Your Virtual Event Budget: Tips and Tricks for Planning

Virtual event budgeting is different from in-person event budgeting. In-person budgets focus more on event logistics such as venue, accommodation, travel, rentals, catering, and others.  Virtual events budgets are mainly about software, branding, and design, audiovisual (AV) production, swag bag shipping, and other items relating to creating a robust virtual experience for attendees.  

While it might seem like there isn’t much to worry about for items on a virtual event budget, allocating the appropriate resources to specific items is key to achieving success. If you get the budget right when planning your virtual event, you have set the stage for a great event outcome.

Here are some great ideas to help you build your virtual event budget or transition your current budget to the virtual space: 

Let’s dive in to learn more about stellar virtual event budgeting!

How to Build a Virtual Event Budget

There is no detail too small to include in your virtual event budget template. However, you must connect every item on the list to your event goal. Ask your team or planner what you should include to make the event turn out great. Here are some suggestions to consider:

Start with common event line items

All event types will require some items such as event registration, marketing and promotion, speaker fees, and others. Start your budget with these and other relevant items that should be on the list. There are some basic items that might be part of the offer for bigger items. For example, you might have a platform offer that also comes with event registration. Talk to vendors to know what they are planning on selling so you don’t include items twice on the list.

Determine what you need for your virtual event to be a hit

Once the essential items are in place, consider the things that will make your event special. Virtual events are becoming more interesting, engaging, and productive, and attendees always have a higher expectation for whatever is coming next. Therefore, you should consider including line items that will make your virtual event production turn out great such as the ones below:

  • A virtual event platform 
  • Branding and design
  • Microphones, camera, and other audiovisual (AV) equipment 
  • Studio for live streaming or recording
  • Live and on-demand transcription and closed captioning assistance
  • Swag bags

If you organized a virtual event a year ago or more, don’t just copy and paste entries in your budget. Understand current trends and technology and feature the best stuff that will make your event be a hit.

Remember to account for the number of attendees

You won’t need as many staff as you would require if you were organizing an in-person event. However, you still have to enumerate the people who will carry out a role or the other to make your virtual event successful.

You will need staff to handle event marketing and promotion and event follow-up. You will also need speakers, moderators, and other support staff.

Internal team time

Your internal staff might be helpful for some of these tasks, but you will still have to estimate how many hours they will dedicate to the project and determine whether they will be compensated differently for the event project.

Hiring an expert

One of the options is hiring an event planner, which might save you money in the long run. An expert knows exactly what is most important to make your event successful, and they can guide and help you in allocating resources optimally.

Remember what is most important for your event 

Effective budgeting for your event means spending money on the things that your attendees will cherish the most. If your attendees don’t care about t-shirts but are more interested in the entertainment or great speakers, make sure your budget reflects that reality. 

Breaking down your budget 

Next is to break things down into different sections. Follow these steps to create a rough estimate of your budget: 

Consider your most expensive line items 

Create a section to capture essential items like:

  • Software and platforms
  • Consultants
  • AV equipment and assistance

Those will likely be your higher-ticket items, and you should allocate resources appropriately to them in your budget.

Budget for marketing 

You need to make provision for a solid marketing strategy to attract your target audience. Find out how much the following will cost and if you will need them:

  • Event landing page/ microsite
  • Email marketing
  • Pay-per-click search ads
  • Paid social media
  • Podcast or radio placements
  • Press release, etc.

When it comes to promoting your event, identifying the key platforms where your target audiences are most active is essential. This will help you channel your efforts in the right direction.

Plan for your attendees’ experience

This section of your budget should feature items relating to audience engagement and creating a memorable event experience. Focus on creating immersive learning by featuring great speakers and also create fun activities. 

To invite speakers that will be of interest to your attendees, take a few things into consideration. For example, you will need to decide what type of speakers you are bringing, how many you will need, and how much you will pay them.

For entertainment, ask the software vendor if their virtual event platform has gamification features or, need to use a solution

Also, decide whether you will need a musician, comedian, or magician for entertainment and how much that will require.

Lastly, if your audience is into branded merch, decide what you will include in the swag bags and their shipping costs.

Put away rainy-day or emergency funds 

Virtual events are not entirely incident-proof; things can still go wrong. For example, there can be software failure or internet connectivity issues. This is why it is advisable to allocate 15%-20% of your entire budget for emergency purposes. With that in place, you will have enough resources in hand to take care of any eventuality. 

