Events have been cancelled through May 10th. You and your team have decided the best course of action is to go on with the event but transition the content to a digital format. The good news? You have at least 4 weeks to make it happen! The not so good news? You have your work cut out for you.
Here are the broad strokes of what needs to happen next.
Verify that your event can be delivered in a digital format.
Hint: it probably can! But consider your attendees, your content, and expectations that your audience has already formulated on their own. You don’t want people to feel badly about it. If your event is primarily meant to facilitate networking, tread lightly. Networking events can be hosted in a digital format but the nature of an online event versus in person is very different. Be empathetic to your attendees’ feelings. Read our blog post on this topic here.
Draft your transition plan.
Create a project plan specific to your new virtual event. You will still need your team and they will have new roles. You will need to communicate with your audience, speakers, and team regularly. You will also need to make sure you test the tech with everyone and make sure they’re comfortable. Download your free virtual event plan here.
Confirm the details of the new digital format.
Making the switch from an in-person to digital event requires a lot of thought into how the change will happen. Some decisions you need to make:
Will you give refunds for people who don’t like the new format?
Will you offer a discount on next year’s in person event for those who already purchased a ticket?
Will you reduce the cost/give partial refunds?
What about sponsors? How can you beef up their sponsorship packages so they don’t lose value with the digital shift?
What perks are you offering to incentivize continued participation?
Define a process for handling customer service inquiries.
Create a taskforce to lead the charge on brainstorming an FAQ and a scenario list for handling customer service calls and requests. Prep your team for answering these. Create an inbox or use an existing one (like email@example.com) to make sure attendees can have their questions answered right away. Use an alias so that multiple people have access and can monitor and respond immediately.
Communicate the change.
You will need to re-write your copy for registration sites, draft emails to announce the change to your currently registered attendees, sponsors, speakers, and internal stakeholders. Be sure to include why you are making the change, highlight the benefits attendees will get by participating in the digital event, and any additional perks you are providing (discounts on future tickets, digital goodie bag, etc.)
Find the right tool for your event.
There are a lot of tools out there. Find the right one for you! You might not need the most robust digital event platform. Your budget, goals, and audience will define the best move for you. We will be publishing a white paper in the coming days comparing 8+ different platforms (check back soon!).
Be sure to take a crash course in your tool of choice. Select an owner for the technology tool, a support team, and those who can become super users in a short time to act as your tech support. Draft training documents for each attendee type, host trainings, and share guidelines. Update your presentations to better suit your delivery method.
For example, if your platform has a media player you might want to take any videos out of your PPTs and play them in the media player instead for better results.
Depending on the number of people you have attending, you might want to invest in a tool that provides day of support for you and your attendees.
Practice make proficient.
Test the tool with your core team and work out any kinks. Then give your entire production team a demo on how it works. Give them time and homework to get into the system and complete specific actions so they get familiar with the tool. And finally, schedule multiple dry runs. Go through everything with your speakers and teams. Your goal is to make sure everyone knows what they are responsible for, common troubleshooting for their responsibilities, and who to ask for support if something goes wrong.
When hosting a virtual event, there is a lot of work upfront. In the end it will be worth it! The more you host, the more comfortable you’ll get, and the more your events will improve. The best party is, you will be able to deliver engaging, effective, memorable events that will leave a lasting impression on your attendees, sponsors, and speakers using an innovative tool.
Are you working on a virtual event? How is it going? What advice would you give to another embarking on their virtual journey?