7 Easy Steps to Creating a Successful Virtual Event for Small Businesses

With COVID turning us indoors, many conferences, concerts and events have gone partially or completely digital. The rising trend of virtual gatherings isn’t simply about damage control. Many have realised that hosting virtual events have two key benefits – it doesn’t require a big budget and it’s much more accessible to a wider audience than in-person events. 

Last year, Travis Scott reached a whopping 12.3 million participants with his 10-min long virtual concert of psychedelic proportions, via the online multiplayer game Fortnite. The numbers speak for themselves – he’d secured a much wider reach of audience than a live concert could achieve.

Virtual events were rising in popularity even before 2020, but they’ve been all the rage now that has COVID-19 hit us hard. As many as 93% of event professionals plan to invest in virtual events moving forward. 

So how do you jump on board this rising trend?

Thankfully, you don’t need a big budget or event professionals to create your own virtual event. With the right tools and planning, anybody can do it. Whether you’re stuck on event ideas or how to proceed, this article has got you covered.

1. Strategy is Key

Let’s start with brainstorming virtual event ideas, and your key goals. 

With a clear achievable outcome in mind, you’ll be able to match that with a suitable event type and platform. Ask yourself these questions to ascertain the goal and scope of your event:

  • Are you looking to sell products?
  • Are you looking to engage with new and/or existing consumers?
  • Is the event FOC or paid?
  • What is the anticipated size of your audience?
  • Will there be partners and/or sponsors?

Next, figure out your audience’s wants, needs and characteristics. Your decisions moving forward should be driven by a complete understanding of your audience. 

This will enable you to decide which virtual event platform and marketing strategy to use, as well as curate event content that can attract and engage with your desired audience. 

Here are some virtual event ideas to get you started:

Host classes, Q&As or behind-the-scenes on social media livestreams. 

Did you know that 80% of people join virtual events for educational purposes? If the goal is to promote your products, you can invite experts to teach short classes that are relevant to your brand/products. 

This co-branding method allows you and your brand partner to benefit from the exposure while also bringing value to your audience. Lululemon Singapore achieved this with their “Sweat Sessions” on IG Live last year, which featured various fitness community partners teaching classes ranging from yoga to HIIT.

Lululemon SG hosted livestream sweat session classes for their followers during circuit breaker.
Source: Lululemon, Instagram

Host a webinar or panel discussions with industry experts.

Avoid turning webinars into a sales pitch. Instead, focus on building your credibility and value by sharing your expertise. If you’re selling a service, you can make a list of your customers’ pain points and address them along with live questions during the webinar. Go the extra mile by doing a live demo or suggesting alternative tools.

Inviting industry experts to share their insights is another great way to grow your credibility. However, don’t feel restricted by the webinar format. You can host such talks on more casual platforms like Facebook Live.

Canon Singapore often invites professional photographers and videographers onto Canon Live Experience on Facebook Live to share tips and industry knowledge about their craft.

Canon Singapore often host Canon LIVE experience, inviting professionals to talk about their knowledge and tips on using Canon cameras.
Source: Canon Singapore, Facebook

2. Platform of Your Choice

Here are some popular platforms which you can use for your virtual event. Some are free, while others that require a fee may come with more engagement tools.

Social Media Livestream

With 82% of people preferring live video from a brand over standard social media posts, the popularity of social media livestream cannot be denied. Many host classes, Q&A sessions, product demos, behind-the-scenes and live performances on social media livestream platforms. 

And the best part about social media livestream platforms is that they are free to use! They include: Instagram Live, Facebook Live, TikTok, Twitter Live, Youtube Livestream and Twitch.

Webinars

Webinars usually consist of live presentations with slides and demos. These webinar platform tools allow you to record and share the presentations at a later time, and also feature engagement tools like Q&A chat and poll options.

Webinar platforms are great for shorter and more intimate informative talks and classes. They include: Demio, Zoom, ezTalks and GoToWebinar.

Conferences and Networking

As these are more large-scale, formal events, they necessitate platforms with a wider set of engagement tools that allow organisers to create virtual booths, fireside chats, multiple live stream hosting and more.

They include: Brella, 6connex, Zoom, Run The World, Whova, HeySummit and Hop In.

