A lot changed in 2020. From our personal lives to professional endeavors, pretty much everyone has had to make adjustments and transitions to a new way of life. One of these transitions was the increasing need for virtual events. Given that people could not travel or gather in the same place, transitioning in-person events to online was the way to go.
While it’s frustrating for many, there are multiple benefits to hosting events online. Once traveling and gathering is safe again, there are many reasons to continue to hold events virtually. So if you haven’t figured out how to transition your in-person event to online yet, this is a perfect chance to learn!
Why transition your in-person event online?
After a year of purely virtual events, most people have found there are some rather unexpected benefits to this format. Some people actually prefer virtual events to in-person.
Virtual events are often more accessible for people who find traveling challenging, expensive, or time consuming. Attendees can save time simply attending the event in the comfort of their home. It is also much less expensive; previously you might need to book a flight and hotel to attend a conference in another state or country. Now, the cost of admission is all you need to consider. All of these things lower the barrier for entry for many people.
Attendees can take in information at their own pace with online events. Before, if a conference had many tracks or rooms, you could only attend one at a time. But now, virtual events can provide attendees with both synchronous and asynchronous options. Watch some talks live, and catch up on others via recordings later.
From the organizer’s side, the challenge of finding the perfect venue can be completely eliminated when all one needs is a computer screen and internet connection. Event space can be difficult and complicated for event organizers to secure. Skipping that hurdle altogether can mean a lot.
And for organizers, online events can be less expensive overall. The cost of the venue itself, food and snacks, security, insurance, and other expenses might be removed entirely when transitioning an event online.
What kind of events can be transitioned from in-person to online?
You might be wondering whether your event can be hosted virtually. Chances are it can! Let’s take a quick look at some examples of events that work well online.
- Workshops and webinars can still provide interactive educational elements to teach attendees what they want to learn.
- Courses and lessons can mimic a classroom setting if need be.
- Talk-based conferences can still feature speakers and panels and utilize chats for Q&A.
- Church services can still unite people for worship safely.
- Meetups/community gatherings can bring people together over a common topic in a more casual way.
- Fundraisers can still raise money with online giving tools and live updates.
- Happy hours and other informal social gatherings can be just as fun with virtual games.
Did we forget any event types? Let us know in a comment below!
How to Transition Your In-Person Event Online
If you’ve organized an in-person event before, many of the same steps remain necessary. Organizing an event – no matter the format – will require some of the same skills and processes. But there are some specific things to consider that are unique to online events.
Maybe you’ve held a few virtual events and are looking to up your game. Or maybe you are just now considering transitioning your in-person events to virtual. Either way, here’s how to do it!
Do Your Research
Make sure you learn what your attendees need from this event before you begin planning. If you’ve organized this event in-person before, reach out to previous attendees. Ask what they liked about the last event and what they would change. What kind of content are they looking for right now? Have they attended virtual events recently? What did they like about those events?
Think back on your own experiences as well. What were some challenges you encountered with the last event that virtual solutions could solve? Have you attended any other virtual events recently? What did they do well? There is nothing wrong with borrowing some ideas and taking inspiration from other great events.
For example, Brian Richards has years worth of experience hosting virtual tech events. He is great at teaching how he does it. Check out an interview with him here, in which he shares how to take an in-person event and host it online instead.
Make sure that no matter what research you do at this point, you are looking at the event through the virtual perspective.
Start With Smaller Virtual Events
If this is your first virtual event, try to host a few small ones first for practice. For example, a private workshop can give you some experience with marketing. A small exclusive meetup can give you some practice with all the technology and software you’ll need to use. It is often impossible to predict what challenges may come up until you actually give it a try.
Make sure afterwards you get feedback from those events. Use that feedback to iterate and make sure that your full event goes well.
Hosting small virtual events first can also be great for building awareness and potentially selling admission to your main event. Small events help build a sense of community that can be missing.
Pick the Right Software and Tools
We could write multiple posts on the kinds of software and tools to use for virtual events. It all depends on your budget and what exactly you need from that software. Let’s go over some of the basic things you’ll need to host a successful virtual event.
The broadcast itself
Zoom has been the top pick for most virtual events these days. However if you prefer or need an alternative, look into GoToMeeting, Google Meet, or BlueJeans. Skype, Facebook live, Instagram live, and Microsoft Teams are also good options.
