How To Plan A Virtual Event Successfully
The key to achieving a successful virtual event, whether you’re hosting a webinar, live stream, meetup, trade show, or online summit, is to have a fully considered strategy. Your virtual event plan will begin and end with your strategy in mind.
The problem, particularly for first time virtual event planners, is knowing where to start. There are an incredible number of moving parts, and endless Asana tasks in front of us, making it extremely challenging to correctly prioritize work and decisions.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a shortcut to learning how to plan a virtual event?
How would you like to take just 60 minutes to achieve a solid foundation in virtual event planning that will save you hours and hours of false starts and struggles the coming weeks?
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ― Benjamin Franklin
More importantly, can you imagine how much more successful your event will be, and how much less stressed you’ll feel, when you have a roadmap to results in front of you?
That’s exactly what you’re going to accomplish today.
Whether this is your first virtual event plan or your tenth, this guide will help you. But it’s particularly well suited for CMOs, Marketing Managers, Sales Managers, and other marketing executives who have been instructed to host a virtual event for sales and lead gen… and you don’t know where to begin.
Step One of How To Plan A Virtual Event
Know Your Why
Why are you planning to host a virtual event? What do you hope to accomplish? Who are you hoping to reach?
If you haven’t yet thought through these questions, now’s the time! Fortunately, the very first episode of the podcast helps you frame these exercises and get you well positioned to start your virtual event plan correctly.
“Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution; this gives you a 1,000 percent return on energy!” ― Brian Tracy
Here’s why that’s important.
Once you determine, very specifically and unequivocally, why you’re hosting a virtual event and what it is you wish to accomplish, every other question and decision that comes up during the planning process has an easy benchmark.
Oh, you’d like to gamify the event and have prizes for the most engaged attendees? Great idea. How does that help us accomplish our vision?
Oh, the virtual event platform we’re looking at costs over $10,000 for an annual license, because of these features. Are those critical to the success of our event and getting to our goals? If yes, great, let’s find the budget. If not, what are our alternatives?
If your team is using OKR Methodology, this should sound familiar.
OKR stands for Objective Key Result and it’s a management framework for helping teams see the company’s vision and goals, and create their own goals and initiatives that align.
Essentially, the company has a small set of very specific goals with very specific measurable outcomes attached to them. Then the various teams and departments come up with their goals that support the company (Objectives), the measurables they believe they can work toward to track progress toward those goals (Key Results), and the specific projects they plan to work on that will result in those KRs (Initiatives).
With this process in place, every member of the company can see the entire corporate set of goals, as well as what their team and other teams are working on. If an employee wants to work on a new initiative, there are benchmarks in place for the employee and their manager to ask, how does this new initiative support our objectives this quarter?
Because if it doesn’t. If working on that project isn’t going to deliver the Key Results you’re being held accountable for, is that where you should be spending your time and resources?
Without this structure in place, too often, employees will have an idea for something cool to do and just do it. Perhaps even with their manager’s blessing, because there was no framework in place to ensure that every initiative is considered and implemented with the company’s Big Picture in mind.
You plan a virtual event the same way. Start with your Why, your Purpose… your Vision… create specific goals and metrics that will define success for you and your online summit, then ensure that the rest of the virtual event plan and strategy supports that vision.
Listen to the full Virtual Event Strategist podcast episode, Virtual Event Strategy: Your Why is Why You’re Unfocused:
Step Two of How To Plan A Virtual Event
Define Your Audience
Who, specifically, are you targeting with your virtual event? Do you know what they’re struggling with? Have you identified what their goals and objectives are?
Have you thought through whether there’s a difference between the people who use your product or service, and the people who are responsible for deciding whether or not to pay for it? Are the decision makers in your audience different from your users?
Here’s why that’s important.
If you haven’t taken the time to define your target audience, your event structure and content, and all of the marketing messaging that you create for your event, will have to be vague and unfocused.
You can’t be everything to everyone.
“We cannot drive people; we must direct their development” – Henry Gantt
Instead, you should have target personas or Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs) built out for your business and refined for an online summit. That way, when you start to plan a virtual event, you’ll know exactly who you’re planning it for. You will be able to select a theme and topics, source speakers, write landing page copy, and more… all with that target ICP in mind.
As a result, your entire event will resonate with everyone within that audience that you reach.
Your ads will be more effective, you’ll bring in greater numbers of registrants, and those registrants will much higher quality leads and prospects for your business.
Listen to the full Virtual Event Strategist podcast episode, Virtual Event Strategy: How To Narrow Focus To Achieve Broader Goals:
Step Three of How To Plan A Virtual Event
Once you have your goals and objectives in place, and you know who you’re targeting, it’s time to get organized.
You need to have a full, documented virtual event plan in place, with all of your strategies and tactics outlined. But that can’t just be a giant To Do list in a notebook on your desk. You’re going to need to manage this virtual event as a full project, and that requires a project management system.
Here’s why that’s so important.
When I was getting started with virtual event planning, I certainly had the wherewithal to write down all of my ideas and notes and tasks. The tool I typically use for note taking is Evernote, so that’s what I turned to.
Every time something else came up, or I had a new idea, it got added to the growing list in Evernote.
The problem is, virtual events are huge projects and if all you do is list every task you need to accomplish as a running note, it’ll be overwhelming and unusable.
Instead, if you use a project management system like Asana, you can create projects and tasks and subtasks, and if you have a team, which is the next topic, you can assign tasks and create visibility into what you’re working on for everyone.
“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” ― Alexander Graham Bell
We cover tools and the tactics you can employ to get serious about project management in this third episode of the podcast.
Listen to the full Virtual Event Strategist podcast episode, Virtual Event Strategy: Getting Started With Elephantine Events:
Step Four of How To Plan A Virtual Event
If you work for a large company and have a team reporting to you that can help you, or contractors you can reach out to, that’s great. It’ll be a huge relief to be able to outsource some of the work and lean on others for ideas and assistance.
In fact, it’s critical and a requirement that you have help. You cannot plan a virtual event all on your own.
But wait, there’s good news! You have more help than you think.
I know right now you might be worrying that it’s just you, there’s no team, there’s no budget for contractors, and here I am telling you that there’s no way you can pull this off.
It’s OK. You’ve got this.
The thing is, even if there really is no one else who could potentially help you with a virtual event, there are doubtless other people at your work or in your life who can help with other things, giving you more bandwidth to focus on executing your virtual event strategy.
“The reason most people never reach their goals is that they don’t define them, or ever seriously consider them as believable or achievable. Winners can tell you where they are going, what they plan to do along the way, and who will be sharing the adventure with them.” ― Denis Waitley
That’s what I break down for you the fourth and final episode in this series, and trust me, there are lessons here that you can apply to every aspect of your personal and professional life.
Listen to the full Virtual Event Strategist podcast episode, Virtual Event Strategy: How To Rally Resources To Help You:
Once you’ve listened to each of the above episodes, you will have a firm foundation in how to build out your own virtual event plan and strategy.
If you haven’t already, download the free virtual event plan so that you can document all of your ideas and plans, and have a workbook to step you through the decision-making process for your event.
Do that and you will already be lightyears ahead of where you were, and where most first-time virtual event planners find themselves.
You can then start digging through all of the other articles and resources here to help you figure out what kinds of sessions you can schedule, what your event should even look like, how to handle speakers, and more.
If, however, you don’t have time for all of that. If you have been given a strategic objective from your organization and can’t spend weeks sifting through articles and YouTube videos and books, let’s hop on a call and talk through your options. Whether you need an hour of consulting or a full day devoted to you and your event, let’s talk.