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How to Host a Virtual Corporate Event

How to Host a Virtual Corporate Event

The global COVID-19 pandemic throughout 2020 and 2021 has forced many businesses to adopt remote working, and on the other hand, people are getting more familiar with the virtual event formats throughout the pandemic.

As a result of this phenomenon, more and more companies have shifted to virtual corporate events during the pandemic, and after realizing the unique benefits offered by the virtual format, virtual corporate events are here to stay even after the pandemic.

In fact, exclusively in-person events (without any virtual elements) will be increasingly rarer. The majority of events all around the world will at least be hybrid (in-person events also broadcasted online.)

Yet, planning and organizing a virtual corporate event can be easier said than done and will require some specific skillsets.

In this guide, we will learn everything you need to know about hosting a virtual corporate event, as well as the best tips and practices you can implement right away to successfully organize a successful virtual corporate event for your company.

Let us begin from the basics: what actually is a virtual corporate event?

What Is a Virtual Corporate Event?  

First, what is a corporate event?

In a nutshell, a corporate event is an event planned, hosted, and sponsored by a company that focuses on the company’s employees, clients, or both.

When hosted for employees, the event is called an “internal corporate event,” but when hosted for clients and is opened to the general public, it’s an “external corporate event.”

A virtual event, on the other hand, is a type of event that is hosted exclusively online (doesn’t have official in-person attendees) in front of virtual attendees. When an event has both in-person and virtual attendees, then it is called a hybrid event.

Thus, a virtual corporate event is a corporate event that is hosted in front of virtual audiences.

Key Benefits of Hosting a Virtual Corporate Event

While we can’t say that virtual events will completely replace traditional in-person events, there are some unique benefits of hosting a virtual corporate event over the traditional counterparts:

1. Lower cost

Hosting an in-person event is naturally more expensive than a virtual event. Venue rental, as well as associated costs like catering, transportation/travel, decoration, insurance, and so on, can be very expensive if you are not careful.

On the other hand, we can effectively eliminate these costs in a virtual event, which effectively makes hosting a virtual event much more cost-effective.

We can, for example, technically host a virtual event over platforms like Skype or Zoom, which are more affordable (there are even free versions) than renting a large ballroom to host a 5,000-capacity event.

2. Not limited by geographical locations

Arguably, the biggest advantage of hosting a virtual event over its in-person counterpart is that we can invite attendees and talents/speakers/presenters from halfway across the world without having to worry about travel and accommodation costs, among other issues.

In practice, this can offer two unique benefits:

  • You can technically attract and invite attendees from anywhere and expand your event’s reach. Ultimately this will translate into more exposure and revenue.
  • You can secure famous speakers and talents that are otherwise above your budget when you invite them for an in-person event. Many speakers/talents charge lower for a virtual event due to the lower level of commitment, and obviously, you can also save on travel and accommodation costs.

This advantage of bypassing geographical limitations also means you can provide more flexibility for attendees so they can attend the event from anywhere and from any device. 

3. More focused content

Due to the cost-efficiency of hosting a virtual event, as well as the lower complexity of planning and hosting the event, event organizers can focus on content when hosting a virtual corporate event.

The higher the quality of content, as well as the more focused it is, the better the attendance experience will be.

You can also record the event and make it available as on-demand content, so your attendees can choose when to “attend” the event on their timeline. By allowing attendees to access the content months or even years after the event, you can further amplify your event’s value.

4. Environmentally friendly

Hosting a virtual event is technically more environmentally friendly than any in-person event by using less physical resources: less travel, less energy consumption, less waste, etc.

If you are a company who is looking to be more socially and environmentally responsible, hosting a virtual corporate event can be a great chance to promote sustainability for your company.

5. Easier evaluation of performance

In a virtual event, it’s easier to leverage various analytics and reporting solutions to collect various aspects of data related to the event’s performance: content consumption, event attendance metrics, heat maps of visited sessions, etc. 

With these analytics tools, it’s easier for event organizers to analyze each virtual event’s performance and prove its value to prospective sponsors and partners. 

Of course, organizers can also leverage the collected insights to develop better events in the future.

Hosting a Virtual Corporate Event: Key Challenges

While the virtual event format does offer many benefits, hosting a virtual corporate event may pose its own unique challenges you’d need to pay attention to.

Below are some of the most prominent challenges you may face when hosting a virtual corporate event, as well as the potential solution for each:

1. Face-to-face interaction and networking opportunities

One of the top reasons for people to attend events, especially corporate events, is networking (along with good food in in-person events). 

Yet, even with all the advancements in technology today, we still can’t adequately replicate face-to-face interactivity in a virtual event, and this is why maintaining engagement is often the biggest challenge in hosting a virtual event.

Potential solution: it’s very important to design the virtual corporate event from the ground up with the focus of creating a more interactive and engaging experience. 

Leverage technology as much as you can: include live Q&As, surveys, live chats, and interactive polls, among others. Facilitate networking as much as you can, for example, by allowing one-to-one interactions between attendees with similar interests. 

To optimize engagement, it may also help to keep the event small to facilitate networking between attendees.

