A mystique surrounds virtual events because of their foundation in technology and the very images conjured up by the word “virtual.”
In reality, many of the same principles that apply to successfully launching physical events apply to launching virtual events. As Kenny Lauer of event management firm George P. Johnson recently put it, “an event, is an event, is an event.” That said, there are certainly some nuances associated with virtual events that must be considered.
One of the mistakes that many make with their first virtual event is to select a virtual event platform as their first step. This is equivalent to selecting a venue for a physical event before you know exactly what kind of an event you’ll be doing. As you wouldn’t select a venue for a physical event until your requirements were defined, neither should you decide on a virtual event technology platform until clearly defining your requirements for the event.
The process for defining your requirements for your first virtual event should be anchored in assessing audience needs and developing a plan to leverage the unique capabilities that virtual events offer to effectively meet those needs.
Here are just a few options for getting started with your first virtual event: Develop a virtual extension to an existing physical event, launch a virtual conference, create a free standing virtual tradeshow or organize a virtual job fair.
Once you have an idea for your event based on an assessment of audience needs in your market, it’s essential to validate the idea. The process of validating your virtual event with prospective attendees and sponsors before committing resources to a launch is a critical risk management technique and the “secret sauce” in launching both physical and virtual events.
Whether your event is physical or virtual, there is no replacement for using solid risk management practices in event launches.
In launching events over the past 15 years, I have developed the following process for validating potential event ideas. This process should be used before going forward with your first virtual event launch.
1. Specifically define your target audience and sponsor categories. This step in the launch process provokes discussion that clarifies who you are trying to serve with the event.
2. Identify current needs of both targeted attendees and sponsors. The success of your virtual event launch will be determined by your ability to meet a current market need more effectively than existing physical events. As part of this step, be sure to consider the “technograhics” of your target audience and your prospective sponsors. How much training and support will prospective attendees and sponsors need to get comfortable with a new event concept?
3. Make a detailed description of the new event concept. The first two steps should produce a clear definition of the event including a focused look at who the event is serving, what market needs the event is meeting and a sense of how your event will meet these needs in a superior manner to existing alternatives.
4. Secure the support of “influentials.” As most markets are highly influenced by key associations, companies and individuals, this step provides a methodology for securing their support for your launch.
5. Prepare a preliminary budget. For your first virtual event, expectations should be conservative. Modest revenue forecasts and thoughtful consideration of all expenses are important. Be prepared for some unique costs. Make sure they are contemplated and accounted for. During this stage, be sure to assess roles and responsibilities for launching your virtual event and build whatever temporary or contractor resources will be necessary into your budget.
6. Decide whether to pursue, modify or abandon the virtual event launch. With qualitative market feedback and a framework for the business opportunity, it’s decision time.
John Failla is CEO of events management and consulting business, Tesoro Events, he can be reached at 914.819.0693 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.