Online events are booming and are here to stay. This new way of remaining connected and fulfilling business and revenue goals has proved extremely successful and efficient. To benefit from the diverse assets of virtual events (think of the limitless audiences you can reach online and the creativity that technology allows for), you should give it some time to familiarize yourself with the concept and the gist of virtual events. We have put together a complete virtual event planning checklist to bring to your attention the ins and outs of virtual events. We want you to organize engaging events that will stay in attendees’ minds in the long-term and will give you the most return on investment. Here’s how.
1. Identify the Purpose of the Event
Think of your event as an opportunity for your target audience to come together for one common purpose. Hence, to attract attendees, you must define the why of your event, which should be a solution to a problem, or at least a contribution with some answers. For instance, you may run a UX conference to train and offer career advice to user experience designers.
On Balloon, you have endless opportunities to monetize your event, but keep in mind that generating revenue from your event and increasing sales of your product or service (i.e., moving your business forward) isn’t a purpose in itself. You expect your attendees to invest time and money in your event, so what will be their ROI? Why should they spend on your event? Reflect on your organization’s mission and vision, and align your event’s purpose with your values to entice attendees into a greater cause rather than an opportunistic pursuit.
2. Define the Goals of the Event
To define your event’s goals (e.g., increase sales by x%, get new leads, attract talent, etc.) you should answer a few questions again, but this time shift the attention from your audience to your organization and brand. Is your goal to raise brand awareness or launch a new service? Regardless of what you are aiming for with your virtual event, you should set specific and measurable goals. As a virtual event planner, it’s only natural that you drift from one task to another or rush around to get more done. To set clear and sustainable goals, think about how relevant they are to you and your audience, the timing of your event, and the elements within your control.
Once you set your event’s goals, you should be able to create an event strategy with a step-by-step guide, which will help you achieve them. After the event, you will only know if you achieved your goals by measuring their success. At Balloon, we are very data-driven. You can use Balloon's advanced analytics to map metrics to your goals and see how your event is performing. You can incorporate tools in your goals’ measurement, such as ticket sales, number of leads, and participation in stages and sessions. You can also track attendance and collect behavioral data via Google Analytics to better analyze your goals’ achievement.
3. Create a Virtual Event Budget
Virtual events can be more profitable than physical events because they don’t involve venues, travel expenses, food and hospitality services, entertainment, and on-site event staff. However, don’t let this assumption delay a thorough event budget plan. Sound budgeting starts with listing all your expenses without exception. Create a shared, collaborative spreadsheet to list each item (e.g., virtual event platform, digital technology and event production, event marketing, speakers’ fees, sponsors’ pack, post-event surveys, and thank you gifts), a description, its expected cost, and actual cost. There are many free online tools to get you started. Remember that every expense is an investment in your event, and after the event, the budget should help you calculate your event’s ROI.
It’s worth investing in secure and scalable technology to create exclusive online event experiences while keeping your budget under control. On Balloon you don't pay for no-shows, and you can select from three pricing plans, so you don’t compromise any features that will give your event that extra oomph. On Balloon you have guaranteed technical support before and during the event, chat tools, breakout sessions, and an interactive and aesthetically stimulating user interface for a holistic attendees’ experience.
4. Make an Event Content Plan
A content plan couldn’t be missing from the checklist of a successful virtual event, especially because it is paramount at all times — before, during, and after the event. Pre-event content should be informative and promotional, build hype around your event and convince people to register. During the event, the content, which is the lion’s share of your total content production, should keep your audience engaged and captivated. Post-event content maintains the relationship with your attendees in the long-term, helps you collect event-related feedback, and reminds your audience to register for your next event. Since content sharing across the event’s social media accounts is crucial for a top-notch event content plan, on Balloon, you can live stream your event via our backstage solution, Balloon Studio, which supports parallel live streaming to social media such as Facebook and Instagram.
