract attention to their product or services.  A company may be releasing a new product and they want to tell the press or educate potential customers/clients. In many of these situations these are small events that require their attendees to travel.

If you are starting to see the trend, you’ll see the advantages of Online Events. Factor in time and costs for travel, food, lodging and attendance charges and you may see why in person events have seen a decline in attendance.

One final tip: give the people what they want. In today’s world, individuals and businesses are accustomed to instant gratification. Everything is at their fingertips thanks to the internet. If your information isn’t easily available to the world they will find another option as quickly as type, point and click. The good news is all of these events and more can be done online.