Virtual event planning in 2020 was all about the (Ross from Friends voice) pivot - and now we're almost halfway through 2021, our sights will (and should) be set on bigger things.
With virtual events proven to be an effective engagement and fundraising tool with a brilliant ROI, charities are beginning to think about the next step on virtual event planning that will bring supporters back and continue the conversation.
Here we'll share five ways to build on your 2020 virtual success and scale up your online events.
Use a better platform
For most charities, 2020 was all about Zoom or Microsoft Teams to gain a quick and cheap solution to the problem of rapidly disappearing events income.
But these platforms were created for meetings. They lack engagement opportunities and don't allow us to be creative with our approach.
Now we know in-person events as we've known them won't be back in a hurry, moving from Zoom to a platform dedicated to event hosting is a quick and simple way to level up your virtual events.
With platforms like Everywhere+ (that's us!), HopIn, and others, you can brand or personalise your platform, build in photobooths or sponsor hubs, and allow someone else to manage the event while you network and build relationships.
Did you play it safe in 2020? Now you're a virtual event pro (meaning you've hosted at least one and didn't break the internet), it's time to do more.
Use your previous event feedback and plot ways to bring the 'wow' factor to your event, as well as improving on the basics from round one.
Create a bigger experience with more talks or tracks, switch up the format, invite an exciting guest, or build in interactive elements to continuously surprise and delight attendees. You want to create an element of expectation where they know every event they attend will be fresh and exciting. That way they'll keep coming back.
At our events we like to create one new thing every month to surprise our guests. So far we've had an interactive museum, networking park (complete with Springsteen disco), and watch parties. I wonder what we'll create next?!
Last year we had to act fast as events were postponed or canceled at a rapid pace. It worked at the time and donors were forgiving. But as we spend more time online and experience higher quality events, it's time to keep up.
Now we know virtual events will be a permanent fixture in our fundraising calendar we need to approach it like any other successful campaign with proper planning, positioning, budgets, marketing, activation and stewardship.
Get some time in the diary with your team to go back to the drawing board and run through these questions:
- What do we wish we could have done in 2020 if we had more time to plan?
- What is our audience telling us about their preferred engagement with us online?
- Who was missing from 2020 and how can we reach them?
Add these answers to existing feedback of what previously went well - now you've got yourself a brilliant event!
This session from Maddy Janes (British Red Cross) at our Virtual Fundraising Summit goes into more detail about the importance of planning and testing.
Hybrid events are events that happen online and offline simultaneously - and with the same level of engagement and interaction at each one.
If you're planning a return to events in 2021, chances are your crowds will be small because of rules or public confidence. A brilliant way to bring your newfound audience with you through to an in-person return is to facilitate online participation.
It's great for lots of reasons. It's accessible, when done right you gain a higher ROI, and the supporters who loved hearing from you through lockdown won't feel abandoned.
The trick to hosting a successful hybrid event is to work with professionals. AV pros and virtual platform organisers will be crucial for you in this space.
Go for it!
If you're 'waiting to see how things go' or you haven't hosted your first virtual event yet, you're missing out.
Virtual events are not new - even we were around in 2019! The pandemic has simply accelerated a need that was already there and they've proven to be possible and effective. The only way to go now is forward and up.
If uncertainty or nerves are holding you back, we can help. We host regular coaching calls with people just like you who want to know more about virtual events and how to improve them.
Book a call and let's chat!
Or if you're already planning how to level up your events and want to chat to someone about hosting, you can find out more by contacting our virtual event team.