While some Event Organizers find virtual events more comfortable to manage, logistically speaking, this doesn't make it a walk in the park. With the physical distance between yourself, your speakers, and your audience, it can be hard to connect with and create the same opportunities for interaction. Without this connection, audiences and speakers alike can feel like virtual events provide less value than their traditional offline counterparts.
The result? Unsatisfied attendees and high drop out rates throughout the event. After all, with online summits, there is less incentive to stay logged in if you're not enjoying yourself - you don't have to get up from your seat and pass through a row of people to get to the exit.
If you're committed to providing a top-notch online event, here are our top 5 strategies to ensure success.
1. Involve and value your speakers
You've already put in the work to invite quality speakers to your event. It's important not to leave them in the lurch, and provide clear guidance to your speakers by setting clear expectations of them. For example - deadlines, talk content, and other support they may need. Check out all our tips on speaker management here.
Plus, if you have some speakers as event affiliates, keep them motivated via strategies like friendly contests. Stay connected via Facebook / Slack groups, and don't forget to share promotional assets like swipe copy, videos, or graphics with them. Speakers often juggle multiple roles - so the easier it is for them to share information with their followers, the more likely they'll do it!
2. Build hype around your event
Nothing builds momentum like an enthusiastic event organizer! No wonder 89% of event planners use social media to engage people before the event (EventMB, 2018). In the lead up to your event, you should ensure you're active on your social media pages/ groups. You could do a countdown to your big day with posts such as speaker profiles, contests, videos, articles related to your event theme - the possibilities are endless. Not only is it the best way to create excitement among your attendees, but it's also an excellent way for you to reach out to new audiences who come across your posts online and are encouraged to register for your event.
3. Use all event tools at your disposal
Your tech stack is an essential part of your event strategy. From the webinar platform you'll be using to connect speakers to attendees, to the medium you'll be using for promoting your summit. HeySummit makes summits entirely customizable - you can choose to design your landing pages without HeySummit branding and sell tickets from external platforms, amongst other things.
It's important to have your entire summit planned out so that you don't run into hiccups too close to launch day, especially if you'll need accounts for different platforms, or if you need to hire experts in coding or web design to manage different aspects of your summit. For example, will you use an external email marketing platform? If so, you'll need to disable the emails automatically sent by HeySummit. Will you have networking during your event? If so, you'd need a networking tool - think Zoom breakout rooms or dedicated software like Brella.
4. Engage and value your audience
Creating an engaging experience for your audience is vital. Organizations that didn't try to engage virtual event attendees were 150% more likely to be unsuccessful (Wild Apricot, 2020). There are various ways you can make sessions more interactive, including gamification, live chat function, surveys, and breakout rooms, to ensure you can hold your audience's attention throughout the event. Consider how long you want your attendees to be sitting in front of their screens - you can choose to spread the sessions over several days, or pepper relaxation/ mindfulness sessions throughout the day. You can read more tips on attendee engagement here.
Finally, your attendees are the best measure of success. We suggest sending out feedback surveys to find out where there's room for improvement for your next summit.
5. Hold a test run
While there's no sure-fire way to prevent technical or connectivity issues from happening during your summit, you can ensure everything within your control runs smoothly. We suggest holding a dry run of your event by creating a test event. You can run this anytime before launch day, making sure you give yourself enough time to work out any issues in your summit.
As an event organizer, you can preempt problems by briefing your hosts, speakers, and event attendees via instructional videos or handbooks. Attendees rarely get clear, detailed instructions on things event organizers often take for granted, such as 'how to access sessions when they go live', or 'how to access your agenda for each day'. You should also come up with some worse-case scenarios, like in the event of a speaker no show (Line up a backup speaker? Prepare a talk yourself?), tech not working as it should (How to best communicate this out to your audience?), or disengaged attendees (Have some team members attend sessions, and lead the audience participation?)