Virtual Event Budgeting Best Practices

When creating a template for your virtual event budget, here are some best practices to guide your thoughts as you decide on where to put resources:

Don’t assume virtual means cheaper than in-person

Virtual may not be more affordable to organize than in-person. If you consider the event’s big picture, there is a considerable amount of saved cost when you consider that items like travel, lodging, and catering are not required for virtual events.  

However, great virtual event production is not cheap to come by, and your budget needs to match the kind of event experience you anticipate. 

Put extra time and money into engagement when your audience is online

When your audience is sitting on a computer, you have to be more interesting than anything else on the internet. Online audiences have a short attention span and can be easily distracted by whatever else is happening around them. Think about activities that can help them stay focused and draw them into the event experience, such as games and entertainment. You can also introduce happy hour or a virtual dinner.

Decide early whether you want to invest in or rent equipment 

Apart from a virtual platform, you also need AV production equipment. Virtual events require more AV input than in-person. You need a production quality to impress your audience.  To achieve this, you need good equipment and a technical team.

If you’re planning to host many virtual or hybrid events, it is advisable to invest in AV gadgets up-front. Although that might be more expensive for your first event, it will pay itself off later. Otherwise, if organizing a virtual event is a rare occurrence for you, consider renting or hiring an AV production company to handle it. 

Involve your event planner early 

If you know you’re hiring an event planner, ask for their input on your budget, if possible. They might have ideas for increasing value or know people in the industry who can give you better rates.

Common Virtual Event Budget Questions 

With all that has been said above, here are some common questions people ask about virtual event budgeting and the appropriate responses to them.  

How much does a virtual event cost?

Like any event, it depends on your scale. A cocktail hour will cost far less than a three-day conference. The number of expected attendees and the experience you want in your event will also determine the eventual cost. 

What is a good KPI for my event?

First, decide what is most important to you. Then, figure out how to measure it! This could be: 

  • Leads added to your sales pipeline
  • Partners signed into your network
  • Ticket revenue
  • Attendees online

Deciding on your event KPI ahead of budgeting is essential. When you know the results you want to achieve, it will help you scale up your planning and allocate resources appropriately.

Where do I find an event planner? 

Look no further! Contact us to learn more about Pathable’s event planning and management services. 

Virtual event budgeting can be a little tricky if you don’t have previous planning experience which is why you should begin by talking to an expert to get the best advice on optimum resource allocation. This will reduce back and forth and you will be confident that you are making the right event decisions.

Hybrid Events: Planning, Management and More in 2021

As vaccines continue to roll out, the events industry begins to breathe a sigh of relief. Hopefully, the 2021 events season will see people gather again in person with minimal disruptions. However, the pandemic shaped the industry in major ways over the past year. As organizers pivoted planned in-person events to virtual, attendees saw that they could experience the events they loved without leaving the comfort of their homes.

This new event experience and in-person gathering limitations will lead to a surge in hybrid events in 2021. Therefore, organizations planning to host events and hoping to record an expanded reach need to create a solid hybrid strategy. 

In this article, we’ll consider how you can successfully implement a hybrid strategy to engage both in-person and virtual attendees. We’ll walk through the basics of hybrid event planning in 2021, including the following: 

What Is a Hybrid Event?
Hybrid Event Planning 101
Hybrid Event Management
Following Up: Maximize Your Hybrid Event’s Long-Term Impact

Read on to learn the best practices for your next hybrid event. 

What Is a Hybrid Event?

A hybrid event is an event experience designed and organized for both in-person and online attendees in ways that connect both audiences in an organic event environment. 

Before the pandemic, organizations planned hybrid events to allow online audiences to join an in-person event experience through live streaming, teleconferencing, and other virtual means. In such settings, virtual audiences often had limited access and a limited event experience compared to in-person attendees.

However, in a world impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, hybrid events must be deliberately planned to give both in-person and virtual audiences a full event experience. 

Hybrid Event Planning 101

For starters, hybrid events require more strategy and planning than virtual or in-person alone does. However, considering the benefits of going hybrid, those efforts are always worth the extra attention. You can expand your reach and capture new audiences, and also engage them in new ways. Follow the tips below to plan your next event.

Start with dedicated hybrid event tech

A hybrid event is not two different events but a singular event with two experiences. Therefore, before thinking about venue and other logistics, ensure that you have the appropriate event technology to execute a hybrid strategy.  

When considering software options, choose one that allows for various types of event engagement, interaction, and networking. Focus on features such as:

  • Live chats
  • Polling
  • Breakout sessions
  • Gamification
  • Video and group chats
  • Interactive sponsorship and exhibition elements
  • Customized branding and more

An ideal hybrid event solution combines a virtual event platform and mobile event app in one solution. The platform provides virtual attendees the opportunity to be present virtually and to interact. In contrast, the mobile event app provides on-the-go access and interactive tools for engagement between both virtual and in-person attendees.