Before you think whom you want to speak at your event (or ask your followers for suggestions), how many group discussions you should fit in, and the workshops’ themes make sure you have a clear picture of what your audience needs and talks about — what are your industry’s pain-points? Then, you can plan how you will send the message across. Here, the sky's the limit. Experts, sponsors, and exhibitors can share their thoughts on a topic or talk about industry trends in short videos or live sessions. If you are a skillful writer, you can blog about the challenges you faced organizing the event or the lessons learned after the event. Another content idea to add to your event content plan is to ask your speakers to answer pending questions in a video or blog, or share their presentations. On Balloon's pro pricing plan, you can download your stage/session recordings and share snippets on your social media accounts after the event to keep the conversation alive. Your content plan should include a content calendar indicating when and where (e.g., website, emails, social media accounts, etc.) you will promote your content.
5. Determine Virtual Event Technology Needs
The success of your virtual event relies significantly on technology. It is up to you to choose systems and digital tools that are quick to learn, will help you achieve your objectives, and increase your event’s ROI. At Balloon, we deliver an end-to-end solution — from selling tickets and collecting payments to running the event and analyzing data. You can be certain that everything we do is about enabling you to build a profitable business. To this end, we offer a seamless registration experience and an intuitive event technology to customize your event as per your brand’s needs and audience’s expectations.
When deciding on a virtual event platform, consider what type of customer and technical support they offer. On Balloon, you can contact the support team via email or a chat system, or you can look for answers to the most frequently asked questions on Balloon’s Help Center page. If you're not sure which Balloon plan is the right plan for you and your organization, ask us for a demo or a live session to demonstrate our platform’s capabilities and how it can serve your event based on its size, sessions, and content. Balloon's earnings calculator introduces transparency and will help you make sense of our pricing and your potential earnings. Finally, do dry-runs and rehearsals with the event participants (e.g., speakers, etc.) so that they understand how to best use the platform and secure the basics for a professional streaming video and audio setup.
6. Promote the Virtual Event
Despite all the effort to organize a great virtual event, if you don’t promote it, you will not get the participation you were hoping for, let alone achieve monetization growth. It’s never too early to start engaging your audience and build anticipation and excitement around your event to increase ticket sales. Pre-event marketing usually begins with coming soon announcements on social media and emails. At this stage, you want to spread curiosity among your audience, who will stay tuned for more information until it’s registration time.
Incorporate blog posts in the promotion process to profile key speakers, introduce themes that you will discuss at the event, and showcase your sponsors’ expertise. Whenever you mention speakers, sponsors, and other key partners tag them so that they feel incentivized to amplify your promotion efforts on social media. Short videos perform exceptionally well on social media, and they don’t have to be a professional production to pass the message across and capture the audience's attention. Remember that your event’s promotion doesn’t have to come only from you — nudge event’s speakers, exhibitors, and sponsors to become event ambassadors by sharing your posts or creating original posts with your event’s dedicated hashtag. When you email your audience, advertise the types of tickets and discounts, and send reminders on the days leading to your event. On Balloon, you can create tickets with a certain validity period (e.g., early bird) or limited quantity (e.g., VIP) to create a sense of urgency and scarcity that may lead to faster and bigger ticket sales. A registration page is central to promoting your event. On Balloon, you can create a personalized registration page with the event’s agenda, speakers, and exhibitors that won’t go unnoticed.
7. Find Virtual Event Sponsors
A prominent sponsor can add considerable prestige to your event, help you reach a wider audience, and guarantee more event attendees. However, before you fall for any big name, consider whether your audiences match and you share similar values. If the answer is yes, think of how you will convince them to sponsor your virtual event, especially if online events sponsorship is a new venture for them. In any case, a sponsor will invest money in your event and help you achieve your goals, but will gain exposure and audience engagement.
To attract sponsors, you must show them that your event will help them meet their objectives (e.g., brand awareness, leads generation, etc.), and there will be tangible ROI for them. In fact, on Balloon, sponsors can increase their ROI through sponsor-dedicated stages, networking sessions, sponsored-run talks and panels, live streaming, and lead-generation call-to-action buttons. Include such and other benefits (e.g., banners, social media and email marketing, post-event analytics, etc.) in a proposal, divided into tiers depending on what you offer and how much it will cost to the sponsor. Being proactive with your potential sponsors should help you find the most suitable (and generous) sponsors for your event.
8. Inform Potential Attendees of the Online Event Agenda
Your audience should know what you invite them to sign for, and therefore, be able to make an informed decision about whether it’s worth investing their time and money. During the event, deliver what your attendees expect, but some moments of surprise (e.g., stealth speakers, gifts, etc.) can be a huge plus.
