10 | Minute Read

Virtual Event Management: The Comprehensive Handbook

Social distancing has changed the ball game for all event planners in 2020. What does virtual event management look like in the age of COVID-19?

The good news is that we have the technology needed to deliver events online. By using video conferencing and other online event software, companies can continue to host a variety of events – from 1 on 1 appointments to full blown conferences.

And the benefits of virtual event management transcend simply navigating this crisis.

Virtual events are easier to host, and easier to attend. They can deliver a great ROI because they require much less of a budget. In fact, you will likely continue to plan and host virtual events well beyond the end of social distancing measures.

However, holding events online, instead of IRL (In Real Life) presents a learning curve.

We wanted to help take the mystery out of holding virtual events. Here are some frequently asked questions about virtual event management. We’ve answered them to the best of our ability!

Virtual Event Planning Checklist

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What is a virtual event?

Let’s start from the beginning.

What does the term ‘virtual event’ refer to?

A virtual event is any event held online, remotely. The biggest difference between a real life event and a virtual one is that one requires a physical venue, and physical attendance, whilst the other requires remote attendance via the internet.

How do you hold an event online?

Virtual events require software to host and attend.

Applications for running online events offer different tools for different types of events.

However, most virtual events will use video conferencing software.

Just because we’re apart, doesn’t mean we’re alone!

What events can be run online?

Before we head any further into the how, let’s explore the what.

How do you know the events your company usually holds are able to be held online?

Really, it’s your own company’s flexibility and creativity that sets the standard for whether you can offer your events online.

Here’s a brief list of some kinds of events that are easily run as virtual events:

  • 1 on 1 appointments
  • Interviews
  • Meetings
  • Conferences
  • Entertainment (speeches, live music, etc)
  • Educational webinars
  • Community organising
  • Fundraising events
  • Networking events
  • Workshops & classes

In a nutshell: if being physically present isn’t a deal breaker – your event can be hosted online.

What is the best platform to hold a virtual event?

The best platform for your virtual event depends on the content of your event, your target audience’s accessibility requirements, and what kind of experience you’re trying to deliver.

We explore some of the more popular virtual event platform options below.

Zoom - Great for meetings, and medium-sized conferences

It’s likely you’ve heard of Zoom already. Zoom allows you to hold virtual meetings, where everyone can share audio and video with each other. It has screen sharing capability, as well as ‘break out room’ functionality – allowing you to split a large event into a series of break outs for a personable experience for attendees.

Something to note with Zoom is that it requires account sign up and application download for ALL. Not only do hosts and speakers each need accounts and Zoom installed, but so do your attendees. This might be fine if your target audience is tech savvy – but if they aren’t, you’ll likely have some no-shows due to the barrier to entry.

Zoom is also limited unless you purchase a subscription. For example, features such as break out rooms are only available to paid subscribers. Same goes for virtual event time restrictions – free accounts only allow for 40 minute Zoom meetings.

Lastly, Zoom is appropriate for small to medium sized events. You cannot host a meeting of more than 100 participants, and even if you could, Zoom’s functionality doesn’t make it appropriate for very large virtual events.

See live streaming options below if you’re looking to hold a large event virtually.

Zoom’s virtual backgrounds can lighten the mood

Whereby - Great for accessible, intimate meetings and events

Whereby is an in-browser video conferencing application that requires no sign up or download. Whereby calls its meetings ‘rooms’. A Whereby room can be entered by visiting the room URL address in a browser of your choice.

The room has a simple Whereby subdomain that’s easy to share. Rooms also stay hosted on the same address – making it very easy for recurring meets, as all attendees simply revisit the same URL address for the next event.

Whereby does not have a full suite of video conferencing features. Besides from sharing video, audio and screens – Whereby doesn’t offer much beyond the standard. It also has hard limitations on attendance numbers. A free Whereby room can only accept 4 attendees, whilst a paid one can accept up to 12.

Whereby is a good option for smaller, intimate events where your target audience requires extremely accessible software to be able to attend. It’s not a good choice for larger events, or events where security is a priority (besides from the ability to ‘lock’ a room in order to approve each attendee, security features are limited).

GoToMeeting - Great for webinars

GoToMeeting was the go-to for video conferencing software for a long time before other platforms started to compete. It’s still a fantastic choice for hosting virtual events and meetings, with all the tools you’d expect, such as screen sharing and meeting recording. It also boasts more robust security than options such as Zoom. Transmissions are protected with high-security encryption and optional passwords.

At Swift Digital, our Event Management Automation tools can be integrated with GoToMeeting – making the whole process of planning and marketing a virtual event even easier.

Livestream Software - Great for big, public virtual events

Video conferencing software is great for plenty of virtual events, but it begins to offer less value and a worse audience experience for events that are bigger in attendance, and longer in length.

Livestream software is a great alternative for large virtual events.

The biggest difference with using livestream software instead of video conferencing for your event is the participation level of your audience. Livestream software often allows attendees to pop in and out – without disrupting the event. Participation from a livestream audience is most often limited to a text chat. This makes it much more manageable for large events – as no attendee is distracted by the mic or video input of any other attendee.

Most livestream software also provide tools for adding video production value to your broadcasted video – meaning you can brand your virtual event content on the go.

