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COVID-19 came with the increased use and reliance on technology to get work and a whole lot done.
Events were cancelled or postponed while many moved swiftly to host their events online. One frustration many had was choosing the right tech tools to use and how to use them. It’s one thing to know about a tech tool, it’s another to know how to use it.
My event SAFEtagious, held every year in June, was one of those that was moved online. I have always been techie and had delivered various webinars online but SAFEtagious couldn’t be hosted like a webinar. This is an event that typically starts at 9AM and ends at 4PM. So how would we host it online and keep our attendees glued to their screens? Was it possible to get that same result we got from live events?
We got planning. We had it all day online and it was a huge success.
We had more eyes on it than a physical event could have given us. We were also able to reach a wider audience, beyond our immediate locality.
With a virtual event, you are guaranteed to reach an international audience or even go global if you get a lot of things right.
Based on our experience with SAFEtagious, we were able to host another major event for Safe Schools and provided our summit services and tech support for the just concluded HSE Summit 2020. Each of these events was hugely successful with amazing feedback from attendees.
How did we do it?
That’s what this post is about! From planning to executing near-perfect hitch-free virtual events (errrr… near-perfect because let’s face it, nothing is perfect????), I will be sharing some tips and how you can work with my team on your next virtual event.
I have split this section into 7 key areas. Get it right with these areas, and every other area(s) will find themselves sorted.
For each of these areas/topics, I will be sharing how you can DIY (Do It Yourself) and how you can save time and energy and get it DFY (Done For You).
We use simple Google Sheets to draw up the initial plan and once fine-tuned, we move to Trello to aid collaboration between the different individuals and teams. You can also use the good old Excel if you prefer that.
By now, you can tell we loveeeeee the Google apps family. Yes?
On Google Sheets, we tend to break down every area of planning from choosing theme, topics/categories, speakers, possible venues (where it will likely be hosted), tools, marketing and so much more.
We start planning at least 6 months before the event, thereby allowing everyone to breathe and work without unnecessary pressure and tension. Starting later with the planning messes up a lot of things, causes tension, and may prevent you from having a hitch-free event.
2. Theme, Topic, & Speakers
Identifying the right speakers starts with getting the theme right.
Sometimes, you choose a theme based on happening around you or your community or even the world. Sometimes you choose based on trends in the industry. Sometimes, you choose the theme to bring awareness to the topic area. Whatever your reason is, the theme must be one that attracts PEOPLE. One that gets their attention. One that has a story or reason.
At SAFEtagious, we go for unconventional themes. For example, 2018’s theme, was Sweat the SMALL Stuff. 2019’s theme was Get Your Thrive On. This year’s was Can’t Wait, Won’t Wait. These themes get people’s attention and some ask how we were able to come up with them. It amazes people. They never forget and that’s the reaction you should be aiming for, maybe even more.
That said, these unconventional themes have a story behind them – we don’t pick them randomly for the sake of dazzling people.
“People” is what makes the event a success.
Once you get the theme and purpose right, it is easy to identify and contact the best speakers. It is always beneficial to have at least a couple of well-known and respected speakers to help with registrations and attendance.
This is something we loveeeeee to spend money on. I always say a beautiful flyer attracts and makes people stop for a minute. Many of our designs for social media and even the blog are done on Canva but we have a graphics designer that does magic to our designs for major events and for our clients.
So you can choose to wing it and try it out yourself (not advised for summits and major events) or pay to get it done. My team can help you!
See below some of the designs our graphic designer has done:
Versus what we’ve quickly cooked up on Canva.
Still not bad and great to use if you are a Canva pro because let’s face it, Canva does have a learning curve and many never get it while some take months or even a couple of years to figure it out. Canva is also great for the everyday post as shown in some of the images below. But before you choose this option, ask yourself:
Do I have what it takes to create eye-catching designs or wouldn’t I rather save time and pay someone to do it right?
4. Publicity (incl information sharing)
Despite all the above, without the right publicity, your event could fail to attract the right type of audience and even if it does, you may not get the number you need. You need at 4-6 weeks of publicity for a virtual event.
How will you publicize?
The obvious social media, adverts, and lots more! We have at least 10 different avenues we take each time we plan an event. Sometimes more, depending on the funding available and audience demographics.
There is never too much publicity when hosting an event.
One thing is we also ensure we have the event listed in at least Eventbrite and Facebook Events.
5. Website and Information Sharing
Not every event will have a website. It is advisable that major events and summits do. Your website can serve many purposes especially registration, information sharing, and even streaming your live event.
Here is ours for SAFEtagious – guaranteed to have a new look for 2021.
It should be as detailed as possible, leaving visitors as informed as possible and a way for them to contact you for further information.
Should you need an event website, look no further. HSEWise can certainly help you whip up one in as little as 10 days!
If you are tech-savvy and know your way around most digital programs, you can use platforms like Hey Summit to create your event website and manage many stages of your event. It can get pricey really quickly but if you have the funds, this may be quicker for you.
If you do not have a website yet, do not worry much. Ensure you have a registration and a thank you page as explained in 6 below and are providing regular information.
Most of these email providers have a landing page feature.
Here is an example landing page for our yearly Safe Start designed on Mailerlite for my Safe Schools Initiative – you can go wild with the design or keep it simple but highly informative. An example of wild is my SAFEtagious website (designed by yours truly) and because SAFEtagious is a major and massive event and deserves its own corner on the internet.
6. Registration and Thank You Page
Below are the images of a Registration and Thank You page done on Mailerlite for a simple low-budget 5-day challenge we run at Safe Schools. The registration page provides just enough information on the event with a simple sign up form.
Keep the registration form simple. Nobody wants to fill a form that look like a job application. Your aim is to grab their names, email and at least phone number.
The thank-you page provides some information on how to get more information and asking people to share with the various social media platforms.
Depending on your goal and budget, choose what works for you!
7. Final Checks and Prep
The day before, you are guaranteed to lose sleep ????. Maybe even the week before.
You want everything to go perfectly so being anxious is normal. Spend the day before the event doing final tests and checks to ensure things will work smoothly on the day.
The day before the event shouldn’t be the first time you are testing things out or using the tools and platforms you chose. If it is, you are guaranteed to panic and have a stressful day. Never leave anything to the last minute.
Prep the team one last time ensuring everyone knows what’s required of them.
Have a good night’s sleep, ready to rock the day.
What do you think of these 7 loaded tips? I hope with these tips, you are ready to get started on planning your next event or summit.
Let me know in the comment below what you do differently and if there are any major areas you feel I should have added to this post. I would love to hear from you!
How can HSEWise help YOU?
With the number of success we’ve had with virtual events, it’s a no-brainer paying professionals to help you deliver a smooth and hitch-free event. Nobody wants to have an embarrassing day, and we ensure you don’t.
Our Summits Services package is for corporates and entrepreneurs looking to have their next summit be it virtual, hybrid, or physical. Whatever your goal is, we can help you reach and surpass it. We focus on providing all your tech needs for all stages of the event – pre, during, and post, from planning to execution.