3. Timing Matters

How long should your event last? 

It definitely depends on the type of event and audience, but a good ballpark figure to aim for is under 60 minutes. In fact, according to BigMarker’s statistics, webinars should be between 30 to 45 minutes long to keep as many of your audience engaged.

Picking the right date and time is also important. 

You’ll want to do some research, ensuring that your chosen date doesn’t clash with holidays or big competing events. Ideally, you should plan the virtual event around your audience’s working hours and avoid the busier days of the week like Monday and Friday. 

With many working from home, it’s possible that people are now more flexible with their lunch hour. They may be open to a short webinar or event during lunch. LASALLE leverages on this with their Lunchtime Concert Series, which features various local musicians every Monday from 1-2pm, on their Youtube channel

LASALLE college of the arts hosts a regular lunch time concert series on Mondays 1pm on their Youtube channel.
Source: LASALLE Facebook

For a more certain consensus, you can even do a poll on Instagram to gather feedback from your followers!

4. Promote your event

The average promotional period for a small virtual event lasts 3.5 weeks, which is admittedly, not a lot of time, so be sure to plan your marketing calendar well ahead of time! 

Let the audience know what to expect.

For a small event, your digital marketing efforts will likely be to drive awareness and registrations. Determine the key selling points of your event and highlight them in every message you send out. Enticing selling points may include quality speakers, networking opportunities, and Q&A sessions. 

Your goal is to ensure that the value proposition is clear and consistent across all marketing channels.

For example, this Facebook post for Climate Hack 2021 sends a clear, effective message by listing the selling points in the copywriting content, and reiterating them within the graphic.

Source: Code for Asia

Make use of free promotion tactics.

Sure, you can run ads through search engines and social media but don’t let up on other cost-free tactics! Be sure to promote across your social media channels and website, and email your subscribers. Consider listing your event on sites like Eventbrite and A-list.

Don’t forget to post in interest groups on Facebook, Telegram, Reddit and Discord.

With interest groups, you can forgo the one-size-fits-all content in other marketing materials. Instead, try crafting a more personal and relatable message that can resonate deeply with the target interest group.

It could be as simple as showing that you understand their pain points, which you can put in your headline.

The Fandom Menace recently held a community-initiated, virtual financial talk for local creatives. As we ourselves are local creatives, we show that we relate with their pain points of financial struggles with a tongue-in-cheek headline: “Mo Money Mo Problems? Can’t Relate, I’m a Creative.”

The Fandom Menace regularly hosts Community-Initiated Sessions, where local media and arts creatives are encouraged to share their knowledge and talents in casual settings.

Send out reminder emails.

Ideally, your marketing efforts should attract and direct participants to a landing page to register their interest and email address. 76% of marketers say that email is the single most effective way to drive registrations.

Be sure to leverage on this with email reminders leading up to the event date. Consider segmenting your email list and sending out emails with enticing, relatable subject lines. 

Build hype with a countdown!

You can also do an event countdown on social media to build excitement and reiterate your event’s selling points. Here’s a great article on how to use Instagram’s countdown sticker for promoting events and offers.

Shopee often does a fantastic job counting down to their massive live sale event, with every post featuring a teaser of sale items and promotions on event day.

One of Shopee 2.2 CNY mega sale countdown posts on facebook.
Source: Shopee Facebook

5. Prepare for Technical Issues

Don’t let technical issues be an… issue.

The biggest annoyance of virtual events is a bad connection. No doubt, the last thing you’d want is for your audience to be looking at “frozen” screens during the event, yikes. Find a reliable network provider and test that the internet connection can support all of the participants on event day. 

70% of event organisers say that microphones are critical to a successful event compared to cameras which came in at 60%. However, we’d say that both are equally important, especially if your event hinges on featuring a new product or noteworthy speaker. Audience satisfaction levels are sure to drop if either video or audio quality suffers.  

Bottomline is, don’t risk it. Always check your internet, camera, lighting and audio ahead of time – preferably days beforehand so that you can have contingency plans in place.

Get everyone up to speed with the event timeline.

To prevent delays, consider walking everyone involved through the programme timeline. Not all speakers will use up their allocated time slot, so running a dry rehearsal will help your host or moderators plan ahead to fill in for those lull periods.

