Running Your Events Online

promo image - Running your events online - #TwitterSmarter chat with Megan Powers - March 11, 2021

When the pandemic hit full rage, businesses and event managers quickly realized it was time to move things online. Over the last year, we’ve seen people Zooming in not only for webinars and training, but for all sorts of things like corporate meetings, full-blown conferences, and even weddings. This week, we wanted to talk about online events and how things are still changing every day in the event space. We invited marketing strategist Megan Powers to chat about how businesses can benefit from running their events online. Here’s a summary of our chat.

Guest: Megan Powers
Topic: Running your events online
Format: Eight questions directed at the guest. Everyone’s welcome to share.

Q1: What type of events can you run online?

Events is an umbrella term that includes any type of gathering—business functions, fundraisers, auctions, celebrations, expos—all of which can be run online. Regardless of type or name, your main purpose should be to engage your audience and make it worthwhile for them.

As our friends from Interpose added, you may even see events the scale of academic conferences running online, just as efficiently as your local reading club. Based on how much time and money you can afford to invest, your events can be grand or simple.

Nowadays the online event space is so competitive that the best technology is easily accessible for all of us. And the best part is that that it encourages participation—make the most of the platforms available.

Q2: What are the benefits of running events online?

The biggest benefit of online events is that it drastically reduces the cost of participation for your audience. Without the travel and accommodation expenses and lengthy commutes, they’ll have a lot more time and energy to focus on the content you have to offer. At the same time, online events allow you to reach those audiences who choose not to attend just because of travel restrictions. Even in a non-pandemic world, a large part of the population would prefer not to invest in travelling for events. Online events are great for them.

Another big benefit is that online events are by nature more welcoming to people who can’t access physical event spaces for various other reasons. For instance, a California resident suffering from severe anxiety can still attend a Chicago-based professor’s course without having to go through serious health scares. This also means that as a host, you can build up your community just by running regular events and encouraging your audience to join in.

What’s more, as Irma pointed out, you don’t have to worry about the massive stress and costs associated with renting a physical venue, providing for speakers, ensuring lights and mics are working, organizing food and entertainment, and cleaning up after. All that time and energy you save can go towards setting up a great agenda. For example, you can have various small break out sessions that motivate people to participate with more gusto rather than having keynote-style talks where there’s minimal audience interaction.

Q3: What kind of tools do you use to run an event online?

As we said earlier, the tools you choose depend on what you want to achieve and how. While most video-based events do fine with meeting tools like Zoom, you can also explore other tools that offer online ticketing, seat allocation, and broadcasting. Our guest suggested checking out Swapcard, Hubb, Run the World, and Hopin.

Our #TwitterSmarter team member and a long-time host of online events, Jim said he uses Ecamm to present virtually, as well as StreamYard and Airmeet.

Smitha shared a big list of tools including GoToWebinar, Eventbrite, Demio, and Crowdcast. Check out her suggestions—you might find the perfect one for your next virtual event.

And if you’re looking for a successful case study, take GiveWP’s example. They’re a WordPress donation plugin and they used Gather to run their celebrations. From what I gather, it went pretty damn well.

Q4: What is the role of social media in online events?

Nowadays, a phone really is a computer in our palms. Use that to engage with your event audience—encourage them to share their experiences on social media, even during the event. Live tweeting and live broadcasting across social channels are great ways to trigger FOMO (fear of missing out) and get more people involved in your events. If you want to take it further, you can also insentivize your participants for their social media activity.

Don’t ever underestimate the power of a casual participant who has a Twitter account.

As JMatt reminded us, use social media to promote your event before it even begins. Establish a hashtag for people to use before, during, and after the event. Share content about the event like behind-the-scenes setups and practice runs to keep your audience excited for upcoming events.

Q5: How do you keep participants engaged during an online event?

Our guest shared three key things to remember:

  1. Keep interaction channels open. This includes allowing participants to ask questions of the presenters and have casual conversations with each other.
  2. Have shorter sessions so as not to overwhelm your audience. Understand that online events may require a lot of mental energy, and make it easier for participants to take breaks.
  3. Prepare an inviting agenda. Give your participants a wide range of sessions they can attend. That way, you’re not limiting their choices to two or three. The more options they have, the higher likelihood of them sticking around your event.

Carla shared another great idea you can implement using social media. Offer sharable badges and tokens of achievement so that your participants can share them on their social channels as they attend your events. Because it reduces their in promoting the event, they won’t feel like they’re going out of their way to help you.

Q6: Can influencers play a role in promoting your online events?

Influencers don’t necessarily mean celebrities and people with millions of followers. Every person involved in your event—speakers, staff, participants, speakers’ organisations—can be influential in promoting your event. Work with them to spread the word and get more eyeballs for your event.

At the same time, you can also work with those people who have millions of followers. However, as Marianne cautioned, just make sure that their values and beliefs align with you and your business. You’ll have more success partnering with the right influencer rather than an influencer.

Q7: What’s the best social media platform to promote and manage your online events?

As Rachel from Express Writers put it, the best place to be is where your target audience is

At the same time, to run and manage an event, it’s also important to choose a platform your audience will be willing to go to, as Julianne said. For example, your Twitter audience might be more willing to jump on Twitter Spaces rather than going over to Clubhouse.

That said, as our guest pointed out, you can use all social channels to promote an upcoming event—that’s how you generate an audience. During the event, live channels like Twitter and Instagram work well because they offer quite comprehensive features that help you promote in real time. Have a single hashtag so that you get the maximum exposure across social channels.

Q8: What are some other ways to increase participation in your events?

People will enjoy your events more when they can take breaks and recharge between intensive sessions. Consider your participants’ mental health and incorporate some light activity like 5-minute meditation sessions, networking opportunities, or even a live DJ—whatever that brings peace and a laugh.

Another way to motivate people is to include gamifed activities, as our friends from Bitable suggested. This includes random giveaways, quizzes, and fun games where you can reward your audience for actively participating.

Well, folks. That’s all from me this week. Thanks for reading, and for more great insights from our chat with Megan, have a look at this Twitter Moment that our chat member Joana put together. One of the best ways to experience online events is joining Twitter chats—come join us every Thursday at 1pm ET for #TwitterSmarter. We’d love to hear from you, and I’m sure you’ll learn as much as we do every week.

About me, Narmadhaa:

I write all the things—technical and marketing copy to fill the pocket; haiku and short stories to fill the soul. A social media enthusiast, I’m a member of the #TwitterSmarter chat crew, and always happy to take on writing gigs.

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