do this, not that

5 tips to maximize your virtual event

If 2020 has taught us anything, I’d like to think it’s that we are far nimbler and more adaptable to change than maybe we are giving ourselves credit. Our lives have been turned upside down with social distancing keeping us apart, but it’s forced companies to get creative and reimagine how to stay connected to employees and customers, and in the process, uncovering what we’ve always suspected. Just because it’s the way it’s always been done, doesn’t mean it’s still the best way to do it.

One of the best examples is the move from in-person to virtual events. While not new, it’s fair to say that virtual events are finally having their moment. With industry trade shows, conferences, sales meetings and more shifting to digital experiences, it’s opened the door to redirect marketing budgets away from hefty travel expenses and physical booth footprints to creating more measurable engagement with customers and prospects through digital platforms.

What hasn’t changed? There are still sales goals to hit and new leads to generate. A pivot to virtual events can help boost efficiencies and be more effective in helping your brand get there. So, what are the dos and don’ts to consider? Here are a few to keep in mind when planning a virtual event.

DO shake up the content mix

Ditch the use of lengthy slide decks and infuse the event with engaging content through live polls, small group discussions, breakout sessions and private chat rooms to make the event more experiential. While going virtual can’t replace the same organic networking that comes with in-person events, building in opportunities for attendees to connect online can help boost engagement and participation.

DON’T rely on traditional event schedules

Attendees have a short attention span for online events. Zoom fatigue is no joke. Provide shorter sessions that last 20 minutes rather than an hour. Consider adding a moderator to help build the conversation in the moment and keep sessions moving along at a steady pace. Allow for customization so attendees can participate when and how they prefer. Assuming all content is recorded, participants can build their own experience on their own timeline.

DO redefine success metrics

It’s equally important to customize success metrics for digital events. A blend of standard live-event metrics and digital key performance indicators—such as dwell time, pageviews and downloads—plays a role. So does customer feedback. Initiate post-event surveys to capture insights into what content resonated and which speakers hit the mark. From the moment an attendee arrives, it’s possible to track every interest and interaction. Funnel this data into your CRM to understand where each attendee is in their buyer’s journey.

DON’T limit your audience reach

Virtual events break down geographic barriers to attendance. Consider stretching your event across time zones so participants can experience it live wherever they are. There are also digital conferencing platforms that enable live captioning and translation for speaker remarks so audience members can view subtitles in their local language.

DO practice, practice, practice

As we all know, live-streaming and virtual tools can fail without warning. Make sure you have plans in place for all those “worst-case scenario” moments and aren’t scrambling for a new solution during crunch-time. No one wants to be the blurry speaker or asking the dreaded question, “Can you see/hear me?” So, make sure your Wi-Fi has a strong signal, that whatever platform you are presenting on will open the presentation materials, and that your audio and mic levels are optimized. Technology can be temperamental, so it’s best to open the event platform at least 30 minutes earlier than scheduled to allow for troubleshooting.

By shifting to a virtual event, there’s one benefit that perhaps outweighs all others. Unlike an in-person event, you can eliminate the risk of a pandemic-driven cancellation and provide your customers with some level of certainty in these uncertain times. And that’s a welcome change for everyone.

Ready to take your next event online? We can help you evaluate if a virtual event is the right step for you. Learn more at

Written By

april wonsick

vice president of client service

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akhia communications — an Ohio public relations agency