Once you have the event content plan (see #4), create and distribute an event agenda to convert as many people from your audience to attendees. To this end, you need a highly-organized, straightforward event agenda, which will keep attendees on track. People will register for your event because of something that caught their attention from the event agenda. Is the schedule relevant to your audience’s work and interests? Which sessions are the most helpful? Who is leading the workshops? Include in the agenda networking activities, competitions, games, and Q&A sessions, which will be available only to those who show up live.
Choose a virtual event platform that will help you put together an interactive and digestible agenda with the what, where, and when. On Balloon, you can build a functional itinerary by providing general information, the event’s schedule, speakers’ profiles, and an exhibitors’ list. To boost personalization, Balloon allows attendees to add event sessions to their Outlook and Google calendars, as well as iOS and Android calendars. Also, attendees receive event reminders 24 hours and just before the event starts.
9. Engage Virtual Event Attendees
Virtual events run the risk of ending up being a passive experience. Keep your attendees’ attention span alive with passionate and knowledgeable speakers whose authenticity will motivate your audience to ask questions, share quotes on social media, and stay tuned for lined-up speakers. To keep your audiences engaged, encourage them to ask questions using their camera and mic or through the chatbox throughout a session. On Balloon, event participants can search attendees, see who’s online, and start a chat or request a video call.
Attendees want to feel that the event helps them grow professionally and personally. So, make the most of your virtual event platform’s tools and encourage participants to connect, exchange ideas and tips. Networking on Balloon can be on a one-on-one basis or group networking at a cocktail table. Use your event’s promotion (#6) as an opportunity to engage your audience with teasers about your event’s themes, speakers, exhibitors, and prizes. During the event, encourage participants to use the event’s dedicated hashtag when posting event-related content on social media. Continue using the hashtag after the event to extend conversations with attendees through comments, feedback, and follow-ups.
Turn breakout sessions into short and fun workshops, which link to the main event. During general and roundtable breakout sessions on Balloon, attendees can actively participate with their mic and camera on, or jump into the conversation whenever they want to engage. Also, breakout sessions can be public or accessible only to VIP attendees or specific ticket-holders and they can have moderators or not among many other configuration options. Overall, breakout sessions are made of small groups and usually, due to their workshop-like structure, lead to vivid conversations, meaningful mingling, and interactive problem-solving. For more in-depth guidance, read our blog on how to improve attendees engagement in virtual events.
10. Collect and Analyze Data
Collecting and analyzing data will help you get to know your attendees, increase the revenue of your next event, and calculate ROI for sponsors and your organization. In other words, data is key to the success of your virtual event. On Balloon all pricing plans provide advanced, real-time analytics (e.g., ticket sales, attendees per stage, networking volume, chat participation, etc.), which you can access during and after the event. You can also add your own Google Analytics tracking code to your event to monitor real-time traffic and export registrations with data. Knowing who showed up at your event and for which stages is pivotal for improving your event’s performance, engaging with your audience, and generating more sales of your products or services.
11. Provide Opportunity for Networking
When assembling the event’s agenda (see #8), remember to leave space for networking opportunities. Encourage attendees to introduce themselves and establish meaningful connections by taking interesting conversations to breakout sessions and roundtables. What makes events truly memorable are these serendipitous moments like bumping into someone. At Balloon, we optimize for serendipity, making it easier to find yourself in these moments.
Networking begins well before the event and can be instigated through social media accounts, emails, and the online event platform. Invite attendees to introduce themselves by using the event’s hashtag, following and replying to threads, and filling their profile forms. On Balloon, you will find the right technology and features for effective networking. For instance, participation is highly encouraged during live sessions, and you have the option to simultaneously live stream your event to Facebook and Instagram where new conversations and interactions may kick-off.
12. Send Attendees a Feedback Survey
The event is over, but there are more tasks to work on, such as creating, distributing, and collecting the attendees’ feedback survey. The post-event survey is an excellent way to obtain valuable comments and criticism about your online event. Did attendees think the speakers were engaging? Which sessions did they enjoy the most? Did they engage with the virtual event’s exhibitors? If completed and submitted, a feedback survey will reveal what you did well, what you could improve, and what you should not repeat during your next online event.
