The Ultimate Guide for Hosting Virtual Events
As more events are postponed or canceled due to COVID-19, professionals are looking for new ways to adapt to the realities of marketing during a pandemic.
We’ve seen a host of industry events move online, including our own Guesty Goes Virtual series, which has been bringing together industry experts to offer strategies for navigating coronavirus as a property management company.
Given the success we’ve seen in generating new insight, business tactics and supportive professional networks, we’ve decided to share our virtual events strategy so that property management companies can learn how to host their own online events. Not only will this bring you new points of view and strategies for managing your business during this crisis, but it will also help position you as an industry leader in the process.
Read on to learn how to plan, host and market your own virtual event:
What is a Virtual Event?
A virtual event is a gathering of people interacting online. The key is to turn the look and feel of a physical event into a digital experience.
Types of Virtual Events
There are many kinds of virtual events: It all depends on how you want to present your content. You can present your own strategies, host a panel of experts, or combine these formats.
The next step is choosing whether to pre-record or go live.
Pros: Organizers know what to expect and can make sure everything runs smoothly before broadcasting. You can also easily distribute the recording to a broader audience.
Cons: Engagement is limited as your speakers will not be able to ask questions and interact with your guests.
Pros: This is as close to an in-person experience as possible. Live events offer the highest engagement as participants are able to offer their input and ask questions in real-time. They also give a more authentic face to your brand as it is not pre-scripted or perfected with edits.
Cons: Unpredictable things can happen at any time, like tech glitches, a rambling speaker, or other distractions that you’ll need to adapt to.
We recommend creating a hybrid of both formats by recording your live events — that way you’re providing an interactive experience for your customers, while also allowing access to your content for those who weren’t able to attend.
What Makes Virtual Events So Effective?
Reach a wider audience: Virtual events allow you to extend your guest list beyond a specific region, since attendees just need an Internet connection to show up. Less hassle for them means more attendees for you!
Save time and money: The usual expenses — venue, flights, hotels, and food — are no longer a factor. Plus, you’ll cut down on set-up and planning time by up to 75% .
Gain valuable insight: You’ll be able to get tips from industry experts around the world. Property managers can interact with other members of the travel community that they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet in person because of budget or geography.
Collect instant feedback: Viewers can ask questions, comment and respond to polls during the event. Also, attendees are able to share their opinions and data with one another, keeping them engaged and building relationships.
Setting the Stage: Hosting Your First Virtual Event
To get started, select the right tools for your needs. We suggest checking out the following:
Then, create a landing page with information about the event. Include a registration form, marking the fields that are important to your business as mandatory (i.e. full name, email and company). We suggest using Unbounce or LeadPages.
Casting Speakers for Your Virtual Event
Every event must have an engaging moderator to introduce the topic and panelists, as well as keep the presentation on the right track. Your speakers should also have experience on camera and know how to keep a virtual audience engaged. Find panelists through members of rental associations or service providers you work with to offer various industry perspectives.
Promoting Your Virtual Event
Virtual events need to be backed by a good marketing strategy. Your plan should involve the following:
Know your audience
First, decide who the event is for: other property managers? Travel industry professionals? Looking at attendees from other events that are similar to yours will help you get an idea. Send a survey to your mailing list to understand the topics they want to cover.
Take advantage of email marketing
Leverage social media
When on a budget, social media is a great option for reaching a wide audience for free. Focus on key channels depending on your audience: If you’re targeting an older crowd, post on LinkedIn or Facebook, while a younger crowd may be more active on Twitter and Instagram.
Connect with your community
Join property management communities online and share your event details with them. Post on free ticketing websites, like Meetup or Eventbrite, to build awareness and monitor your ROI. Also, encourage your guests to submit questions by email prior to the event to make them feel included.
Send email and social media reminders to keep your event from falling off the radar. Everyone should receive a confirmation email and a reminder email before the event (one day and one hour before works great).
Lights, Camera, Action: Pulling Off a Live Event
Conduct a rehearsal to review the presentation, and make sure to invite speakers to join prior to the start time to test the tech and ensure everyone knows how to use the screen-sharing and private chat functions.
Speakers and hosts should follow these key practices to yield the best results:
- Find a quiet, isolated room to avoid interruptions.
- Mute mobile devices and close other tabs on your computer.
- Test tech with sound and video checks. For better sound quality, use headphones with a speaker.
- Set up a hotspot on your phone in case your internet connection fails.
- Don’t clutter your slides with too much text or distracting visuals.
- Present a few intro slides that introduce the event and speakers with professional headshots so listeners can connect the face with the name.
- Create “housekeeping slides,” explaining how to adjust audio, where to submit questions, etc.
Once you press “broadcast,” announce a 5-minute grace period so everyone can join. Track the number of attendees at the start of the event, and jot down the numbers every 15 minutes to see when they begin to drop off. Monitor the questions submitted for the Q&A session at the end. If you notice one speaker being sent many questions, consider inviting them back for another event since they engaged the crowd.
That’s a Wrap! Now What?
Follow up with all registrants and ask for feedback through surveys. If recorded, share the recording online. Many virtual event tools provide data, such as the number of attendees, most-engaged listeners, etc. — use this to perfect your next event.
Although these guidelines will help you get started, the best way to gain insight into hosting events is by attending events. Stay tuned for all of Guesty’s upcoming virtual events here!