Let’s talk about Common Mistakes To Avoid When Hosting A Virtual Event. Virtual events, like their real-world counterparts, are only as good (or as bad) as their hosts make them and they can veer towards the bad.
Just as the average professional over a decade into their career has seen some hugely-dreary conferences, each of us has probably experienced a virtual event that fell somewhere between mediocrity and abject catastrophe.
The issues with virtual events are more easy to forgive, of course.
Many of those run since the COVID-19 outbreak made social gatherings impractical have been arranged by companies that never expected to be handling things virtually and justifiably didn’t know what to do.
But now they’ve had time to adapt, and the gloves must come off. We need to demand better. If you’re planning a big event, then, you can’t afford to take a breezy approach.
It’s imperative that you commit the effort, time and resources necessary to deliver an event that truly impresses the attendees and helps to grow your brand.
To that end, in this post we’ll be covering some of the most common mistakes people make when hosting virtual events, and offering some appropriate tips along the way. Let’s get started.
6 Common Mistakes To Avoid A Virtual Event
- Failing to prepare your (virtual) stage
- Not encouraging ad-hoc conversations
- Leaving your speakers unprepared
- Giving no reasons for people to attend live
- Having no plan for measuring ROI
Let’s start to learn about more it in detail…
Failing to leave plenty of comfort breaks
Since people attending your event will largely (if not exclusively) be doing so from their homes, you might think there’s less need to space things out.
After all, anyone who needs to take a bathroom break can simply do so without disrupting anything, and no one is obliged to keep paying attention regardless but it’s a major mistake to frame things in this way.
It’s imperative to the success of your virtual event that people not only pay attention to what’s covered but actually take it in. And in this regard, the ease of being at home actually makes your job harder.
When you have a crowd gathered in a room, the investment of being there will drive attendees to make the most of it. When you have a virtual crowd, distractions are huge threats.
Comfort breaks aren’t just about giving people chances to use their bathrooms or just stretch their legs. They’re just as much about getting mental breaks, allowing the material to soak in and relax a little before returning to the fray.
And if you fail to space out your sessions, you’ll most likely find that anything after the first hour or so will end up forgotten.
On the topic of spacing out your sessions, it can be a huge scheduling mistake to assume that everything needs to fit into one day.
There are practical reasons to do this for real-world events (most notably, it’s expensive to rent convention centers), but they don’t apply online.
If your content is good enough, attendees will stick with you across multiple days. You could even make your event a week-long festival of sorts, featuring two or three hours of sessions each day enough to go into a lot of detail but still leave people wanting more.
Failing to prepare your (virtual) stage
When planning your virtual event, it’s important to think about the technical logistics of the entire operation.
Real-world events rely upon appropriately sized locations, with all the necessary amenities required to fulfill an audience’s needs.
In a virtual event, you won’t need to hire an expensive convention center, provide adequate parking space, or consider catering.
But you will need to make sure that the hosting platform you’re using won’t buckle under the strain of heavy network traffic, or be laden with glitches.
The last thing you want is for poor planning to cause the audience to abandon the event altogether.
Your first step? Estimate your needs: if you’re expecting a large turnout, you’ll need to invest in a hosting service that can accommodate more people, and a big event will need plenty of bandwidth.
Nowadays, there are a wealth of providers to choose from, all boasting high bandwidth allocation and minimal downtime.
Some, such as Cloud-ways, even allow their users to dynamically increase or reduce bandwidth allocation at will particularly handy if your event attracts a few more guests than you originally planned for.
This isn’t the end of the story though you’ll also want to rigorously test your site to ensure all of its features work as they should.
Cloud-ways make it easy to create a staging environment think of it as a test area for your event.
There’s no risk of anyone else viewing the changes you make in the staging environment, meaning you’re free to tweak and alter any aspect of your website before the event launches. Remember: fail to plan, and you’re planning to fail.
Not encouraging ad-hoc conversations
A big reason why professionals have always gravitated towards conferences is that they’re fun in addition to being informative. It’s interesting to meet up with people who share your interests and have some deep discussions with them.
That’s both easier and harder with virtual events. It’s easier in the sense that there’s more time to talk with fewer people needing to leave early to catch trains or even flights, but it’s harder in the sense that face-to-face interaction is gone.
The element of spontaneity is a big deal, and you should try to facilitate it however you can offering convenient breakout rooms should be the cornerstone of your process,
Making it quite straightforward for people who’ve attended the same talks to spin up some fresh chats (throw in the influence of AI-based matchmaking and you have a recipe for strong engagement.