Pre-event marketing is critical 

Build anticipation for both in-person and virtual attendees by letting them know exactly what to expect. Most importantly, convince virtual attendees how you intend to make them feel engaged as though they were attending in person.

You can tailor your value proposition to in-person attendees to include:

  • Venue
  • The ambience of the environment
  • Special networking sessions
  • Exhibitions
  • Entertainment
  • F&B 
  • Other exclusive access 

For virtual attendees, talk more about:

  • Livestream and production quality
  • Interactive and networking tools
  • State-of-the-art technology
  • Digital or shipped swag and takeaways

Talk about how these features will make attendees feel connected to the event. It’s a best practice to make a clear outline of the unique and common features to the two audiences so that each will know what to expect. This way, your attendees can plan ahead for which sessions are most interesting to them and schedule their experience accordingly.

Consider what time zones will impact your hybrid event

When building your event agenda, consider the time zones that will work best for your virtual audiences. If your event targets audiences in a similar time zone as the event location, this may not pose a challenge. 

However, if the time zones vary significantly, try and put main track events and networking sessions around the time convenient for all attendees. You can also consider running multi-sessions so that attendees can choose which sessions work best for their time zones. 

Plan for social (physical) distancing for in-person venues

There are a limited number of persons allowed for physical events. Therefore, check with your venue to know the recommended capacity so you can plan accordingly for spacing and admittance. It will also determine how many tickets you will place on sale for in-person attendees. Once those slots are exhausted, interested attendees can continue to sign up for the virtual option.

Decide ahead of time: live or pre-recorded content?

For in-person attendees, most of the content should be live, except for short video clips and commercials necessary to be produced ahead. However, there might be a need to engage your virtual audience with additional content that they can view on-demand. 

Alternatively, you can pre-record the main track sessions and place them on the platform for virtual attendees as a backup plan in case technical issues arise while streaming live. 

Plan for varied content to maximize engagement

Online audiences tend to have a limited attention span. Therefore, you should plan for a mix of content types to keep attendees engaged. Keep content interactive and moderate in terms of length.

Use interactive tools such as Q&A, polling, and gamification to keep the audience active during sessions. 

Hybrid Event Management

Once you get the basics sorted, the next focus will be to make your event run smoothly. Let’s consider the following touchpoints that will make all the difference in your hybrid event management. 

Practice Makes Perfect

Prepare speakers ahead of time for the hybrid experience. Start with the event platform you have chosen and ensure speakers can reach your virtual and in-person attendees using the platform. Also, allow your speakers to practice on the stage or in the space where they will be recorded. Remind them to make eye contact with the cameras once in a while so that virtual audiences can feel connected.

Ensure that everyone is 100% comfortable with the platform that you have chosen. This is because if speakers are familiar with the platform and stage, they can efficiently work around any technical difficulty that might come up. 

Make registration, check-in, and log-in as seamless as possible

Using a cohesive solution that combines a virtual event platform with a mobile app will ensure that both virtual and in-person attendees can easily navigate your event space. Integrating your registration software with your event platform and app will also help create a smoother user experience. This way, attendees can check-in and login to your platform without hassles.

Prioritize community 

Make sure that everyone can interact across the in-person and virtual divide. Do this through online chat rooms, message boards, and in-app communication options. The idea of a community is what makes the event hybrid, and if there is no cross interaction between the two audiences, virtual participants won’t feel as much connected to the event experience. 

Offer interactivity 

If your only way of engaging attendees is having them passively watch speakers, you’ll lose your virtual attendees’ attention fast. Ensure that there are ways to interact during sessions with options for reacting to things, voting in polls, or contributing questions. 

You can go a step further by allowing in-person attendees to share live videos of moments at the event venue with their virtual counterparts via the event app. If your event venue has breakout rooms with hi-tech audio-visual capabilities, you can have a mix of in-person and online attendees in the same breakout rooms. 

To achieve this, set up the rooms with smart 360-degree cameras that show everyone in the room and that highlight anyone speaking. In turn, set up screens in the rooms to display and highlight the faces of those participating online. 

End your hybrid event with a splash 

Don’t let your attendees leave, or log off, without putting careful thought into your closing remarks. Do you want to end with your best speaker? Or with a performance from a musician or other entertainer? Finish with something that will keep attendees reminiscing about your event.

