Virtual and hybrid events (that combine virtual and in-person components) can be more cost-efficient, accessible, and easy-to-follow for attendees and hosts. It’s estimated, for example, that the virtual editions of Google’s annual Google I/O event in 2020 and 2021 each cost 1/6 the price and drew thousands of attendees more than its in-person event has in the past.
If you're wondering how to plan a virtual event or hybrid event designed to match your marketing goals, we’ve outlined key questions that you should consider—from the start of the planning process to post-event evaluation after your guests have closed their laptops.
How to Begin Your Planning
Just as with live events, virtual events require a series of decisions during the planning process that ultimately help guide implementation. The basics of what you'll need to consider in your initial planning include:
If you're not immediately able to fill in every single bullet on the list above, don't panic! We've got some other elements you can consider that will help you narrow in on how to plan a virtual or hybrid event that will work best for you and your audience.
What's Your Intent — and Hoped-For Impact?
Inherent in planning any virtual or hybrid event is also the question of what your audience will experience. How do you want them to feel? What do you want them to learn? What response do you hope to inspire?
For example, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ilhan Omar’s use of Twitch to connect with over 400,000 young voters in late 2020 had a clear intention to build awareness, engage thought, and inspire action.
In joining well-known content creators on the platform to play games and discuss the importance of the youth vote in the 2020 election, they encouraged their target audience to:
Who Are You Trying to Reach — and Where Are They?
While planning an in-person event often means reserving a venue and hoping your audience will come to you, virtual events allow you to go directly to the online spaces your audiences frequent. Consider who and where your audience is as you decide where to host your online event, including sources like Sprout Social’s demographic data from a few of 2021’s top social media platforms or Pew Research's data on social media use in 2021. Here are some highlights and opportunities for integrating live elements on each platform:
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Regardless of where you’re hosting your event, remember to promote your event ahead of it on the channel(s) on which it will be taking place via organic and paid content.
How Will You Measure Success and Build on It?
Setting SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based) goals before your event will maximize its benefits for you and your audience and help inform future event planning:
After the event, be sure to reflect on its quantitative and qualitative successes, as well as opportunities you have to improve future events. If you need additional support to ensure your team shines bright the next time you go live, we are happy to help! We offer on-site social media converge and support during events, social media management services, coaching and consulting, and more.
Elise is a digital media strategist and writer passionate about telling the stories of nonprofits and community organizations. She is an alumna of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Northwestern University’s Medill School.