When we look to the future of virtual meetings, we can expect things to go in the direction indicated by Microsoft’s Mesh VR platform and the spatial video chat format from certain services:
Yet more approximations of real-world proximity, all in service of allowing natural group dynamics to come to the fore. This should be one of your primary goals.
Leaving your speakers unprepared
It’s easy to expect that speaking at a virtual assistant event is going to be just like attending a Zoom meeting, but that simply isn’t the case. It’s on a different virtual rent level of intensity and quality.
If you misspeak in a meeting, everyone laughs it off and moves on but if you misspeak while giving a presentation to a worldwide audience, your credibility (and the credibility of your brand) will take a hit. Unfortunately, not all speakers take this into account.
As the event host, part of your job is coaching them into giving excellent performances not least because showcasing speakers who give weak performances will make you look bad.
Instead of expecting your speakers to have adequate laptop mics, liaise with them to ensure that they purchase and correctly configure some high-quality equipment.
If they can have decent green-screen setups with near-professional lighting, it’ll make a huge difference.
This does rest on the professionalism and dedication of your speakers, of course, but if someone isn’t committed to giving an outstanding presentation, do you really want them speaking at your event?
Be discerning instead of bringing in everyone who expresses interest. You want a spot at your event to be seen as prestigious.
Giving no reasons for people to attend live
Some event hosts state ahead of time that everything will be recorded and made available for free immediately after their events have finished.
Many of them offer no significant interactivity beyond the discussions that occur between attendees: speakers don’t take questions, and may only “appear” through pre-recorded videos made weeks or months in advance.
Given these things, why should people attend those events live? It’s much easier to just check out the session videos at their leisure, fitting things around their schedules instead of vice versa.
And if they don’t attend live, the hosts might as well not hold the events at all. It’s embarrassing to promote an event on social media only to see very few people appear.
So what can motivate people to attend live? Chances for breakout conversations, as previously noted. Live talks with Q&A sessions that won’t be provided in the video-recording form at least, not until weeks or even months have passed since the event.
Timed discounts for related products and/or services (promos are powerful, as Wordstream notes here). Well-arranged social media commentary. In short, you need to do everything you can to bring in the live traffic.
And that live traffic shouldn’t start with the first session. When big businesses host huge conferences, the attendees gather well in advance so they spend some time enjoying idle conversation and talking about what they hope to learn.
By opening your event platform hours before you get underway, you can let attendees assemble and start connecting in ways that could have profound implications for their businesses.
Having no plan for measuring ROI
However altruistic your intent for your virtual event may be, there’s something you want to get out of it.
Maybe you want it to grow your brand, demonstrating that you’re a sufficiently-big name in your field to gather a respectable audience.
Maybe you want to drive people to your new product or service by heavily featuring its strengths. Maybe you want to make some key contacts that might ultimately bring you some new business.
And when you’re operating with a substantial budget and partnering with other well-established businesses, you’re putting in too much effort and investment to take ROI lightly.
You need a clear set of metric-based targets that you want to hit maybe you’ll consider your event successful if it directly leads to the conversion of twenty qualified leads, or fifty, or a hundred (with the scale depending on the size of your business and the size of the new clients).
Maybe you’ll want to reach a 95% level of attendee satisfaction, giving you a prime metric to use when promoting future events. It’s up to you to decide.
It’s important to note that the spike in brand interest stemming from a virtual event doesn’t last long. If you want to take advantage of it, you need to act quickly, which means planning your approach before the event starts.
What pieces of marketing content will you be using, and how will you be distributing it?
Which attendees will you be contacting after the event, and what will you propose to do for/with them?
Remember to think big. Virtual events take a lot of work to get right, but if you do your job correctly then you can secure the steady attention of influential industry figures for hours at a time attention that advertisers would pay huge sums to acquire.
Don’t settle for a 10% growth in your base of email newsletter subscribers: plan to double it, and take every opportunity to push your expertise to new visitors.
Your virtual event doesn’t need to be perfect, which is good because there’s no such thing as a perfect event but given everything you’re surely putting into it to make it a success,
It’s vital that you keep your error count as low as possible. A standout event will raise your profile and set the stage for further success.
While a weak event (rife with unprepared speakers, awkward scheduling, and unclear value) will leave brand damage that you’ll struggle to heal. The motivation is abundantly clear.