How To Create A Virtual Event That Rocks

Creating and hosting a “slam dunk” event for your company or organization can have a huge impact on your success.  This has been a foundational concept for years.  But now 2020 has happened, events can look very different.  So how can you create a virtual event that rocks?  Let’s dig into some ways to create an event that is one to remember.

Let’s start with a note.  When creating a virtual event, you need to understand that it’s not the same as an in person event.  That’s okay, but it’s really important to understand.  The more you try to “recreate” the in person event, the more you will struggle.  It’s a different animal.  So as you imagine what your event will be, and what you want it to accomplish, remember that your attendees will not be “with you” in the physical sense.  So creating an experience that meets them where they actually are is critical.

With that being said, whether it’s a fundraiser, an educational event or an thank you party, a well-run event can help increase loyalty and
create revenue.   
But just like anything else in business, if you want to have an exceptional event, the devil is in the details.  Let’s talk about a few of these details on how to create a virtual event that hits the mark.

Create Your Theme

Most successful events (whether in person or virtual) have some sort of theme to build around. The more fun and creative the theme, the more you can build it up. So spend some time around the brainstorm table and come up with a theme that really moves the needle for your audience.  And because this event is virtual, I love the idea of building around that.  

After you have created the theme, you can take it to the next level by creating an event logo. You don’t have to do this, but it helps to brand everything at the event and make it feel “first class.” And you don’t need to spend big bucks on this. Have a staff contest and come up with something fun and simple! It will help to improve the overall impression of the entire event.

hasseman marketing masterclass

Each year, our company hosts a Customer Appreciation Show. The event has evolved from a strictly “thank you” event for our customers, into a real business event complete with Trade Show set up and a speaker.  But this year, 2020 happened.  So we decided not to host the in person event.  Instead we decided to create an virtual event we called the Hasseman Marketing MasterClass.  The event featured amazing speakers, some really cool break out session, and even a vendor area.  As you can see, we created a theme and a logo to kick off this inaugural event with a bang.

Staff Uniform

The theme also allows you to start thinking about what the staff will wear.  Now you might be thinking “If we are not in person, why do we need to do this?”  Fair.  But I think by creating a “uniform” that stands out, your attendees can really see your team unity here.  It’s great that we have been able to be more casual in working from home, but I don’t think your organization’s event is the one where every one should be wearing sweatpants.  It does not have to be fancy, but it’s just a small detail that can make it look sharp.

Pre-Event SWAG Box

One of the reasons to create an event logo is to create a pre-event swag bag (or box).  With a virtual event, I think this is more important than ever.  We have all been invited to an infinite number of Zoom meetings.  While this technology has been a Godsend, we are all tired of them.  This box of branded goodness can help to not only increase your organizations brand awareness, but also improve excitement for the event..

Another reason to create this swag box in advance of the event is the promotion you will get on Social Medial.  Obviously, you want to promote the items you will be giving away.  But if you create a box of branded merchandise that delights, then you will get your attendees and customers to tell the story for you!  Help them.  Create a card to include in the box to explain the items and to ask them to post their goodies.  My suggestion, create a hashtag for the event and ask them to use that when posting!  This allows you to track the content and helps to build excitement in advance of the event.

Choosing The Platform

At an in person event, the venue is really important right?  Well for a virtual event, the platform is your venue.  A platform that is easy to use is really important.  And having technology that has the details thought through can really help you shape the flow of the event.  We used the platform Hopin and I really liked it.  More than just a zoom meeting, Hopin allowed us to mimic the flow of a normal event in order to keep the pace of the event moving.  With a virtual event, I think pace really matters.  When people can simply get up and walk away from their computer, you better keep them engaged.

At The Event…First Impressions

I know I am dating myself, but I remember a scene from the original Karate Kid movie. Mr. Myagi was teaching Daniel-san to shape the Bonsai trees. He told Daniel-san to close his eyes and imagine what the tree should look like. He told him to see it like a picture. Then he told him to open his eyes and “make the picture.”

That’s a little like planning any event. Close your eyes and imagine all the details of the event. Now go make the picture.

Here are some quick questions to ask yourself:

What do I want people to see first when they “enter” the event?

What do I want them to hear? 

How do I want them to interact?  

A virtual event is different, so it’s really important to be intentional.  We felt it was important for them to be greeted into the event.  It was going to be the first time many of them used the platform, so we wanted to explain it to them.  How was the day going to go?  What could they expect?  During a virtual event, some people are going to struggle with the technology, so you need to over communicate.

Preaching Patience

One piece of advice I got when planning the event was to “preach patience.”  This advice came from some of the early adopters of virtual events…my friends at Commonsku.  These folks were some of the first to create really great virtual events…and they continue to up their game in this area.  As they told me, there will be technology glitches.  You are dealing with hundreds of different people, with different computers, and individual internet connections.  Things will go wrong.  From the very beginning of our event, we tried to explain that.  We told them to refresh if things locked up…and where to reach out if they struggled.  It was not perfect, of course.  But overall, the event went off well.  Oh…and if you want to hear their take on virtual events from them, check out this podcast.

Follow Up After The Event

In almost the entire business world, most people fall on their faces in the follow up. So make sure you have an actual plan in place to thank your attendees for coming. Often this can be done with a simple email campaign to recognize that you actually did notice the participants were there. But if you have a few select clients, this might be the place to take it to the next level.

Create a quick mailer with one last premium (with the theme) that goes to your “target list” or your “top clients” or whatever. Just one last touch like this will not only make your event (and your organization) stand out, but it will also provide one more “lasting impact” piece for their desk, office or home.

As much as we would love to imagine that all of these COVID restrictions are going away, I think that is naive.  We need to be prepared to keep being creative when it comes to business.  I hope this helps you think about how you can go to market and create a virtual event that rocks!

If you want to discuss how to create an event for your organization, we would love to help.  Head to our Let’s Talk page to set up a time to discuss.

Written by: Kirby Hasseman

Kirby Hasseman is the CEO of Hasseman Marketing & Communications. Kirby hosts a weekly Web show called Delivering Marketing Joy where he interviews business leaders from around the country. Kirby has published four books. His most recent is “Fan of Happy.” His book, called "Delivering Marketing Joy" is about doing “promo right” and is perfect for people in the industry and customers. He also wrote “Think Big For Small Business” and “Give Your Way to Success. All are available on Amazon.