Our Top 5 Takeaways from Organizing Our First Virtual Events

Here at Sigma, we always look for new opportunities to stay engaged with our clients. This is why we invite our clients to our VIP events 3 times a year to share the latest products, insider tips and trends with them. There’s food, fun and laughter – and everyone benefits. Clients can experience the products in person, our vendors and the Sigma Squad can obtain valuable feedback.

However, this year we faced a new challenge: we couldn’t meet our vendors and clients in person due to the pandemic. So what did we do?

Easy-peasy! We moved the event online.

But wait! Was it really a piece of cake? Nope. Just like every new challenge we tackle, it felt more difficult at the beginning and feels much easier now when we look back. In this post, we are sharing our top 5 takeaways from organizing our virtual event projects so you can implement a stress-free planning process in your business.

Top 5 Takeaways from Organizing Our First Virtual Events

1. Don’t stress about technology

Our number one fear when we moved our events to a virtual platform was technology. As much as we love that technology made it possible to organize these events, we also were concerned about unforeseen technical glitches that could come up in the middle of a presentation. If you feel the same way, here are our tips:

  • Choose a simple, familiar platform. This is not the time to experiment with that super cool, new webinar platform your tech-savvy friend talked about. Choose something simple at the beginning. We chose Zoom because were already  using it for our daily meetings and were quite comfortable with it.
  • Practice ahead:Who will be the event host? Who will answer questions in the comments? Who will press the record button? These are the questions that ran through our minds before the event. All those questions were answered as soon as we held a “dress rehearsal”. 
  • Accept the unavoidable:there are bumps on the road that you just can’t avoid, no matter how much you try. If the event host suddenly loses internet or your clients have internet problems, you don’t have much control over the situation at that very moment. However, you can prepare for these rare scenarios. On our second event, for example, we recorded the presentation ahead of time. The recording session was a great way to practice for the live event and we could also kept it as a Plan B in case of an internet outage on the big day.

2. Always plan ahead & add extra time

During our second virtual event, we decided to send out a 3-piece gift to every guest. The 3 gifts were all individually wrapped and time stamped (1 gift to open before the event, 1 to open during the event and 1 to open at the end). For two days, our meeting room turned into a gift-wrapping station with boxes, tissue paper, stickers and gifts waiting to be assembled. Luckily, Jessica and Lindsay from our squad are real pros when it comes to kitting and they handled the project with ease. 

Still, tight timelines can add unnecessary stress to any well-oiled team. When you add extra parts to your event planning, consider adding extra time too. 

Also consider setting milestones and due dates throughout the process that help to keep the project on track. 

3. Collaborate with vendors

We always invite at least one vendor to our events because they can share valuable viewpoints about the industry, especially when it comes to new manufacturing and promotional product trends. 

Here are a few tips if you also want to collaborate with others and invite them to present at your virtual event:

  • Choose vendors whose energy and presentation style are in line with yoursand what your clients are expecting
  • Share the topic of the event with your vendor in advance.We like to define specific themes for our events to help keep them fun on the long run. Offer a few possible presentation topics that would work well for your theme and would also let your vendor shine.
  • Invite your vendors to the dress rehearsal.This will help to fine tune presentations, especially if you and your vendor have overlapping talking points. 

4. Consider what would work online

What works for an in-person event might not work online. 

We recognized this during our first event where we invited 4 vendors – a number that worked well on our in-person events. Online, however, it was just too long for our clients. Two hours in front of a screen is a very different experience than 2 hours in-person at a venue. Since then, we shortened our events and collaborate with one vendor per event. 

Another area where we noticed a difference is the topic of the presentations. At our in-person events we could showcase lots of products and strategic perspectives were secondary. Our clients love to hold the newest products, see the special finishes, customization options and try on apparel. Online, it’s much harder to showcase these product features, even though our vendors are always wonderful and bring high quality videos to share. 

We realized that virtual events give us an opportunity to focus more on strategies and best practices and you can do the same. It is an opportunity to share the benefits of your products or services and perhaps what makes you stand out from the competition.

5. Don’t forget about follow up

It goes without saying that a virtual event project doesn’t end on the event day. It’s important to follow up and get feedback from your clients so you can improve for the next time.

When it comes to asking for feedback, do it as soon as possible, while the event experience is still fresh. Don’t overcomplicate the feedback form and if you can and reward those who fill it in (a gift card they can use towards your services is a great option). 

Here are the questions we like to ask after our virtual events:

  • What was your favourite takeaway from this event?
  • Which service / product that we mentioned during the event would you like to hear more about?
  • How could we improve this event for you?
  • Which presentation was your favourite?

BONUS: Use a project management app

And last but not least, here’s a bonus tip. Organizing a virtual event will most likely require more than one person from your team. This means that you’ll need a way to follow up on due dates, roles and responsibilities in an organized way and also let the team collaborate easily. We recommend you try a project management app to make collaboration and follow up easier. Our favourite app is Asana because it’s very intuitive, not to mention that it’s free for up to 15 team members. Other great project management apps are Monday, Trello and Zoho Project. 

Are you ready for your next event?

We hope you found these tips useful and we’re curious to hear from you! What was your favourite tip from this post that you want to implement at your next event? Is there any best practice that you would like to share with us? Let us know in the comments!

Authors of this post:
Andrea Szabo-Kirchmayer
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