How To Run A Virtual Event: Part 1
Virtual Event Timing: When & How
Long Should It Be?
This is the first article in our written series, ‘How to Run a Virtual Event’.
Virtual Events have taken the events industry by storm. They allow organisations, both large and small, to replicate the benefits, look, feel and interactivity of a traditional physical event, but online.
However, the success of a virtual event depends on a number of factors. Aside from content, one of the most important factors influencing a virtual event’s success is timing. The timing of your virtual event is the key to maximising your event’s attendance.
Three important time-related factors for the success of your Virtual Event are;
1. Choosing The Date(s)
If you are looking to replace a physical event with a virtual one, there’s no reason you can’t stick to the same date or time of year. If you’ve been running an event for a while, your audience may already have your brand associated with an event in a certain month.
However, if this is something new, here are a few pointers to help you choose when to run your Virtual Event.
What impacts your target attendees during the year? Will they be tied-up during school holidays? Or, are you targeting e-commerce folk? If so, avoid times like Black Friday and Christmas when their attention will be firmly somewhere else. Having a clear understanding of when your audience will be too busy will help you pinpoint when to avoid running and promoting your event.
This is potentially a chicken and egg situation. If you are trying to land a high-profile external keynote speaker, you’ll need to check when they are available before deciding on a date.
It’s always worth checking to see if your main competitors or big players in your market already have their big events in the calendar. Avoiding a clash makes sense, but you’ll also get a good idea as to when your target audience is in an event-attending mood.
It might be an obvious one, but making sure your business can be geared up to support your Virtual Event may impact your date. Whether its internal speakers, availability of sales for follow-up calls or capitalising on a product launch, your event date(s) should be in sync with your entire business.
2. Event Duration
A pitfall to avoid here is assuming you can run a Virtual Event over a full day like many physical events. In a virtual setting, this just isn’t going to work. It is much harder for your attendees to dedicate their full focus on one tab of their device for a full day.
Whether it’s emails, colleagues or family, your audience is in their own environment with different priorities and distractions.
However, this gives you the opportunity to be creative to make your event content both unmissable and accessible. Here are a few ideas to get you started;
Break Your Events Up
Instead of running one big annual event, break it into shorter and more frequent instalments. Perhaps one each quarter with a single topic of focus. This may mean your events target different segments of your overall audience and help establish your company as an expert in each area. These shorter sessions could last between 3 – 4 hours and feature keynotes, breakout sessions and live Q&A to generate in-depth discussion of the topic.
Split Your Event Over Two Days
Again, each day could last between 3 – 4 hours and why not host a “virtual happy hour” on the evening of day one? This can give your attendees the chance to network and develop their professional relationships.
Linking the content together over the two days is important to keep your attendees engaged for the second day. For example, it could be featuring two high profile keynote speakers over the two days or presenting feedback or results from the first day, or perhaps using the second day to unveil a new product or service. Make sure you include a trailer or “tease” at the end of the first day to let your attendees know what’s coming on day two.
Host A Mix Of Live And On-Demand Event Content For A Limited Time Only
The live keynote sessions can help drive the interest, while other on-demand presentations will keep the attendees engaged at times that suit them. By hosting this content for a limited time, a week, for example, you are able to use the immediacy of a regular event to drive registrations. Using on-demand content will also help alleviate some of the “on-the-day” pressures for event organisers.
Something else to consider here would be to have a rota of live event hosts that are on hand to welcome attendees using live text or video chat. This would give your attendees the “live experience” and can help point them to the live and on-demand sessions.
3. What Time Of Day Should You Host Your Virtual Event?
Much like deciding on the date, the time of your event can rely so much on your audience.
Firstly are they all likely to be from the same time zone? If not, and your content is live, identifying a time with a good overlap is key. However, you could run it at different times for each time zone by making use of instant on-demand video taken from your first live event. Including live chat to collect questions and engage the later audiences is a great way to add value.
Secondly, does their work dictate their availability? For example, if you are targeting healthcare professionals, hosting at least some sessions outside of clinic hours will help you attract more attendees. However, most business audiences will be looking to attend virtual events within their usual working pattern.
It’s also worth considering how you can use the time of day to stand out or develop a creative message around your Virtual Event. Launching a Virtual Brunch Club or Virtual Networking Happy Hour automatically taps into your audience’s imagination and expected time of day/evening.
In summary, the timing of your virtual event is really important, and for this reason, several time-related factors must be considered when planning your event.
- Firstly, when choosing the date of your virtual event, you must find a balance between the availability of your audience, speakers and your business’s capacity to provide support for the event. At the same time, keeping an eye on when your competitors’ event schedule is important to avoid clashes.
- Secondly, the duration of your event needs to be considered. Breaking your virtual event up into smaller, bite-size chunks of content over a couple of days allows your audience to maintain focus.
- Lastly, it’s important to consider timezones when choosing the time to host your event. If you’re running the event live, choose a time that’s convenient for your audience across several timezones.