10 steps to plan a successful online event

With in-person events postponed for the foreseeable future across Europe and the world over, startups and scaleups are looking for other ways to network, promote their business and learn from experts. 

A few weeks ago we did a survey with 30 of the top event organisers in Europe (like VivaTech, TOA, The Next Web, and Slush) to find out what they predict for the rest of the year. Around 60% said they’re not expecting in-person events to be on again until Q3-Q4 of 2020, with the remaining 40% are holding out until Q1-Q2 of 2021 or later. With even the big event players of Europe not planning to resume their conferences for the next 6-8 months, it’s clear that the only way for startups to build their contacts, promote their brand and take part in expert discussions is online, at least for the time being.

With lots of online events planned for the coming months, it makes sense to sign up one or two members of your startups team to attend the most relevant remote events. But have you thought about creating your own online event? Although planning online events takes time and effort, it could be the right move for your startup to boost brand visibility and customer engagement. 

From an expert webinar, to a product demonstration, if you decide to go ahead with your online events, we have some tips to help you get going.

1. What do you want to get out of it?

Before you do anything else, figure out why you’re holding this event. If you’re stuck, first define whether you’re targeting your current customers as part of an engagement strategy, or whether this is a lead generation activity to pick up new customers, or both. What specific outcomes are you looking for? Write down a list of KPIs (key performance indicators), like 10% of attendees buying a product, or a 5% increase in social media followers.

2. Define, and then re-define, your audience

Your target audience will determine everything else about your event, from content focus, to timing. If you haven’t already done a profile of what your typical customer looks like, you could also think about aspects like age, location, gender, interests, profession, goals, etc. Overall you should be left with a few typical ‘profiles’ that you’re aiming to target.

3. Webinar, behind-the-scenes tour, or product demo?

There are dozens of event formats out there, from webinar, how-to, tutorials, class, interview, behind-the-scenes tour, social media live stream, each has its own benefits. Some are more professional, whilst others are more dynamic and innovative – it depends on who you’re targeted the event at.

4. Verbalise what you’re offering

Using the target audiences from the previous step, think about what each will get out of your event. For example, an early-stage local startup could learn about the failures and successes of scaleups who already expanded abroad. Once you have the main ideas, it’s time to jazz it up a bit and make it sound attractive. Use an online thesaurus to find snappier synonyms and write them down in a brainstorm/word tree. You can re-use this when you contact speakers and design your marketing materials.

5. What’s 13:00 CET in UTC time? 

Considering the profile of your audience, are they more likely to join an online event during a weekday or a weekend, in the morning or afternoon, during lunchtime or after work? Are different target audiences based in different time zones? Maybe you could organise an event that both falls over lunchtime and after work in two time zones. Finally, define how long the introduction, main section and Q&A sessions should last. Keep this information aside for the next step!

6. Nab some expert speakers

To attend your event, even if it’s free, your attendees will be giving up their precious time. To make your event worth it, try to pack in as much relevant expertise and knowledge as possible. One way to do this is to invite experts in the topic to weigh in with their two cents. When you approach potential speakers, be honest about what they’ll get out of the event (e.g. visibility in front of X amount of people, from a certain audience, as well post-event social media postings to your X number of followers). Lock them down with your snappy messaging, a specific date/time proposal and suggest a deadline for getting back to you.

7. Don’t stress about the tech

You don’t want to be worrying about your speaker’s microphone being on mute in the middle of your event. Pick an easy-to-use platform that takes practical aspects into consideration, including: length of free session, technical support, simple login for attendees, screen sharing/powerpoint capabilities, multiple speakers, number of attendees, etc. Check out our article ‘10 digital tools to help you host your next online event’ for some ideas.

8. Promote, promote, promote

Using your snappy messaging ideas, it’s time to create some cool promotional materials. First things first, think where they hang outs online and whether it makes more sense to manage sign-ups through an established platform like Eventbrite, a landing page on your website, or through social media event pages like Facebook or LinkedIn’s event functionalities. For your social media postings, newsletter mentions and email reminders, create images using free websites like Canva, and then draft a calendar of promotional actions.

9. Practice makes perfect

The week before your event, organise a 30-minute call and practice run with your speakers to make sure they can connect to the platform, have a quiet space to speak and a strong internet connection. You can also use this time to go over any last minute questions and check that their presentation loads properly. For your confirmed attendees, send out a reminder email, including time, date (with calendar integration) and link to log in (with brief instructions).

10. The big day

A few hours before the event starts, send out a final reminder email to your attendees. Log on to the platform 20 minutes early so you have time to give your speakers the right administrative permissions. During the event, don’t forget to hit record, make sure to mute all attendees and remind your audience to get their questions ready for the Q&A. 

Was it all worth it?

After the event, it’s time to relax! Draw up a final email for your attendees with the event recording, and upload it to YouTube, website or social media channels. Most importantly, measure the impact of the event next to the KPIs you set up in the first step – was it worth the time you invested? If it was, apply all you learnt to the next one.  

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