In this guide, we’ll explore the basics of planning a virtual or hybrid event, including:

  • Event Objectives – match the virtual format with event goals
  • Virtual Attendee Experience – engagement strategy
  • Monetization – various ways to generate revenue

Event professionals around the world have added a virtual component to their events. With the variety of benefits surrounding virtual events, many event planners have permanently added this powerful resource to their toolkit.

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Why Virtual?transition-events-to-virtual-environments

Virtual event technology has taken a backseat to live events for years. The good news, it has been quietly waiting for this moment to shine. Virtual platforms have come to the rescue for events, keeping organizations and businesses connected to their communities.

As travel restrictions were implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers were forced to make decisions around whether or not to hold face-to-face events. The immediate response for many was to cancel, while others discovered virtual platforms that enabled the ‘show go to on’ and quickly converted to virtual.

As cities and countries around the world are easing up on gathering restrictions, there are still many other factors that are affecting events and travel that will continue well into 2021, including:

  • Health and safety concerns around travel
  • Business travel budgets have been reduced
  • New constraints on venue capacity

In spite of these many factors, live events in some areas are making a comeback with limited attendance. In fact, many organizers are planning hybrid events. These are in-person events with the option to attend online. Organizers are looking for ways to simplify the transition to virtual and hybrid events, as this alternative will continue to be a necessity for events over the long term.

“Some of the biggest challenges for event organizers is transitioning to virtual or hybrid events and the learning curve for new technology platforms.”
PCMA: Convincing Stakeholders to Hold Live or Hybrid Events
is Planners’ Top Concern

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Opportunity with Virtual Events

With every crisis comes opportunity. Although the virtual component adds to the total cost of the event, it also adds a layer of opportunity that can positively affect your event’s reach as well as profitability.

Since the virtual option eliminates the need to travel to the event, organizers are no longer limited to marketing their event to a geographic area – the potential for much higher attendance. The virtual side of the event also has a longer life cycle. Most organizers will re-purpose key sessions and workshops to offer this content on-demand long after the event ends. Sponsors benefit from this too since virtual content provides a wider digital footprint than traditional onsite event sponsorship, delivering additional exposure for months to come.

“62% of event planners say that
the future of events is hybrid.”

2020 Survey, Event Manager Blog

virtual-events-are-easier-to-attendAnother benefit to virtual events, they’re easier to attend. With so many factors that affect attendance, it’s no wonder attrition is such a challenge for event organizers. And many reasons attendees don’t show up are out of their control; flights may cancel, kids get the flu, a dreaded long drive to and from the event, etc. The hybrid option simply delivers flexibility.

One last advantage worth noting is the sustainability factor. For years, organizers have been jumping through hoops to reduce the environmental impact of their events. Now, thanks to virtual event technology and this opportunity to highlight its effectiveness, we are legitimately reducing the carbon footprint of events.

 

Virtual Events Have Many Advantages

Adding a virtual element can increase your event’s reach as well as your bottom line.

  • Reach broader audiences
  • Higher profits through sponsorships
  • Viewing flexibility
  • Reduce environmental impact

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Planning a Virtual or Hybrid Event

There are many important things to consider for hosting virtual events, including identifying your target audience and setting expectations. But planning the virtual component to an event involves many of the same thought processes as an in-person event, alongside the understanding of the virtual experience. We’ll focus on a few key ingredients that affect the success of the virtual portion of the event.

  • Establishing goals based on the use case
  • Planning the experience for virtual attendees
  • Creating a monetization strategy

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Define the Event Objectives

Just like in-person events, each virtual and hybrid event serves a specific purpose to the organizer. These objectives may overlap into other areas and can evolve over time. Still, having clearly defined goals is essential to ensuring event success. Be sure to match your virtual format with your event goals. Here are some of the more common use cases for virtual events and how they reached their objectives:


 

Paid AttendanceSell-virtual-tickets-to-entertainment-events

Event organizers are recognizing the value of their content. Whether they’re hosting a hybrid, live streaming or on-demand playback, these revenue generators are providing significant value and attendees are willing to pay the price of admission to view exclusive content. Entertainment events are a great example of how organizers are using streaming platforms to sell virtual tickets to online shows.

If you’re just starting out, it may take a few events to get to a profitable level through ticket sales alone, so look for other ways of reaching financial goals such as sponsorships, add-on experiences and selling merchandise. Consider hiring a popular speaker or including a workshop in the agenda to justify the admission fee. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to charge some form of admission. People are more likely to attend when they have paid admission than they would for a free event.

