These days, virtual events are a must-do for helping to replace lost revenue and member engagement from cancelled events. They’re also a convenient, low-cost option for providing members with learning and networking opportunities year-round. Whether you’re moving in-person events online or create new virtual events, here are four ways to make sure your association’s next one is a hit:

Build a plan. There are many decisions that go into a virtual event. Developing a strategy helps guide these decisions and makes your virtual event more likely to meet your goals. Here are some things to consider as you create your plan:

  • Establish a clear goal. While you may have multiple objectives for your virtual events, narrow your list to one primary goal to help guide your decisions.
  • Describe the “feel” of the online experience. Focus on the experience you want to offer, and list the ways you can bring that experience to life for attendees.
  • Get feedback. Your members are the audience for your learning courses, so be sure to ask for their input.
  • Create a timeline. List key milestones, such as choosing a virtual event technology platform and lining up speakers, and provide plenty of time for each one.

Develop valuable content. Offering valuable content is one of the most important factors in a successful virtual event. Focus on content related to topics that are:

  • Most popular, based on past attendance and ratings
  • Hot, timely topics in your industry
  • Popular in your online member community
  • Presented by well-known and/or highly-rated industry speakers
  • Track-based, or grouped together by theme

And be sure to offer content variety. For example, as with in-person events, your virtual event should offer multiple tracks. This approach provides people with options so they can easily choose what track or theme they want to attend.

Engage attendees. Use event technology that supports interaction and networking in the online experience. For example, add the following features to the online experience to make attendees feel more involved and keep them engaged:

  • Attendee chat – Offer a live chat feature during sessions so attendees can share insights and swap ideas.
  • Interactive polling – Ask poll questions and display the results to help attendees interact and feel a part of the audience.
  • Live Q&A – Incorporate questions and answers so attendees can interact with speakers in real-time.
  • Surveys – Ask for feedback during and after each session, just as you would at in-person sessions.
  • Breakout discussions – Encourage collaboration and leverage chat functionality for online breakout sessions, networking, and knowledge sharing.

Incorporate sponsors and exhibitors. Offer sponsorship levels at different price points to generate revenue. Here are some ideas for incorporating sponsors and exhibitors at your virtual event:

  • Sponsor announcements – Allow industry partners to sponsor sessions and provide a one-minute sponsor announcement at the beginning of each session.
  • Spotlight interviews or vendor demos – Pre-record spotlight interviews or vendor demos with your sponsors and exhibitors and play them during breaks in sessions.
  • Networking or breakout sessions – Allow industry partners to moderate or sponsor breakout sessions on a certain topic. Sponsoring a virtual networking hour offers great exposure for companies as well.
  • Virtual exhibit hall – Give your attendees a place to learn more about important products and services with an online exhibit hall. Virtual exhibitors can host online booths and be available for live chats with attendees during pre-set hall hours.

Learn more. These are just some of the essentials for planning and executing a successful virtual conference. Learn more tips and hear stories and lessons learned from the frontlines of real-life virtual events. Join this 1-credit CAE webinar on September 10 at 11:30am Eastern: Virtual Events Lessons Learned. Save your seat for the webinar

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