2. Data security and privacy

Since virtual corporate events naturally involve online data transactions between attendees and the organizer, data privacy may be at risk. 

Cybercriminals are potentially lurking to intercept your and your attendees’ sensitive data, so adequate security measures in hosting a virtual corporate event are a must.

Potential solution: remember that as an event organizer, it’s your responsibility to protect the sensitive/confidential data of your attendees. Implement adequate security protections, and start by investing in a proper virtual event technology solution with built-in security features. 

Also, make sure to maintain cybersecurity best practices throughout the event planning and execution.

3. Reliability to technology

A virtual event will be naturally reliant on technology and may involve many different technology solutions: a virtual event platform, registration/ticketing tool, attendee management, live chat, and so on.

Yet, the more technology solutions you incorporate into your workflow, the more potential technical issues you may face along the way.

Potential solution: when it comes to technology solutions, less is more. If possible, invest in an all-in-one virtual platform solution like Eventifier, so you don’t have to rely on too many disconnected, disjointed tools. 

Also, only use credible and reliable technology solutions. Make sure the software vendor offers dependable, preferably 24/7 customer support so you can always get help in the event of emergencies (i.e., technical hiccups on the d-day of the event.)

4. Monetization and securing sponsorships

Converting virtual attendees to make their on-event purchases is typically more challenging than in in-person events. This can be a major issue for businesses that rely on on-event purchases as the main source of revenue.

On the other hand, convincing sponsors to fund virtual corporate events is, at the moment, still more challenging than traditional in-person events. 

Potential solution: leverage analytics and reporting tools to prove your virtual event’s value to sponsors and to find better monetization opportunities.

5. Using analytics and reporting

While one of the key perks of hosting a virtual event over a traditional in-person event is the capability to leverage analytics and reporting solutions to collect valuable data from various aspects of the event, using this data into actionable insights can be challenging, and in fact, can be counterproductive if you are not careful.

Potential solution: 

Start by choosing an event management platform that can seamlessly integrate with your CRM to minimize friction between different analytics and reporting tools. Try to consolidate different data sources as much as you can to prevent information siloing.

Planning a Virtual Event: Key Considerations and Checklist

While planning and hosting a virtual event is relatively simpler than its in-person counterpart, you still need to consider a lot of details. 

Here are some key aspects to focus on when planning a virtual corporate event:

  • Virtual event platform 
  • Event website
  • Online registration functionality
  • Live interactive keynote/presentation content
  • Live one-way audio/video content
  • Live Q&A
  • live polls
  • Pre-recorded content
  • Post-event feedback surveys
  • Note-taking functionality

And here are some key considerations you should have when planning the virtual corporate event:

  • The objectives of the event, KPIs, and key metrics to measure performance
  • Will the event be 100% live or pre-recorded (or a mixture of the two)
  • The steps required for an attendee to convert (i.e., make a purchase). Make it as streamlined as possible.
  • The total duration of the event and how long each session will be
  • How much will you charge for the event? Will it be free?
  • Plan Bs and plan Cs for connectivity and power outage issues
  • Creating a manual/guidelines or video tutorial for attendees that explains how they can attend sessions, join keynotes, use live chat tools, leave their feedback, and other important activities during the event.
  • How long the on-demand content will be available after the event has ended
  • How will you facilitate networking and interaction between attendees

Virtual Corporate Events: Best Practices

If you’re already familiar with planning and hosting traditional corporate events, then most of the principles and event management practices would still apply. 

However, there are also some unique challenges and nuances you’ll face along the way when planning a virtual corporate event, and here, we’ve compiled the most important best practices you need to know to successfully organize your next virtual corporate event:

1. Identify your purpose and objective

It’s very important not to host a virtual corporate event just for the sake of it. 

Instead, every virtual corporate event must have a purpose behind it: is it purely recreational to help with your team’s morale (which is completely valid)? Is it to improve your brand’s awareness? Is it to help support a product launch?

Knowing the purpose will help you decide on what type of event you should host and the ideal target audience for the event, among other details.

So, identify your event’s purpose as soon as possible, and then use the SMART goals framework to determine realistic and measurable objectives.

Below are some of the most common purposes of corporate events you can use as inspiration.

Internal corporate event objectives:

  • Educate employees regarding a specific concept of idea
  • Supporting employee onboarding, helping new employees feel themselves at home
  • Acknowledging and celebrating employee accomplishments and company milestones
  • Attract potential talents from outside the company by building strong employer branding
  • Inform the employees about internal decisions or new developments (i.e., introducing employees to a new product)
  • Bring the staff closer together

External corporate event objectives:

  • Improving lead generation by X%
  • Educating clients and prospective buyers about the new product your company just launched
  • Improving social media engagement (i.e., comments, shares)
  • Building brand awareness

The earlier and the more detail you can define your event’s objectives, the higher the likelihood of success. 

2. Establish Budget as Early as Possible

It’s very important to estimate your event budget as early as possible.

Having a budget will give you a clear roadmap to ensure you don’t overspend on your expenses, so you can achieve the event’s objectives effectively.