Typical Event Types: Entertainment Experiences, Sporting Events, Association Annual Events, Educational Seminars

Success Story: Electric Six

Electric Six needed a way to continue to engage with fans during the 2020 pandemic. They chose to stream a virtual concert to their website. They wanted to charge admission for secure, non-transferable access to the event.Virtual-Show-Electric-Six

  • Hosted the event on their own website
  • Unique codes ensured secure access
  • Live streaming with multi-camera streams
  • On-demand replay – to sell access after the live event
  • 1,456 tickets sold
  • 256 on-demand replays
  • Net Revenue: $14,560


Brand Awareness

events-are-strategic-to-growing-a-brandEvents can be a strategic segment to growing a brand. Hosting an event gives your prospects and customers the opportunity to live, breath and experience your brand. Consistent event branding is essential to your messaging and audience recognition. A successful virtual or hybrid event solidifies your message and sets the foundation for brand advocacy.

Fish where the fish are. Host your brand event where your target audience already resides or frequents. Consider partnering with another industry event or vertical, and host your event within their event. Take the short-cut to connecting with your target audience.

Typical Event Types: Brand Activations, Product Launches, User Conferences

Success Story: SOL Cerveza

SOL Cerveza partnered with Banda MS for a live streaming concert. The cost of the event was a minimum donation to support the band - a virtual tip jar. The event attracted the target audience for both partners, bringing people together for a night of fun.Sol-event-Laptop

  • The event was hosted on the band’s website
  • Unique codes ensured secure access
  • Live streaming with multi-camera streams
  • Was the first show in their virtual concert series


Subscription Access

pay-per-view-sports-streamingVideo streaming has become increasingly popular in recent years. With that, many have immediately leaned on platforms such as YouTube for hosting subscription-based video content. It’s an easy way to provide access to subscriber content, but it doesn’t allow organizers to monetize. Also, because of YouTube’s ad-based structure, it isn’t an optimal experience for a loyal membership base.

What most don’t know is that virtual platforms have emerged in recent years to solve this specific need. They also have many other benefits that can make your subscription model more successful, like enabling you to host your content on your own website for a more professional experience. They allow you to create a branded playlist of all your content which makes it easy for members to find specific videos for a better user experience. They can also use the virtual platform for ticketing for in-person access. Streaming through a virtual platform delivers a better experience for fans and sponsors, which can lead to higher ticket and sponsorship revenue.

Subscription based access is great for sports teams that want to stream games online. Teams can sell a season pass to all games, offer on-demand replays to continue to sell games after the live events, and finally deliver quantifiable value to sponsors.

Typical Event Types: Sporting Events, Association Membership Access

 

Success Story: CISN (Central Iowa Sports Network)

CISN is a sports production network that covers a variety of sports for several schools in the mid-west. They needed a way to securely stream games from their website with flexible ticketing structure that includes single game access as well as a season pass. Laptop-CISN-purchagepg

  • Hosted the season’s games on their own website
  • Advanced ticketing to sell season passes or individual games
  • Live streaming with multi-camera streams
  • On-demand replay – to continue selling games after the live events
  • Sponsorship packages – logo placement and sponsor video spots
  • Affiliate links for sponsors to promote to their customers
  • Streamed 99 games (in the first 2 months)
  • Sold 2,097 tickets/season passes
  • Net Revenue: $38,000


Educational Experiences

monetize-virtual-eventsHosting an educational event is an effective way to connect with a target audience, or foster relationships with customers and potential prospects. Sharing tips, best practices and strategies not only presents your brand as a thought leader, but it’s also a great way to monetize virtual and hybrid conferences.

Add value with content that is in demand. Consider offering workshops with industry experts or even continuing educational credits (CE credits) to drive registrations and attendance.
Start by identifying the pain points for your defined audience and the best practices for solving them. Publish some blog posts around these topics to help you gauge interest and demand. Send out a survey to help you extract other hot topics to cover in your content. Once you have determined the content to cover, contemplate how you will deliver this information to ensure retention and engagement.

Typical Event Types: Industry Conferences, Educational Seminars, Professional Development

 

Success Story: Closer Olympics

Closers Only is a professional development seminar that was previously only hosted in person. They quickly pivoted to virtual when the pandemic hit. Professional quality broadcast was critical, along with restricted access to paying attendees.Laptop-Closers-purchase-screen

  • The event was hosted on their own website
  • Unique codes ensured secure access
  • Utilized attendee interaction to drive registrations
  • Live streaming with multi-camera streams
  • On-demand replay – to sell access after the live event
  • 1,037 tickets sold
  • Net Revenue: $75,237


Internal Eventsvirtual-events-bring-everyone-together

No matter the size, today’s organizations rely heavily on events to connect teams, improve retention and encourage communication. These events bring value to both employees as well as the organization. They are especially effective when they bring everyone together to share important information – and everyone receives the information at the same time.