Following Up: Maximize Your Hybrid Event’s Long-Term Impact

The gains of your hybrid event will come mostly from what you do after the event has ended. Take the following steps to ensure that you maximize your event’s long-term impact. 

Stay in Contact

Keep communicating with your attendees through email touchpoints. Start with a thank you email and highlight key takeaways from the event. You can also share a post-event website where they can view session galleries and high points. If you have additional resources you want them to download or view, provide the links to those resources in your communication. You can also allow sponsors and exhibitors to continue reaching out to attendees.

Ask for Attendee Feedback

You need feedback to know whether your event met expectations or not. Send out post-event surveys and ask attendees what they think about specific aspects of the event like:

  • Content
  • Speakers
  • Agenda
  • Interactivity
  • Sponsors, and other areas

You will learn a lot of lessons from the feedback that can be useful for planning future experiences. 

Offer continued access to evergreen content

Your organization can nurture both in-person and virtual attendees by providing continued access to evergreen content on your event platform year-round. Such content can be the recordings of live sessions or fresh pre-recorded content. By keeping the attendees engaged, you can retain their loyalty for the next event year. You can also reach out to them with additional offers regarding your next hybrid event. 

Maintain Your Community

The community aspect of your event is the interaction and networking. Encourage attendees to continue the exchange on the platform. You can also create conversation forums where attendees can discuss topics about post-event realities. Enable email or mobile notifications when there is a new post or interaction on the platform. This is an excellent way to get invaluable data on your attendee’s opinions and viewpoints.

Measure Engagement and ROI

During the planning process, be clear about key performance indicators (KPI) you’ll track for the event. This way, you can use them to measure ROI after the event. When you track how attendees engaged with speakers, content, sponsors, and other attendees on your platform, you will find insight on which aspects of your event resonated with your audience the most. 

Wrapping up

Like virtual events, hybrid events will continue to evolve. Therefore, your first attempt might not be a perfect one. However, take note of your audiences’ feedback, and talk to your technology provider to harness additional features that will best suit your unique hybrid event experience.  You might also consider attending other hybrid events both virtually and in person to learn from other organizers.

Hybrid & Virtual Event Production: Choosing the Right Vendor

Virtual events shouldn’t just be webinars. To avoid that from happening, organizers need top-notch event production to create richer and more profound experiences that attendees will continue to cherish long after the event is gone.  

Top-quality virtual or hybrid event production is about providing interaction and engagement elements to enable attendees to connect, network, and share ideas in exciting ways. These elements make everyone feel connected and engaged with an event whether they choose to attend in-person or virtually. 

You’ll need the expertise of savvy organizers to pull off a stellar virtual or hybrid event production. However, it is critical to be careful when choosing a vendor to undertake your event production. Not all acclaimed vendors can provide a matching strategy that will help you achieve your event goals.

Here is a detailed guide to help you identify the right vendor for your specific virtual or hybrid event needs. We’ll cover the following specifics:

Let’s dive in to discover valuable ideas to find your savvy production vendor! 

Consider Your Goals for Your Virtual or Hybrid Event

To get started on hiring a service provider, think about your event’s ultimate goals and what you need to do during your event to reach them. For example, consider where your ROI will come from. For example, you can base your event’s success on the following metrics: 

  • Ticket sales
  • Sponsorship
  • Email list
  • Content sales
  • Merchandise
  • Donations
  • Leads

Once you are clear about your ROI sources, you also have to consider what you want attendees to do after the event to maximize your event’s impact. For example, you might want them to:

  • Stay active on your event platform
  • Participate in a post-event survey
  • Join your community by volunteering
  • Patronize your products or services
  • Join your donors’ list
  • Share their event experience on social media 
  • Recommend your organization, product, or service to friends and colleagues

Being clear about these goals from the outset will help you set the stage for great event production. It will also help you to identify the vendor that can help you plan and execute the best strategies to achieve them.

Which Hybrid Event Production Services Do You Need?

To provide a truly hybrid event experience for attendees, there are essential event elements that you should include. Here are some production services you should be on your checklist

Attendee Engagement Opportunities

A hybrid production goal is to create an organic event community where in-person and virtual attendees can connect to the event experience and interact across the board. Therefore, you need to provide tools that will make that possible. Some of such tools are:

  • Custom event agendas allow attendees to create their unique event experience by choosing the event sessions they want to participate in. 
  • Interactive live-streaming capabilities can be webinar-style or group style where attendees can connect with their webcams.
  • Embedded interactive tools for audience polling, Q&A, reactions, comments, and feedback.

Give virtual attendees more engagement experience. You can feature some gamification elements by awarding points when taking specific actions like joining a session or participating in a poll. 