To obtain useful information about attendees’ likes and dislikes, you must ask the right questions and convince people to answer them. Questions can be open-ended (Why did you attend this event?), yes-no questions (Did the event meet your expectations? Did you network with any event sponsors?), and rating scale or drop-down questions (How likely are you to recommend this event to a friend? How satisfied are you with the number/quality of sessions?) You can create surveys with easy-to-use tools such as SurveyMonkey and Google Forms. Remember to send the survey immediately after the event, while attendees have the event experience fresh in their minds.
Alternatively or supplementarily, you can include a link for attendees to schedule a feedback call via tools like Calendly so that you can gather more qualitative data and greater insights. Make sure to make the most of the call by listening more, speaking less, and moderating the discussion when required. Last but not least, incentivize customers to leave a review on a reviews site, such as Google Reviews and TrustPilot.
13. Analyze the Virtual Event Data
Data enhances the experience, boosts innovation, maximizes revenue, and mitigates risk. But to make the most of it, you should define what questions you want to answer. For example, define a few KPIs such as attendance, cost-per-acquisition, etc. to avoid paralysis-by-analysis. This will help you steer through the tons of information, focus on the right data, draw accurate conclusions, and make decisions.
Before starting to analyze your event’s data i) ask exact questions (to be able to get specific answers) ii) locate data in time (for instance, data collected before, during, and after the event) and iii) organize data. Besides ticket sales and attendees’ demographics, data, along with critical thinking and additional research from your side, can reveal a lot about your event. How satisfied are attendees with the virtual event experience? How much did they engage during sessions? How many breakout sessions did they check-in? Also, data will boost your relationship with sponsors since you will provide them with advanced analytics about their popularity, such as virtual booth visits, lead generation, and sales.
To benefit from this information, you must know how to extract the right data (e.g., open rates, click rates, etc.) and put aside the data that it’s just noise. On Balloon, we offer real-time analytics, which you can access during and after the event, and continuously update the platform with new metrics and insights. You can also add your own Google Analytics tracking code to your event to monitor real-time traffic.
14. Share the Results of Virtual Event with Stakeholders
The bigger the event, the more stakeholders you will have, and the more effort you will need to put into getting to know them and keeping them engaged and happy for your event’s sake. Your event’s stakeholders will vary from sponsors and exhibitors to the marketing team, community managers, and technology suppliers. To organize a successful event, you must interact with all stakeholders throughout the event’s timeline, and ensure that they all feel valued and benefited from it.
Various stakeholders influence your event distinctively, expect other things from it, and measure success differently. By keeping them engaged and in the loop, you will set clear expectations among stakeholders, and be less likely to encounter conflicts, disappointments, and poor performance along the way. Don’t interrupt communication with stakeholders as soon as the event is over. They will also want to know about the event’s outcomes and success and whether they achieved good ROI. Share any relevant data with stakeholders, and where possible, personalize it so you show understanding of their values and objectives, and can support in achieving them. A good rapport and last impression among stakeholders may open doors for future collaborations.
15. Plan Your Next Virtual Event
One of the key benefits of virtual events is the reduced operational costs and effort required to set them up and host them. This allows you to have much more recurring business compared to physical events. So it’s not too soon to start planning your next virtual event. Depending on your event’s size and how soon it will go live, you can decide on the team and the deadlines you will advance with. If you are satisfied with the virtual event platform that helped you build your previous event, you have one less thing to worry about. It’s a big advantage to work with a platform that already meets your needs and requirements. At Balloon, we continuously innovate on the product and work closely with event organizers to extend the platform and deliver new value. We are always open to new ideas. Feel free to reach out!
Create a new virtual event planning checklist with your next event’s dates, goals, and budget. Decide on the speakers you would like to invite, and get in touch with keynote speakers well in advance because they are always more challenging to book. Evaluate your sponsors’ satisfaction as a result of their investment in your event, and approach them again for your next event if your collaboration was fruitful. During the planning of your next event, keep the agenda fluid and stakeholders informed about improvements and adjustments, and be flexible to accommodate last-minute requests or changes.
Now that you know how to get a virtual event right, you can focus on completing each task at a time. Balloon can help you deliver your event’s content in a modern and high-quality manner. Check out Balloon’s tips and resources for organizers, chat with our team on Balloon’s homepage, or contact the team via email to guide you through.