virtual event

Tips for Hosting a Virtual Event in the Age of Social Distancing

The coronavirus pandemic has upended the commerce industry, possibly forever. While we don’t know when businesses will be able to return to 100 percent normalcy, we do know that consumers are increasingly wary of resuming their normal habits. Consumers may still be reluctant to visit retail stores, and overall, consumer spending habits continue to change. As concerning as that is, I think this presents a unique opportunity to engage with people at home while exposing your brand to a new audience online – and you can even have fun doing it!

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At ZYIA Active, our entire company was built with social interactions in mind (both in-person and online) to bring people together while sharing their passion for our activewear brand.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to evaluate how we can continue to bring people together and keep the social aspect of our brand that our customers have come to know and love.

It’s probably no surprise that we turned to social media.

While hosting events on Facebook and Instagram isn’t an original concept, it does take a little bit of planning and organization to ensure your gathering delivers value to attendees and your brand is presented in the best light.

In the “before times,” ZYIA was no stranger to hosting events and parties all over the country, and we’ve adapted our in-person event planning format to fit online platforms.

If you’re wondering how to make a virtual event work for your business, here are our best tips to help you be successful.

Think outside of the box

When most people think of live events online, the first thought is typically mini-concerts with musicians, Q&A sessions, and virtual fitness classes. But, this format can benefit so many other professionals and industries.

To name a few examples, live events can be used to:

  • Share information and/or teach the audience
  • Host an AMA (“Ask Me Anything”)
  • Share makeup and hair care tips and tutorials
  • Host a fashion show or popup shop
  • Provide cooking or musical lessons
  • Show a “behind the scenes” look at your business
  • Go on a virtual tour
  • Host a book club or writing class
  • Debut a new product

Regardless of whether or not your business has a storefront or offers a product or service, the possibilities for hosting your own live event are endless! And, you can organize your event, promote it, and run it live all from home and using your preferred social media platform.

If you want to bring your audience together but aren’t sure where to begin, a good starting point is to poll your customers via social media and/or email marketing and ask them what they’d like to see. Doing so not only gives you buy-in from your audience, but it also ensures that your event will be well-received while providing value. Plus, it might even give you new ideas!

Related: The Power of Your Marketing Message

Planning for success

We all know that the best events are well planned, and that is especially true when you’re hosting something online.

We’ve adapted and tested these tips from our experience hosting in-person events to help you plan a successful virtual one:

  • Set a date several days out. This will give you time to plan the event and, if hosting an exclusive with limited attendees, build the guest list.
  • Share the event details. It’s ideal to promote it on the social media platform you plan to use for the occasion, but not required. You could do this via an event page on Facebook, Instagram posts and stories, and your newsletters, to name a few. However you promote it, encourage people to “register” by  filling out a short form with basic information. Capturing this data up front will provide you with insights like how many people you can expect to join you and can aid in lead generation.
  • Have an audience surrogate. This person can get things rolling by asking relevant questions and interacting with you during the event, which can help those who are streaming, but hesitant to participate, feel more comfortable. Your surrogate can also act as a brand advocate by commenting on your promotional posts, tagging friends with product recommendations, sharing event details on their own profile, or answering questions from a customer’s perspective. Usually your surrogate will have an incentive to participate, but presenters can offer additional motivations if the surrogate is especially active, like increased discounts.
  • If you’re able, offer specials, drawings and promotions during the event. These are great ways to build engagement, create excitement and keep your customers immersed long after you’ve logged off. For multi-day events, you can offer early bird specials to create urgency with final day and “last chance” offers, like free shipping or other special discounts.
  • Continue to engage with event attendees long after the event ends by sharing upcoming deals and new product drops with these individuals. Alternatively, you can also turn attendees into brand advocates by offering discounts for referrals with special promo codes.
  • To help attract more people to your event, consider having a secondary purpose. Teach a skill instead of only promoting a product, raise money for a local cause, or celebrate your brand advocate’s birthday. Having a second purpose gives your audience more reason to join you and can leave a lasting impression once the event wraps up.

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Continue to share your passion

Though the doors to brick-and-mortar stores may be open, it’s still too soon to tell how the pandemic will change the way we interact with our customers. And, as we work to rebuild our economy, there is only so much that we can control as business owners amid so much uncertainty. But that doesn’t mean businesses have to go radio silent until this ends – and your customers don’t want you to, either!

We’ve found the best solution for the times is to meet each other in the middle. Pivoting our marketing strategy to include hosting virtual events is just one way that we are working to bring our community together and forge a new path in unchartered territory. I hope the tips outlined here spark some ideas for how you, too, can share your passion with others and continue to grow your business. I’m confident that when this passes, we’ll come back stronger than before.

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