Live or Virtual: Tips for a Successful Online Event

Girl with glasses sitting in front of a table with a laptop and pencil holder

As many live conferences and events get cancelled, there is a lot of talk today about how to pivot (word of the year!) to a virtual version. For many, this is new territory and creates uncertainty, however a virtual event can still achieve your goals, and then some!

The objective – the why – of your conference or employee meeting should not change. The content should not change either! What needs an overhaul is the format – the how.

Let’s assume your live event plan already includes the basic elements of what makes a memorable and meaningful event experience, including,

  1. Great content – content that is new, relevant and inspiring
  2. Two-way audience engagement and interactivity
  3. Networking opportunities
  4. Entertainment and surprise and delight moments before, during and after the event


So, how do you take that great live event plan and make it just as impactful via a video screen? Here are some tried and true tips from our virtual and live event planning experts at Proof Experiences:

Look closely at your content. Ensure a clear and tight agenda with a compelling storyline and script. Do you need to reformat the agenda to accommodate the at-home participant? How long is your event? Have you included opportunities for natural breaks? Have your speakers rehearsed their presentations with the new virtual format? (We strongly recommend rehearsals!)

Shift your production focus from the stage to the screen.  Think about the quality of the video and content being shared with your attendees.  Chances are your presenter’s home computer camera and weak Wi-Fi signal are not going to cut it. If possible, provide your speakers with a higher quality external webcam and microphone. For consistency, consider providing all presenters with a polished virtual backdrop that reinforces your key messages. Look at all elements from the home participant / computer perspective!

Interactivity is key to audience interest. The best live and virtual events today allow for two-way engagement. Build in compelling interactive elements to ensure you hold the audience attention throughout (because if you don’t keep their attention, their smart phone or kids will…). From live polling to sentiment sharing to live Q&A, keep your audience engaged.

Create new networking tactics. The number one reason people attend conferences is to network. Whether your audience is in the same hotel ballroom or together via a virtual platform, they are still meeting face-to-face.  Incorporate new and more intimate online networking tools like group chats, unique meet-ups and invite-only lounges. (For larger events, these are all great opportunities for sponsors to get involved.)

Personalized pre- and post-event outreach. Extend the reach and impact of your event beyond the formal meeting time. Generate excitement and interest prior to your event with personalized advance packages or fun kits sent to the participants home or office. Circle back with the attendees with follow-up kits and information. Share the recorded or summarized content with those that could not attend.

Virtual events have the advantage of being able to invite a wider, national or global audience – at a much lower price to the participant with no travel costs.  Assuming you have made accommodations for the increased bandwidth, your content can reach more people.

Whether you are looking to take your external conference, internal sales meeting, employee event, trade show or training tools online to a local or global audience, your virtual event can be just as impactful and successful as a live event, if not more.

Kelly Power

Senior Vice President, Client Experience


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