Here’s a list of some of the most popular livestream applications for you to check out:

How much does a virtual event platform cost?

The above options range from free to $30AUD a month. Most video conferencing software operates on a subscription based model where restrictions are lifted after a host subscribes for a higher account.

If you’re not running virtual events frequently, and your events are both small and simple – you could get away with using a free account on some of the above platforms.

What are the best tools for hosting online events?

The obvious hardware that every virtual event host needs is a high quality webcam and microphone. Besides the obvious, there are plenty of digital tools that make online event management and hosting a much more pleasant experience.

Most digital tools which make virtual event planning easy can be found in a comprehensive Online Event Management platform.

The right tools can improve your virtual event experience

What is an online event management system?

Online event management system describes software and applications which enable people to manage all aspects of an event online.

From sending out invites and collecting registrations to marking attendance and sending post-event communications – online event management software makes event planning easy by digitising and automating the process.

We’ve already written about how to boost the success of your virtual event using an online event management system, here.

Other tools you might want to look into are:

  • Automation platforms to help sync up your different applications (like Zapier)
  • A fun webcam app, such as SnapCam, to add filters and fun to your virtual meetings
  • A Q&A application to manage incoming questions for speakers at larger virtual events (like Slido)
  • Livestream software which includes live video production tools (e.g. giving you the ability to brand your virtual event as it’s streamed. Check out StreamYard)

How do you plan a virtual event?

  • Define a clear virtual event goal
    Is it measurable?
    Is it specific?
  • Know your virtual event’s audience
    Review data on past attendees, and your contacts/leads
    Build a target persona
  • Figure out your virtual event budget
    Consider the costs of any of your virtual event content (e.g. will your speakers, or entertainers require payment?)
    Shop around for a video conferencing or live stream software that works for your events, and factor the cost of subscription or add-ons
    Will marketing your virtual event cost you any money?
  • Set a date, and choose a virtual event application to host on
  • Design a virtual event brand
  • Develop an event marketing strategy
    Know your event audience
    Know your event objective
    Decide on an event topic (which acts as Value Proposition)
    Decide which marketing channels to use
    Build fully automated campaigns across chosen marketing channels
    Don’t forget post-event communications
  • Pre-schedule the following communications ahead of time
    Invites, and reminders to register
    Reminders to attend both via email, and SMS
    Last-minute SMS re technical difficulties, or change in virtual meeting URL
    Sorry to miss you to no-shows
    Thank you for coming to marked attendees
    Recording of the virtual event (Here is what you missed)
  • Make your virtual event communications pop
    Try embedding video, and GIFs
    Not sure what works best with your audience? Try A/B split test options
  • Make virtual event registration easy
    Is your registration form short and accessible?
    Does it take less than a minute to register?
    Does every data field have a purpose?
  • Perform a dry-run of your virtual event on your chosen software
    To minimise errors on the day, try doing a dry-run of your event on your software ahead of time.
Don’t lose registrants to a long, boring reg form. Try a short and sweet one!

How to manage a PAID virtual event?

What about paid virtual events? Well, paid online event registration is a little trickier. It involves collecting and managing payments for tickets.

To make the registration process as easy as possible, use an Event Management Platform with integrated payment gateway functionality. This means that your registrants can fill out their details, pay online and confirm their registration all in one seamless, quick journey.

Other tricky paid event tasks such as invoicing and receipts (sending them, and managing them) can be completely automated when using an Event Management Software.

Even if you are without an Event Management solution, you can use third party applications to manage registrations and invoicing online. You might even look into third party payment apps such as PayPal and Stripe.

How do you ensure only paid registrants attend your virtual event?

Without being able to check tickets at the door, physically, you’ll have to block unpaid registrants from attending your virtual event in other ways.

You could give your ‘join meeting’ link in the confirmation email you send to paid registrants, for example. For an extra layer of gatekeeping – you might want to consider applying a password to your virtual event.

Many video conferencing applications also allow for ‘waiting rooms’ where hosts have the ability to admit or boot a newcomer depending on who they’re identified as.

Make it easy to collect payments, or suffer the consequences

How to run virtual events as online appointments? Event Booking System Software

Perhaps your business holds appointments daily – or even hourly. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses have had to drastically change their operations and offer interviews, appointments, and other one on one events to online or over the telephone.

Has your business had to do the same? Could you benefit from Event Management Platforms which cater for event series and appointment booking?

Here are some examples of tools you’ll want to look out for if you are looking to manage your serial events/appointments online:

  • Event calendar (which auto-populates with all your created events)
  • Appointment booking options (registration via a calendar, or predetermined time slots)
  • Event, registration form, and email cloning (to make running serial events as easy as copy and paste)
  • Webinar integration

If running events is central to your business model and is something you frequently do, then you may want to look into Online Event Management Software which offers the above tools to make online event series, and appointment booking a piece of cake for all involved.

Example of an Appointment Booking Calendar

Just because we can’t physically be together, doesn’t mean we can’t keep in touch.

The same goes for your company’s events.

Events bring value to hosts and attendees alike, and with the availability of video conferencing and livestream software, there’s absolutely no reason to compromise on that value.

Keep showing up for your audience, and start hosting your events virtually.