6. Drive In-Event Engagement

Get creative with polls.

A whopping 81.8% of virtual event organisers use event polling to improve interaction. It’s a common tactic with many ways to go about – so you might want to brainstorm on how you can incorporate polls to memorable effect.

Consider running a poll during the livestream and let viewers choose between mystery boxes containing giveaways or promo items. A blind pick excites the audience and allows them the illusion of control over what happens.

You can also incentivise the audience by gamifying the event. Incorporate a quiz with a point racking system to keep your audience thoroughly engaged till the end.

Need poll question ideas? Here’s 40 fun poll questions to choose from! 

Incorporate shoutouts in your livestreams.

We’ve all seen how fast the comments can fly in during livestreams on social media. Don’t let it overwhelm you – have a dedicated team that moderates the live feed to identify questions, as well as flag inappropriate comments. 

It has the added benefit of ensuring a smooth uninterrupted flow for the speaker, and a safe and abuse-free space for all. 

You can keep the livestream intimate and engaging by simply giving individual shoutouts to viewers whose questions or comments have been mentioned.

Q&A is a must-have for webinars.

Did you know that 92% of webinar attendees want a live Q&A session at the end of a webinar? With such an overwhelming statistic, you’d better set aside enough time for a fruitful Q&A!

You can better facilitate it by having moderators gather questions from the audience before the Q&A, so that the speaker can choose which they prefer to answer. You can also prepare questions beforehand by asking participants during registration, as some speakers prefer to vet them ahead of the event.

Everybody loves giveaways!

If you have the budget to spare, giveaways are a great way to engage with the audience. At the simplest level, you can mention prizes-to-be-won during your marketing efforts to entice people to attend. 

But with more resources, you can create interactive touch points during the event with giveaways. You can achieve this by sending out custom wearables for participants to wear during networking sessions to ensure a memorable experience. 

You should also consider the relevance of the giveaway. A giveaway that’s too generic (i.e. gift vouchers) or is unrelated to your content and target audience will attract more registrations, but will also likely lose traction during leads conversion post-event.

Collaborate with another brand for giveaways.

Collaborating with another brand for giveaways can prove effective too. Co-branding brings the opportunity to expose your event and product to a new audience. Such giveaways work especially well when the audience of both brands overlap or align in terms of interests.

The collaboration between Superga and The Estee Lauder Companies for an IG Live panel talk had a giveaway that included Superga sneakers and various cosmetics.  It proved a good match for both brands as most of their audience will have overlapping interests in fashion and make-up.

Superga and The Estee Lauder Companies collaborated for an IG live talk to raise breast cancer awareness.
Source: Superga Instagram

7. Ensure a swift follow-up

Make post-event resources available.

Once it’s over, don’t leave your participants hanging! Follow up quickly by thanking them and letting them know where to access post-event content. Your content could range from highlights of the event and special discounts to downloadable slides and discussion points. 

Make sure your virtual event recordings are easily accessible, for those who couldn’t attend. These videos are also great content for social media pages, and can also be used for promoting future events.

Measure satisfaction levels with feedback.

Use event feedback to gauge participants’ satisfaction levels and opinions which you can factor into planning future events.

You can be creative with feedback gathering – turn it into a mini-contest by asking participants to comment on the event via social media. Use questions like “What was your key takeaway?” to gather authentic feedback and further keep the event buzz alive!

For a formal feedback form, here’s a low-down on the type of survey questions to include.

Start planning for your virtual event!

Every successful event requires detailed planning – so use these steps to aid your preparation. If you are stuck at any point, simply reach out to us.

Our team is ready to address your hurdles – whether it’s to do with coordination, hosting or content marketing. Talk to us now!

We host local community-initiated events, you interested?

We are also proud hosts of community-initiated sessions that encourage media and arts talents in Singapore to share and collaborate on their experiences in casual settings. 

If you’re a media/artsy person with something to talk about, drop us a message and we’ll give you a space to host your own sessions!

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Author: Desiree Goh

Desiree is a fan of anything that promises a good story with interesting characters and set in a world more interesting than this one. Alternatively, she can be found crusading Tumblr with an arsenal of GIFs.

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