Earlier in the event planning cycle, you don’t need to have a set budget. You can always revise and update the budget later, but you should start with at least the high-level elements as your foundation.

Here are some of the most important expenses to consider in a virtual corporate event:

  • Technology: virtual event management platform, A/V equipment, live streaming solutions, and other tools/solutions.
  • Marketing and promotion: for external events, often a major expense.
  • Staffing: including travel and accommodation costs for volunteers.
  • Speakers/talents: including travel and accommodation costs. Depending on the type of your event, maybe the top expense.
  • Contingencies: no event will go perfectly according to plan, so it’s important to allocate emergency expenses on your event budget. Around 20% of your total event budget should go to contingencies.

3. Identify and Understand Your Target Audience

Based on your event’s purpose and objectives, you can now try to identify the ideal audience for your event.

If this event is intended as an internal event, then this might not be an issue since your target audience will be your employees (and you can skip this). However, if this is an external event and you are planning to invite the general public, then identifying and knowing your audience inside-out is extremely important in ensuring success.

The basic approach is to identify the best possible audience that can help you achieve your goals. For example, if this corporate event is intended to support a product launch, then the ideal audience for this event is the prospective buyers of the product.

Then, you should gather as much information as you can about this ideal audience, including: 

  • Demographics data
  • Behaviors
  • Pain points
  • What kind of offers will they be interested in
  • Online habits

And so on.

If you’ve hosted previous events in the past, then you can use the previous attendees’ data for this purpose. However, if you don’t know (yet) who your target audience is, you can start by sending questionnaires and surveys to potential audiences.

4. Content is King

No matter what type of virtual corporate event you are planning, your content will literally make or break the event’s success. 

Decide on the theme and format of your event, and determine the different activities that are going to be included in the event agenda (as well as the duration of each activity.)

If you are unsure about your event’s theme, then you can run a survey to understand your potential audience’s preferences. If necessary, create a smaller focus group that consists of your potential audience so you can test your ideas.

Design your event’s format and content based on your audience’s preferences and expectations. Remember that you don’t really need to stick with just a single format/type, but you can combine multiple formats when applicable.

Also, when planning your event agenda, don’t forget to include breaks and breakout sessions for your attendees, as well as networking. Finding the right balance throughout the event is important so you can maintain engagement.

5. Invest in The Right Technology

The success of a virtual corporate event, or any virtual event in general, will be determined by the technology solutions powering the event. 

Above anything else, you’ll need to invest in the right virtual event platform according to your unique requirements: corporate event objectives, KPIs, target audience preferences, and budget.

It’s very important to first identify your needs and requirements, both for the specific virtual corporate event you are currently planning and as an event organizer as a whole. List the must-have features you’ll need in a virtual event platform, nice-to-have features, and unimportant features, so you can figure out your priorities. 

The basic approach is to choose the most affordable virtual event platform that offers all the must-have features you’ve listed. Of course, depending on your budget, you may need to make compromises; this is why knowing which features are must-haves is very important.

Carefully evaluate your options, so you can be sure you are choosing the best possible virtual event platform to power your corporate event.

Besides the virtual event platform, you may also need additional technology solutions to cover the following areas:

  • Registration solution: you’ll need a technology solution that facilitates reliable online registration/ticketing to maximize attendance. Virtual event platforms like Eventifier also offer built-in registration features. 
  • Attendee engagement solution: Maintaining engagement can be challenging in any virtual event. So, you can invest in project management software and various productivity tools to help streamline your team’s collaboration. 
  • Mobile app: you can create mobile event apps to improve the attendee experience of virtual corporate events. You can leverage these mobile apps for attendees to be able to interact with other attendees, partners, and sponsors, and you can also make the event agenda available on the mobile app.
  • Productivity/team management tools: You can invest in project management software and various productivity tools to help streamline your team’s communication and collaboration and improve their productivity.
  • Live streaming: you may need additional live streaming solutions on top of the virtual event platform to maximize your event’s reach, depending on your objectives.

Again, try to figure out your unique needs before committing to any of these technology solutions. Using solutions you don’t actually need can translate into a waste of resources, but it may also complicate your workflow and hurt your team’s productivity. 

How To Measure Performance of Virtual Corporate Events

We can consider a virtual corporate event a success if it aligns well with the event’s objectives and the business’s overall mission.

In the end, the virtual corporate event’s performance should be measured by comparing the generated value against the expenses spent to plan and host the event.

We can do so by measuring the following metrics:

  • Number of registrations
  • Attendance rate (number of registrants who actually showed up)
  • Number of generated leads (i.e., signups)
  • Demographic information of attendees
  • Session popularity and feedback
  • Email open/click-through rates
  • Post-event feedback results
  • Social media engagement (likes, shares, mentions)

Wrapping Up

While planning and hosting a virtual corporate event can be easier said than done, ultimately it’s about how well you understand your target audience’s needs, and whether your virtual corporate event can be a relevant answer to their needs and pain points.

By following the tips we’ve shared above, you are now ready to plan and host a successful virtual corporate event right away.

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