Consider a white label video streaming platform for streaming these events. White label essentially means the video stream player allows the organizer to customize the user experience with corporate branding, colors, messaging, etc. It’s a way to deliver a professional quality experience without the provider’s logo or links to distract attendees. White label solutions are made to easily plug into the host’s site, providing secure access while delivering a seamless and well branded experience.

Leverage internal events to drive your culture strategy. Regardless of the nature of the event, whether you’re launching a new product, training teams, or delivering a quarterly update, use this time together to inspire your company culture.

Typical Event Types: Town Halls, Sales Kickoffs, HR Training, Product Launches, Team Building, Job Fairs and Recruiting events


Success Story: Modere

Modere needed a way to stream their 2020 Fall Summit to their 3,000 social marketers across North America. They also needed to provide exclusive access for VIPs to stream keynotes. This was their first virtual event at this scale. It was critical that the event was successful and engaging.Laptop-Modere-Summit

  • Implemented ViewStub’s white label solution, hosted on Modere’s website
  • Full customization with the event’s branding
  • Live streaming with multi-camera streams
  • VIPs were given speaker access through secure codes
  • Registration was integrated through API
  • 3,000 attendees


Fundraiser Events

Fundraiser events are vital to nonprofit organizations – and when you need an alternative to the physical event, virtual environments can offer some added benefits. Many nonprofit event organizers find that hosting online fundraisers helps them to expand their reach of donors since they are no longer limited to venue capacities. Also, virtual fundraisers operate on a much lower overhead than in-person events, which leads to a higher return on investment.

Adding a virtual or online option to charity fundraisers simply complements the physical event. When effectively promoted, they can help nonprofit organizations to reach broader audiences and achieve their donation goals.

Typical Event Types: Charity Drives, Annual Fundraisers, Nonprofit Benefits


Success Story: Operation Smile

Since 1982, Operation Smile has provided hundreds of thousands of safe surgeries globally for children born with cleft lip and clef palate conditions. This year they pivoted to a virtual fundraiser with their “Smiles Across The Miles” event powered by ViewStub. Laptop-Operation-Smile

  • The custom branded event was hosted on their own website
  • Unique codes ensured secure access
  • Sponsors and tickets were donation based
  • The event was streamed live, with integrated clips added for production value
  • On-demand replay – to continue to collect donations after the live event
  • 1,500 access codes were distributed
  • Total donations: $250,000
    ($130,000 raised directly through the virtual event)

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Plan the Virtual Attendee Experience

Although in-person and remote attendees are consuming the same content at the event, the experience won’t be the same for both. A common mistake with virtual events is not addressing the online audience. There are several ways to create engaging virtual events.
So, make your remote attendees feel like they belong and create a plan around the virtual attendee experience. Here are a few ways to go about it:

1. Establish a home base for virtual attendees between sessionsmoderator-in-a-studio

This could be a moderator in a studio recapping the session and revealing what’s coming up next. Plan for content between breaks – you don’t want online attendees watching the A/V staff breaking down or setting up. There are lots of creative ways to address your remote attendees to ensure they feel included in the event.

    • Broadcast short video vignettes with industry experts during breaks
    • Incorporate a roaming reporter interviewing in-person attendees after the session – a great way to capture the vibe of the event
    • Create a virtual help desk and make it accessible just for virtual attendees
2. Consider the amount of content you are pushing out to the virtual audience and their attention spans

Tailor the virtual agenda around a practical timeframe for those watching from home. Distribute a modified agenda to online attendees so they can get the most out of the sessions. Allow some sessions to be offered on-demand so remote attendees can watch at their convenience.

3. Create shared experiences

Find ways to engage the audience at home through technology. Many events that are taking place right now have a much higher virtual attendance than they do in person. So, if you’re taking a survey or polling attendees make sure you’re getting a true sampling from your audience by combining results from both in-person and remote attendees. Chat feeds are another way to allow all attendees to ask questions and share key takeaways. The goal is to connect people in both environments to narrow the gap between the in-person and virtual experience.

Generate excitement leading up to the event. Create a video spot from last year’s footage to show the energy and excitement around attending – even if the majority of your attendees will be virtual.

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Recommended Read: Translating in-person events into virtual environments is a big challenge for event organizers. Here’s our list of the top 10 tips for planning virtual and hybrid events.

VIEW THE LIST


Optimize your Monetization Strategy

Event organizers are searching for new ways to monetize virtual events. No one holds an event just so they can check the box. No doubt you have gone to great lengths to develop remarkable content and assembled the experts to deliver your message. Additionally, your attendees have demonstrated justifiable reason to join the event.

