Ask five different people what a virtual event is, and you’ll get five different answers. That’s because the scope of a virtual event is wide-ranging, from team brainstorm sessions over Zoom to major conferences streamed on YouTube and everything in between. Because of their broadness, creating a successful virtual event that meets audiences’ and organizers’ expectations can be challenging.

After all, different kinds of events require different virtual approaches. Large-scale conferences must accommodate keynote speakers, breakout rooms, exhibition booths, and hundreds — if not thousands — of attendees. Smaller events to onboard new hires, on the other hand, necessitate more intimate atmospheres with time to chat and activities to break the ice.

That’s not to mention the cost associated with hosting events (virtual or otherwise). Purchasing the right technology to pull off a successful event and planning the event itself can really add up. So how can companies meet attendees’ expectations, make the most of their budgets, and create events that offer real value?

Important Considerations When Planning Virtual Events

Although virtual-only events might not be the standard in the future, increasing globalization and the short-term uncertainty of COVID-19 restrictions mean virtual aspects will be common additions to in-person events going forward. Virtual components can be used to include people who work remotely or those who can’t travel to make an event. They also allow events to be recorded and publicized more widely to customers and other stakeholders.

Because of the value of virtual events, it’s important to assess the scope of your event before leaping onto Zoom. One of the most common mistakes companies make when planning virtual events is failing to articulate the purpose or goal of the event experience, which determines the budget in turn. If you value high production quality with the best tech and presenters your audience can aspire to, for example, then your budget considerations could shift by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Another common mistake is not adequately preparing for technical glitches. One tech issue can derail the entire event, so businesses should do everything in their power to troubleshoot beforehand and build multiple layers of backup plans. That might include doing rehearsal calls with speakers, testing microphones and cameras, and ensuring every remote participant has technical support on their side of the screen.

Here’s the bottom line: Diving into a virtual event without thoughtfully articulating your desired attendee experience could spell disaster for your company. So take a breath and answer a few basic questions first:

1. What’s your goal?

Before you plan the nitty-gritty of an event, you need to know the goal or purpose — both regarding your message and what you want participants to get out of the event. Otherwise, the outcomes will be vague and unmeasurable, and you might present a confusing, unfocused narrative to attendees. Knowing your event goals also means knowing your audience. Why will they, or should they, care about the content you’re going to deliver? What will their priorities be — high-quality production and tech, an authentic and intimate experience, or something else?

2. How long should your event be?

Turn what could be an hourlong training into a three-day lecture, and your attendees won’t be happy. Get clear in the early planning stages about how long your event really needs to be to get all the important information out there. And err on the side of short. People often get more fatigued watching a screen than they do attending something in person, so remember to schedule breaks and switch up activities often if you are planning a longer event.

3. Who are your presenters and creators?

Your scope and budget will depend a lot on who delivers and creates your content. Will you call on individuals? Groups? Will you entrust them with their own preparations or give them a budget with which to prepare? Will you be spending money on prerecorded videos, or will your event be totally live? Depending on the level of experience and expertise you need, you’ll have to allot more or less budget.

4. Do you need to worry about branding?

Does your brand have a major presence and a significant loyal following? If you need to be concerned about branded content and how everything looks within the layout of your event, that’s going to cost more. Banners, branded colors, logos, merchandise — it all adds up. But it’s worth it if you want to showcase your brand’s unique look to stakeholders and audience members.

5. Will you need a production company’s help?

It’s important to know early on whether you need external help to run your event (rather than figuring out that your team isn’t equipped to handle it at the last minute). I’ve seen companies host one-hour events that cost $200,000 because they wanted high production value for a critical company message to their most important customers. On the other hand, if it’s a small group and you’re just walking through some slides on a video call, doing your own production at a fraction of the cost can be the way to go.

The way we create and attend events is changing, and it will keep changing — so give yourself the best chance to seize whatever opportunities the world presents. Just because an event is virtual doesn’t mean it should pale in comparison to an in-person event. It all comes down to spending time at the beginning of the planning process to answer key questions about your event goals and audience.

If you’re looking for more inspiration on hosting a successful virtual event, schedule a demo to experience Bluewater’s new event platform, Parallel Live.