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How to Plan & Host an Incredible Virtual Event

With stage events coming to a dramatic halt during the COVID-19 pandemic, event planners and speakers are forced to pivot. To stay agile during this uncertain time, many companies are beginning to host virtual events

But for some event planners and speakers, this will be their first time presenting digitally. It’s a whole new playing field— and some of the normal rules of the physical event game are changing to accommodate virtual hosting. 

Whether you’re new to planning digital events online or not, these tips can help you kick your digital broadcast up a notch:

1. Pick the right speaker and host.

This is without a doubt the most important element of planning and hosting an incredible virtual event: booking incredible talent. Your speaker and host are the driving force behind your show. The audience wants to feel entertained, and the people you hire need to translate their charisma and wisdom across the screen.

Remember, as the event planner, you could do all the right things to guarantee a fabulous event— but no matter how much work you put in, a bad speaker means your event will likely be a flop. 

When looking for the right speaker and moderator for your digital webinar or conference, be sure to consider their previous virtual experience (not just their stage work), their ability to create appealing visual content that translates well over listeners’ computer screens and these other important factors found on our blog. 

Check out our recommendations for speakers bureaus to start your hunt here.

2. Recommend that your speaker incorporates interactivity.

It’s common for big-name speakers to have their own presentation decks already prepared. When screening talent, don’t be afraid to ask if they would do a private run-through with you to help make a final decision. 

It’s during this time that you can test how flexible the speaker would be to making necessary adjustments that’ll promise a better event. If a speaker is too attached to their deck to incorporate fun activities to entertain your digital audience, you may want to continue your search.

Games and interactive presentations that involve your listeners help to foster friendly competition, promote play, create a sense of teamwork, and more. These are all wonderful ways to breed connections amongst your audience! Plus, there’s a neuroscience benefit for incorporating gamification in presentations. These active tasks require engagement with attendees, instantly sparking their attention and helping them invest in your content.

3. Prepare technical safeguards.

If this is your first virtual event, consider the factors that make hosting a physically-staged event much different from hosting a digital one. 

Meeting Software

For a webinar or virtual broadcast, you’ll need meeting software to host the streaming URL. Be sure you’re choosing a secure platform that’s easily accessible to all of your attendees. Also, double-check that your speaker, host and event planning assistants are familiar with how it works prior to going live. This way, you’ll be more confident to troubleshoot any technical issues. 

Internet Connection

Ensure your speaker and host have proper safeguards in place to keep their Internet connection stable during the broadcast. If they’re streaming from home, ask how they can guarantee readiness should their WiFi fail. A good speaker or MC should have a back-up hotspot to keep a steady connection under any circumstance. 

Presentation Deck

Also ask your speaker to prepare a back-up plan should there be technical issues with visuals. Should their slide deck experience problems, can they keep the event going with just a webcam on their face? This may mean pulling up notes on their screen or having a print-out of their deck on hand to lead with confidence, despite a technical bottleneck. 

4. Heavily promote the event.

No one will attend an event they haven’t heard about. When it comes to virtual events, you can certainly promote your event via traditional ads and through word-of-mouth, but your biggest asset will likely be digital promotion. Remember that the type of person attending a virtual event is probably a digitally-savvy individual, so target them as they scroll.

Take to social media with creative promotional campaigns a few weeks before the big day. Tease information about your speaker’s background, the chosen topic of the talk and even consider generating countdown graphics to post three days leading up to the event. Send out email blasts to your contacts to promote sign-ups, run targeted paid ads— whatever you can do to spark interest online.

Don’t forget about the post-promotion to keep people engaged long after the stream as well. Consider making the recording of the talk easily accessible on your digital channels. Collaborate with your speaker on creating take-away resources for your listeners, such as a downloadable summary of highlights, allowing access to the slide deck, or sharing additional resources listeners can check out to learn more.

5. Choose the right time and date.

Every niche will have different recommendations for when it is ideal to schedule your webinar or virtual conference. 

For instance, in the cyber security industry, broadcasts on a Tuesday or Wednesday between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. typically show excellent attendance and engagement. It’s right around lunch break, so workers can attend over their scheduled lunch should their employer not allow attendance on the clock. Make sure you research your audience in order to target the time for a live-stream. 

6. Set the tone while guests wait on the meeting link.

Once the big day arrives, it’s your job to ensure the guests waiting on the meeting link are preoccupied by appropriately instructing the moderator. Don’t keep listeners hanging in silence on a blank screen. If you don’t immediately set the tone, guests could hop off the link. Unlike walking into a room with other seated guests at a stage event, virtual events are easier to leave without judgment.

Play upbeat or relevant music as the audience waits for the speaker and display your company’s and the speaker’s social handles to encourage attendees to follow your brands online. 

Wait a good five minutes after the clock strikes the magic hour to allow late-comers to trickle in. It’s during these few minutes that your MC could go over what the audience can expect structure-wise for the presentation, how long it’ll be, if there will be Q&A and if they should hold their questions until the end, etc.

As you’re waiting for last-minute guests to sign onto the virtual meeting link, ensure your moderator also promotes any special hashtags you’ve coined for the event. They can ask those listening to live tweet throughout the presentation, tag your company or the speaker on social stories, etc. Here are some tips for live social interactions from Hootsuite. 

Looking for a Cyber Security Keynote Speaker?

While these tips are relevant for any event planner scheduling and hosting a virtual event, we also have a ton of great content for anyone seeking cyber security talent, specifically. 

Discover how the right cyber security speaker can empower your audience or download our free ebook, featuring everything you need to know about choosing the right security expert for your next event. 

Request your own digital copy of the Choosing the Right Cyber Security Keynote Speaker ebook, today. 

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Topics: internal cyber events, virtual events, event planning

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