According to a July 2020 report from Grand View Research, virtual events are expected to grow nearly ten-fold over the next decade. By 2030, the industry is projected to reach $774 billion.
Clearly, there’s a lot of untapped potential in the virtual events space. But running a successful, engaging live stream event is easier said than done. Why? For one thing, the elements and tactics that work well at a physical event don’t necessarily translate to the virtual space. For another, as we all know, technology tends to fail right when we need it most.
This leaves businesses with a unique challenge this year: How can you excel at virtual events and position your brand ahead of the curve before the industry really explodes?
We’ll walk you through what we’ve learned in this article, but here’s a hint about the key takeaway: Don’t be afraid to bring in reinforcements to supplement your weak spots. Whether that means hiring a production company to take over the streaming process, bringing in professional talent to run the show, or working with an event planner to manage all the tiny details, there’s no shame in handing the reins to the experts.
That being said, here’s our breakdown of the essential elements of a winning live stream event.
Firstly, it’s important to pick the right platform to host your event. Zoom tends to be the default for many brands these days, but it’s not your only option. Check out alternatives like BlueJeans, GoToMeeting, Crowdcast, or any other platform that’s built for hosting large, live virtual audiences.
When you’re narrowing down your software choices, make sure to understand your specific needs. If you’re expecting roughly 50 attendees at your virtual event, you don’t necessarily need the platform that’s designed for thousands. On the other hand, if you will have thousands of attendees, you’ll need to focus on platforms that can handle an event at that scale.
Make sure to also get clear about how many speakers or panelists you’ll need to accommodate, which geographic regions your platform will need to support (depending on where attendees are located), and any other limitations that might hinder your event if you choose an incompatible platform.
Lastly, make sure you actually understand how to use the platform you choose—or bring in an expert. Having the perfect software tool is useless if you don’t know how to utilize it successfully.
Next, let’s talk about crew. This is one area where businesses tend to go wrong with big live events. While a DIY approach may work well for a small, casual event (like a monthly webinar, for example), if you want to host a show-stopping virtual event, it’s a good idea to leave the production value to the professionals.
We’d recommend starting with a live stream producer and a sound operator to get the basics secured, and then evaluate from there whether you need other crew members for support.
Another benefit here is that the professionals are less likely to be thrown off by technical difficulties or unexpected challenges mid-stream. If hiring a few crew members means the difference between an event that runs smoothly and an event that’s littered with technical difficulties, we think the decision is clear.
The next consideration is your gear. If you hire a crew to help, they’ll likely be able to advise you about what gear you’ll need for the event to run smoothly. If this is the case, make sure you don’t disregard their recommendations without discussing it first.
For example, you may want to choose a specific mic that your friend recommended, but if your crew specializes in a different device or uses other equipment that’s only compatible with some mics, you’d be ruining the entire production process by going rogue in your choice. Clear communication with the crew is critical, and we’d recommend deferring to their judgment whenever possible.
When you’re assembling your gear, make sure to consider backup plans if something goes wrong. If one camera or mic fails, what’s the next best alternative? If your internet goes down, what happens to the stream?
We’d recommend making a list of all the essentials that are required for your event to run smoothly and make a contingency plan for every single one. Understand what you’ll have to do in the moment if something fails and what it will mean for your audience. After all, nothing ruins a live stream event quite like technical difficulties or low-quality video or audio.
This may or may not apply to your event plans, but it’s important to mention in case you plan to have a host, featured guests or panelists, or other appearances throughout the event. In your planning process, be very clear about who will be on-screen at any given time, what the view will look like for the audience (e.g., will you show both a slide deck and the person’s face, just the person’s face, or just the slide deck with the person filling in voice-over?), and what message each person needs to convey.
If you’re bringing in outside talent for the event, make sure to brief them first on your brand, the purpose of the event, and the tone you’re going for (e.g., serious, lighthearted, funny, etc.). It’s important that each person who will be featured throughout the stream understands the role they play in the big picture and what a successful appearance looks like in your mind.
If you’re featuring talent that won’t be tuning in from your physical location, make sure that the above suggestions about crew and gear are also worked out for each participant. Don’t assume that everyone’s laptop webcams will be sufficient—you may need to supply a camera, mic, or supplemental lighting to reach the same quality that you’ll be providing from the main location.
Finally, put just as much preparation into your live stream event as you would for an in-person event. It’s easy to forget that you’re still connecting with real people through the screen, and the experience that you’re delivering affects how they’ll perceive your brand long-term. Just because it’s not an in-person event doesn’t mean you should lower your standards.
In practice, this means you should have an agenda for the event, write a script for any written remarks, prepare visuals or presentations in advance, map out the production details, and do at least one full run-through (although two or three would be better) to catch any rough spots and iron out any lingering technical difficulties.
We can’t express enough that the difference between a mediocre live stream event and an exceptional live stream event typically all comes down to the level of professionalism. Audiences can tell when you’re phoning it in versus when you’ve really taken steps to ensure that you’re providing a quality experience. You want to be in the latter group—trust us.
We hope these tips set you up for success when you’re preparing your next live stream event—no matter how big or small. And we have good news: The better you get at hosting high-quality virtual events now, the better poised you’ll be to excel as the virtual events industry grows.