Networking Options

You need to bring some human element into the event by providing virtual networking options, especially for virtual attendees. Some networking elements you might need include: 

  • Customizable user profiles that provide more information about event attendees such as headshot, industry, job title, and interests.
  • A directory of users where attendees can find others on the platform, click on profiles and interact with one another.
  • Public discussion forums where attendees can discuss event topics further and also share ideas even after your event.
  • 1:1 and group video chats, so attendees can schedule and meet virtually as a way to compensate for the face-to-face networking experience.

You might also need an arrangement where in-person and virtual attendees can connect to interact in hybrid breakout rooms.

Communication Tools

You need real-time communication tools to send out information about your event to the target audience and communicate with them all through the event life-cycle. You need these tools to meet up with:

Marketing Opportunities

These include creating event microsites and landing pages with all the branding elements, email marketing, and social media outreach before and during the event.

In-Event Communication Needs

You need to communicate with your audience, speakers, and sponsors during the event. To do this, your team needs tools like custom emails, push notifications, and in-app communication between users.

Standby Technical Support

You need standby technical support from your service provider to handle and resolve all technical issues related to the event production. This includes attending to attendee support requests during the event. 

AV Support

AV needs should also be considered and coordinated between in-person and virtual elements of your production. AV can help you achieve integration between in-person and online attendees, especially in breakout rooms. Therefore, you need to invest inr AV needs such as:

  • Video cameras 
  • Sound production
  • Lighting and stage setting 
  • Monitor screens
  • AV in breakout rooms

Your event team should consider all the above in connection to how they might affect streaming quality to the event platforms and boost the attendee experience.

Questions to Ask Your Hybrid Event Production Vendors

You should be asking questions when talking to vendors about your hybrid event production to decide on the most suitable tool for your event. Here are some of them:

Do you offer a virtual event platform and mobile app?

A hybrid event is not the same as streaming an in-person event live; it is the connected experience that you provide that makes it so. Therefore, you need hybrid event solutions, in this case, a virtual event platform and mobile event app, to create such an experience. The virtual platform is meant to serve the virtual audience while the mobile app serves both audiences.

Ask vendors if they offer these solutions, and especially if they offer them as an all-in-one solution. This is the best option for your hybrid event as it provides digital accessibility for all event attendees. 

Do you help with branding and graphic design?

Branding and graphic design are essential to event marketing and enhancing the event experience as well. If you don’t have an in-house graphics team, you should ask vendors if they can help and what branding elements they can help with. Think beyond the virtual platform and mobile app, you will need branding for your landing page and other event communication tools as well.  

Will your platform track metrics and analytics to determine ROI?

One of the benefits of using a virtual event platform and mobile app for your hybrid event is the ease of determining ROI by tracking important event metrics. Discuss with vendors if their solutions can follow the event metrics and analytics that are important to you. Here are some examples of metrics to track:

  • Event and session attendance
  • Number of exchanged messages and in-app meetings
  • Live polling response rate
  • Questions asked during Q&A
  • All event page views
  • Sponsor engagement rate
  • Session check-in and check out
  • Time attendees spent in sessions and on the platform
  • Qualified leads
  • Customers acquired

Be as specific as possible on the metrics you want to track, and ask if the vendor can provide that. Besides, ask vendors whether you can monitor the reports in real-time, or you would have to wait till the end of the event to see the results.

Can your team help with onsite event components?

You need a vendor that can help with onsite event components, which are mostly AV-related. That includes cameras, sound, lighting, and backstage. You will need the equipment and the technical team to handle them to ensure that streaming and connection from onsite and online are seamless. Ask vendors ahead if they can provide such services.

Pathable: The Top Virtual and Hybrid Event Production Option

When it comes to choosing a vendor with an all-in-one solution for stellar virtual and hybrid event production, Pathable is the best option to consider. Pathable provides premium event services that guarantee an elevated experience in planning, designing, and executing your event.

Pathable will provide a state-of-the-art virtual event platform and mobile app that comes with a full suite of customizable tools you need for audience engagement, communication, interaction, and networking. These tools also track every important metric along attendees’ journey, making it easy to determine your event’s ROI.

Pathable also provides custom event branding for your landing page, event platform, and app in a way that captivates your audience and immerses them into the event experience. Pathable provides a dedicated support team throughout your event’s lifecycle, so you won’t have to worry about the onsite component of your hybrid event production. 

Pathable has helped organizations like yours to achieve outstanding success stories for their event production. Contact Pathable today for expert consultation from start to finish.