If your event is now entirely online, your marketing should be online as well. You’ll need to spend time promoting the event using online campaigns. Ask speakers and sponsors to share information about the event with their online audiences. Create interesting email campaigns to promote special features of the event.
Use tools like Calendly, Doodle, Zapier, and Convertkit to boost your marketing and messaging. These will help automate much of your work and send out information quickly. Don’t forget to utilize the power of social media to drum up interest around the events as well. If you don’t have social media accounts for your event, you’re missing out!
Provide access to the event with a ticketing system. Eventbrite is an extremely popular option that comes with an extensive amount of assistive tools to help you sell tickets and keep in touch with attendees.
You’ll need to make sure that your event organizers are also in touch. Maybe before, you met in-person to plan the event. Now, transition to something like Slack, Asana, or Trello to keep track of tasks and deadlines. Google Docs and Google Sheets are also exceptional ways to collaborate on important documents for the event without needing to meet face to face.
Be Mindful of Timezones
Now that your event is not limited by its location, it might be a good idea to reach for a larger audience. If your event is in New York, there is no reason someone in Los Angeles shouldn’t attend. Just make sure that you are being specific about time zones in all your marketing, ticketing, invitations, etc. That way, no one arrives too early or too late.
Most ticketing systems will help you with those conversions. You can use tools like Time and Date to generate calculated links that make dealing with multiple time zones easier.
Offer Unique Virtual Benefits
It is not enough to take an in-person event and just repeat it through a Zoom call. It’s important to take advantage of the new medium and offer some unique benefits and features to attendees.
Offer replays and recordings of content after the event is over. Since everything is online, hitting “record” is much easier than setting up cameras and microphones in a live event. This is a huge plus because if someone can’t make the event, they still may be tempted to sign up if they know they can watch it later.
Provide downloads and other deliverables for events like workshops. Workbooks or sheets are extremely valuable resources that attendees can use during the event. If you can’t mail out swag, offer virtual prizes like virtual gift cards or discount codes that can be used immediately.
Live chats before, during, adn after content are extremely valuable. Usually, speakers don’t have time to answer a lot of questions in addition to delivering a talk. But if they can be online throughout the day, this makes Q&A much easier.
One huge benefit of hosting events online instead of in person is the ability to provide captions or translations. If you are transitioning your in-person event online, take the opportunity to connect with a captioning company. You have the option to use live captions if the talks are live, or get captions for pre-recorded sessions. If your audience is global, connect with translators to make the event accessible to more people. This is much easier to do online than in person.
Don’t forget about speakers and sponsors
Much of the draw for speakers (especially unpaid ones) and sponsors is face-to-face time with attendees. Since this is not an option for virtual events, make sure to provide additional benefits for the people who are volunteering time or money to make your event happen.
Mail out speaker gifts or swag after the event to show your appreciation. Give speakers extra promotion in emails and on social media. Hold longer live Q&A sessions so that speakers can connect with attendees on a deeper level. Provide a Slack channel or breakout room just for Speakers so they can connect and network with each other. All of these things can provide additional benefits and show speakers how much you appreciate them.
Sponsors should receive similar treatment. Make sure they get ample promotion before, during, and after the event. Virtual booths have become popular ways to link sponsors with attendees. A virtual booth can be a main hub or video chat room where sponsors can provide exclusive content, contact information, or one-on-one conversation.
Did we forget any important factors when it comes to transitioning from in-person events to online? What is your favorite part of online events that you’ll miss when we go back to in-person ones? Leave them in a comment below!
And don’t forget – in-person and online events need websites! Your website is your central hub for sharing information and keeping organized. We always recommend WordPress for event websites. And of course, your WordPress site still needs hosting! Look for hosting that is lightning fast, has active support, and prioritizes security. If you don’t put care into also picking the best WordPress hosting, you are wasting your beautiful site design.
Cloud22 checks every box. We manage your updates – making sure that when your theme developer releases an update or patch, you get it right away. We back up your site, just in case you make a wrong move in your theme settings. Our servers are integrated with LiteSpeed cache and Cloudflare CDN, so the beautiful design you used your theme to build is served to visitors quickly.