Updated: June 2, 2021
(Photo by Andrey_Popov on Shutterstock)
If you’ve never put together a virtual event, now is the time to learn how it can benefit your business. Over the last year, ticketed virtual events have become part of our new “normal” and will continue to be a way for brands to reach audiences like never before.
In this post, we’ll be going over what a paid virtual event is, examine the many benefits of creating one, and look at some examples of successful events you can emulate in the future.
What is a Virtual Event?
A virtual event is a shared experience online with a group of people all focused on a particular topic. It can take many forms, whether it’s a webinar, a live stream, or a mix of live and pre-recorded content.
Unlike internal virtual events, which we covered in this post, external, ticketed, or recurring events are going to need a different approach to create a similar experience to something you would put together for an in-person event. They can be as simple as just a live video showcasing a speaker appearance, or as complicated as having virtual breakout rooms, pre-recorded presentations, or multiple days with a virtual meet and greet space.
Benefits of a Paid Virtual Event
While you could host a free event, paid events have their own unique set of advantages that may sway you in that direction, especially if it’s replacing a ticketed in-person experience.
Higher Quality Leads
Considering they are paying for it, attendees are more likely to engage with the content instead of popping in and out of sessions as you could if it were a free event. The same thought process can be applied to the leads you’ll gain from a paid event. You may have potentially fewer registrations, but they will have high intent and interest in what you have to offer.
Moving an event online isn’t always ideal, but it does make it more accessible. As long as your audience has an internet connection, your reach has endless potential. People from any corner of the globe can attend your event without having to worry about extra travel expenses. Further, since the event is digital, those who may not be able to make it to live sessions will be able to go back and view the recording on their own time if you allow it.
Virtual events can quickly become a great way to generate another revenue stream for your company. Depending on your business, you could potentially host events, classes, or shows on a regular basis. Charging per event or implementing a membership or subscription fee will allow you to reach a whole new audience and bring in money at the same time.
Even after the pandemic is over, this model can be useful for reaching people who may not be able to attend your in-person events, classes, or shows. It could also be a premium add-on to boost your fees.
Events of any kind will cost money to produce, but virtual events tend to be less expensive. Depending on your format, your cost may only include software, booking presenters, video equipment, and the cost to promote your event. Another thing to consider is where you’ll be filming your sessions. If you and your presenters have a nice at-home video studio, or you are filming on location like a gym, you won’t have to worry about it. However, if that doesn’t apply to you, you may need to rent a space that will increase your overall spend.
Planning a Virtual Event
Whether you’re adjusting to the times and moving your event online, or creating a new recurring event to drive revenue, a good plan is always the best place to start.
Lean into the Event Being Digital
From the get-go, it’s important to address the elephant in the room. If you’re taking a previously in-person event online, it’s going to be different, and that is completely okay. This past year, in-person events were few and far between, and brands have been doing their best to create an experience that was similar to the real thing.
It’s better to acknowledge the fact that things are going to be different than shy away from it. You’ll need to set expectations for your team and your audience which will help lay the groundwork for a great event.
A good example of this is Hubspot’s Inbound event. Knowing that they couldn’t do their usual in-person event activities, they took the extra steps necessary to make it as “normal” as possible. A big emphasis for them was creating a sense of community. Before the event even started, their social media team created a specific Facebook group to allow attendees to interact and start conversations. Furthermore, their event platform featured a virtual map, interactive components, and even avatars to emulate an actual community during the event. Read more about their experience in this piece from Simple Machines Marketing.
Explore What You Want Your Event to Look Like
This step is going to be crucial for setting up an event your attendees will love. Take some time to envision how your event is going to transition to a digital space.
- How will users register for the event?
- Will there be chat rooms, or other forms of audience participation?
- Are you going to have multiple speakers?
- Do you need sponsors for your event?
- What levels of access will you provide at different price points?
- Will it be a live stream, or would a webinar be a better fit?
Starting your planning process with questions like these will help you develop a full picture of how you’ll begin setting up your event.
Virtual Content Format
When it comes to the format itself, there are two ways you can go: live or recorded. With an in-person event, typically, you’re tied to doing all the presentations and procedures live on the day. However, with a virtual event, you have a unique opportunity to pre-record segments if you choose.
Whichever way you decide to go, having proper video and streaming equipment is going to be vital for producing a quality experience. If you’re just getting started, we have several guides and posts that explain what equipment you may need for video production of any level. Explore our How to Video Series to get started.
Examples of Virtual Events
Whether you’re starting from scratch or moving an event online, there are three main categories of virtual events that may work for your business: one-off video events, recurring events, and hybrid events.
Singular Video Event
Typically, all you would need for this type of event is a service that allows you to implement a paid gateway to charge attendees and a video hosting service for the video feed. At SproutVideo, we do just that, working with multiple partners to allow for easy integration of paywall solutions to sell tickets to video events hosted on our platform.
Because of the simplicity of a singular event, there are a lot of use cases that can apply to this. We’ve seen a lot of webinars, theatre performances, live video podcasts, concerts, museum tours, and more all go virtual in the past year. If you could do it in person, there is a way to replicate it online.
If you are looking to take this style to even higher levels, you could go for a virtual conference or festival. This type of event is typically going to be one that lasts multiple days, has dozens of speakers, and maybe even special items and access for different price points.
A great example of this is The Sundance Film Festival. As one of the biggest film festivals on the planet, the team at Sundance had to figure out a way to create the same magic they do every year in Utah, but in a virtual setting in 2021. They did this by working with a platform to create a virtual Main Street, scheduling the 70+ virtual screenings, and much more. Explore this article from IndieWire to learn more about how Sundance pulled it off.
When it comes to recurring events, you’ll still need a hosting platform and a payment gateway solution, but the differences arise in the content and the way you charge for it. These events typically are going to be ones that are easily repeatable or the type of content you create on a regular basis.
Typically, this includes fitness workouts, classes, access to shows, and beyond. Since you’ll be consistently putting out this content, it adds an opportunity to use a subscription model to sell these events and create additional revenue as mentioned above. Sites like InPlayer, MemberPress, Cleeng, and LearnDash all have subscription options that will make set up relatively painless.
This type of event is a ‘best of both worlds’ situation. Hybrid events are experiences that are available both in-person and virtually. This format works incredibly well when you have the capability to have an in-person event, but you know that a portion of your audience won’t be able to attend, like during a pandemic for example.
However, this has to be more than just live streaming your in-person event. You’ll need to make sure that people in both environments are getting a valid experience. Virtual participants will need to feel just as important as the ones you see in person.
An example of a recurring hybrid event is Crunch Live’s virtual workout classes. They have a recurring subscription model that allows you to get an in-person membership, along with access to virtual workouts you can access at any time from anywhere.
Naturally, there are infinite possibilities for the types of events you can host virtually. Virtual events won’t be replacing in-person events in the long run, but they are here to stay as another tool in your marketing toolkit. Let us know in the comments below if you’ve had success converting an in-person event to an online virtual experience.