Yet, one of the most common misconceptions event organizers have with virtual events is recognizing the value of their virtual experience. The truth is, you are providing access to the same content as your in-person attendees. On top of that, you are saving them time and money they would be spending on traveling to the event location to receive this content. Make sure you are getting what you need out of the event to meet the event goals, including profitability.

Ticket Price and Perceived Value

ipad-Purchase-Pg-Entertainment.It’s not as much about making money as it is about driving perceived value of the content. When you attach a monetary amount to attendance, your event now has value. People who pay for a ticket will be more likely to attend your event. They are also more likely to participate and engage in your event. If you are using the event to sell a product or service, the participants who have paid for the event are more likely to purchase from you because they are vested in your company or brand. It clearly demonstrates a level of trust in you and charging admission qualifies your audience.

Hybrid events will continue to be part of the event strategy in 2021. So, carefully consider the price for virtual attendance – it’s much harder to come back and charge admission when last year’s event was free or next to nothing.

Three reasons to charge admission to virtual attendance:
  • Drive perceived value
  • Attendees are more likely to show up and participate
  • Qualifies intent – demonstrates trust

Beyond Ticket Sales – Upsell Opportunities

While your attendees have their wallets open and credit card in hand, this is a prime opportunity to present supplemental purchase options. Leverage all you have to offer to your captive audience.

How? Create VIP experiences that you can add to your virtual event and upsell exclusive access to them. Identify opportunities that your attendees would find valuable.

Here are some basic ideas to consider:

  • Workshops with industry experts
  • Q&A session with a key speaker
  • Sell raffle tickets to a meet & greet with a celebrity

Bonus: Consider adding a charity component to boost sales for these experiences.

Optimize revenue outside of ticket sales:
  • Add-on experiences
  • Sell products or merchandise
  • On-demand session playback – reach new audiences

Your events are another channel to promote and sell supplemental products. Be sure to maximize every opportunity to present ancillary products or merchandise to your target audience. Use your event to cross-sell another product, books or even t-shirts and coffee mugs.

Again, carefully consider the value of your content to your relevant audiences. Do you have specific sessions that would be of interest to your website visitors? Many organizers make money by streaming events online year-round by offering on-demand playback access to key sessions right from their website. Think about how you might package this content to reach new audiences. Session playback is another way to capture new prospects for next year’s event.

Maximize Event Sponsorship

maximize-event-sponsorshipThe virtual component of the hybrid event offers the opportunity to provide more value to sponsors. While physical venues are implementing reduced capacities due to social distancing measures, online attendance has relatively no restrictions. Many organizers are experiencing higher attendance through the virtual option. higher attendance translates to higher value to sponsors.

Companies typically rely on exposure at industry events. Many organizations are searching for new ways to engage with their target audiences in the absence of live events and tradeshows. And virtual events are providing a huge value right now for sponsors. They even deliver a broader footprint, since digital content has the potential to continue to provide exposure long after the live event ends. 

Look for creative ways to offer meaningful exposure for sponsors. Pitch different tiers of sponsorship with varying levels of exposure.

Take advantage of the virtual component to expand sponsorship value:
  • Creative sponsorship packages – varying levels of exposure
  • Deliver metrics on digital attendance and engagement
  • Leverage new ways to drive value to sponsorship
  • Cross-promote the event – offer a referral incentive

Sponsorship in the digital realm has the advantage of delivering engagement data – number of impressions, clicks and relevant data for your sponsors. This is a huge benefit over physical sponsorship. So, think beyond logo placement and leverage every opportunity to provide this value to your sponsors. Here are a few examples:

  • Banner ads
  • Sponsored sessions
  • Video spots between sessions
  • Overlays – Branded real estate
  • Speaker slots
  • Digital swag bag
  • Sponsored lunch delivery for virtual attendees

Do you and your sponsors share audience overlap? Encourage them to cross-promote the event through their social media channels. Pay them a referral incentive for each attendee that purchases tickets through a trackable link. This is super easy to do, and will motivate them to promote it.

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Conclusion

The majority of the professional events around the world have moved to virtual and hybrid. Associations and businesses that rely on face-to-face engagement are following in their footsteps, making virtual events a key digital strategy for their organizations.

Remember to promote the virtual option for your event. Highlight all the benefits of attending virtually to paint the picture of your online experience in your pre-event promotion.

While event organizers are new to virtual technology, they are quickly finding new ways to engage their audience, build their brand and create new revenue streams.

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ViewStub-solutions
About ViewStub

ViewStub is a virtual and hybrid event platform that makes it easy for event organizers to sell tickets to live events or sell access to pre-recorded sessions right from their website. ViewStub‘s all-in-one platform offers ticketing, registration, video streaming and new revenue opportunities for creators seeking to monetize their content and grow their community.

 

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