Have you hosted your own virtual event that lacked the “experiential” piece? Have you executed an experiential event that wasn’t as successful as you were hoping? Are you planning one but don’t know where to start? You’re not alone! Many businesses are having difficulty replicating the networking, engagement, and interaction that are staples of face-to-face events. Much of this difficulty stems from the questions and unknowns that we’re finding folks have around running engaging virtual events. For such a common topic these days – there’s really not a whole lot of information easily accessible to answer your burning questions.
We’ve run a few of our own virtual networking and experiential events utilizing craft beer tastings. Judging by the number of questions, comments, and feedback we’ve been fielding by the participants, we’re here to offer our best tips for getting a project like this off the ground. Fortunately, with a relatively low budget and without prior event experience, you can run an engaging virtual event experience that WOWs.
Now, let’s get started…
As many of us have numerous virtual meetings daily, the ‘zoom fatigue’ can be of concern, so selecting the right vendor for your virtual event is arguably the most important piece of the puzzle. When it comes to selecting a vendor, we recommend choosing one with processes in place to run the event from beginning to end. It will save you time and energy, and their expertise will deliver a superior experience for your guests.
Questions to consider asking:
1. Can the vendor both ship the product and run the event? (This is hard to find but WORTH doing the digging for!)
2. Are there opportunities to personalize elements of the delivery? (in-box notecards, custom logo on items within the box, or choosing the color of the box itself)
3. Can you meet with the guide or event leader in advance or prior to signing a contract?
4. If including food or alcohol in the event box, can they ship these items to the necessary states, and can dietary restrictions be accommodated?
Want to know more about the vendor we’ve been using?
City Brew Tours offers curated in-person and virtual craft beer experiences throughout N. America. Their events combine humor, edutainement, guided instruction with unparalleled customer service and convenience. With the expertise of running 1000s of virtual experiences and the logistics of distribution centers on both coasts, their Beer and Cheese pairing and Live Homebrew Experiences provide a truly unique teambuilding or client appreciation event. We highly recommend them to help combat ‘Zoom Fatigue’.
Invitation and Registration
Once a vendor has been selected, it’s important to nail down the details. Communicate with the vendor to understand the run of show to determine the type of guests you’d like to invite and how many the event can accommodate. Typically, the vendor will have a template with information they will need to run an engaging virtual event, so you can use this information to create your registration platform, but be sure to add a few fields for information that you’d like to have as well. These added fields can be used to better understand how to tailor the conversation, split the group up into breakout rooms for introductions, or as a fun way to get to know your guests a little better.
1. Create an invitation template for employees to use when inviting their clients, customers, or prospects
2. Automate the registration process using your CRM or Marketing Automation tool for ease of future communications for the event
3. Add fields in addition to those requested by the vendor to the registration form to collect any information you may need or want in the future
4. Once completing registration, revert guests to a thank you page with a link to add the event to their calendar
The most engaging virtual events, just like any incentive program, are the ones with excitement created leading up to the event. By automating the registration process, these continued communications will be significantly easier. This is an opportunity to be creative and to get your company name out there beyond your traditional channels.
1. Email, 20 days out from the event: Information about the experience
2. Email, 10 days out: A fun fact list or top 5 list of information relevant to the event
3. Email, Monday week of: Quick overview of the package they’re receiving (or have received)
4. Email, Morning day of: Reminder of the event time and share a link to the calendar reminder or event link
The Virtual Event
The most important piece, for obvious reasons, is the event itself. To ensure the event goes off without a hitch, make sure you connect with those internally (and your vendor!) to do a tech check and agenda recap the morning of or at least an hour before your intended start time.
To begin your event, consider having your event leader welcome each person individually upon joining the zoom as if they were entering a dinner party at their own home. Knowing a little bit about each participant in advance will make this easier, and we would encourage you to use their LinkedIn profile as a reference point – putting a face to the name will help! In addition, depending on the number of participants you’ll have in attendance, we highly recommend breaking your group up into breakout rooms for a portion of the event to replicate the more intimate networking opportunities you’d get at an in-person event.
Items to consider:
1. Create a welcome slide that appears on the screen as participants are joining that outlines the “rules” of engagement for the event
2. Encourage folks to take photos and share them with you or on their social profiles if appropriate (you can include this on your welcome slide!)
3. Take your own photos and screenshots to share via social platforms or newsletters
4. Designate an internal timekeeper to maximize the time of the event
Post Virtual Event
One of the best ways to build upon the success of any event is to connect internally and debrief right away. This provides an opportunity to highlight the elements that worked best and discuss any challenges or things that you would consider changing for future events. On top of internal feedback, authentic feedback from your attendees will help make your next event that much better. You can elicit this by sending a short survey to all participants within 24 hours of the event.
Important Survey Questions:
1. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate (event name) overall?
2. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the communications leading up to the event?
3. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the (insert specific vendor package information)?
4. What changes or updates would you suggest for the next event?
Running engaging virtual events can be daunting, but they’re do-able AND worth it for the memories you’ll create with your participants. Feel free to reach out to brainstorm more on this topic, we’re here to help and share best practice!