Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s currently not safe or feasible to gather in large groups. To align with social distancing requirements, events of all varieties must now take place online. While events planned for early 2020 may have needed to pivot quickly to adapt to changing times, organizers like you and your team can now take a moment to think strategically about the best way to approach events going forward.
Luckily, virtual events are increasingly simple for planners and exciting for attendees. Online events are effective ways to engage association members, raise funds for nonprofits, and unite communities, among other compelling benefits.
However, a virtual event does come with a unique set of challenges. You must create the same level of value and entertainment without being able to interact with registrants in person. You need to find software that supports your planned sessions or activities. And of course, you may need to reinvent your registration processes if you were using paper tickets or your previous system cannot meet your needs in the digital space.
You may be wondering, How will people find out about my virtual event? How will they register? How can my team and our attendees get ready for the big day?
With the right tools and the following tips on hand, you’ll be equipped to plan and execute everything smoothly, even from a distance:
- Choose the right registration tools.
- Personalize the registration experience.
- Optimize everything for mobile.
- Spread the word to bring in attendees.
- Communicate with attendees.
These planning tips will ensure it is simple for guests to find, register for, and attend your virtual event. Let’s get started!
Choose the right registration tools.
With a virtual event, you don’t need to worry about reducing long lines at check-in tables or scanning tickets at the door. However, online registration still needs to be managed effectively in order to create a convenient experience for attendees and collect the right information for your team.
When considering how to register attendees online, there are a few main options to keep in mind, including:
- Basic embeddable form options. This DIY approach allows you to collect attendee data in a spreadsheet, but that’s the extent of its capabilities. You’ll need to establish a manual process for collecting payments, which can lead to errors.
- Off-site platforms. This out-of-the-box solution will direct visitors to another website to complete registration and pay registration fees through a third party. This redirect to another website can sometimes lead visitors to abandon registration.
- Comprehensive online registration software. This option can enable you to integrate registration right into your website, leading to more completed registrations and fewer support emails.
For the most full-featured solution, you’ll want to opt for registration software that is specifically designed for the needs of virtual event organizers. With the right tools, you can create a streamlined registration experience that integrates with your virtual event platform.
However, choosing the right registration software can be a challenge with so many options available. Make sure to pick the platform that will best support your team’s efforts to plan and execute an amazing virtual event.
Look for virtual event registration software that allows you to:
- Embed the registration form directly into your website. If potential attendees are sent from your website to a third-party platform to complete registration, many of them will end up abandoning the process. An embeddable registration form solves this problem and is great for your branding.
- Include pre-built and custom data fields. Make sure you can get basic attendee information as well as any data that is specific to your event.
- Customize the form with your brand. You’ll want to include your logo and colors to keep everything consistent. This is easiest to achieve when you embed the process on your website, including payment collection.
- Process payments. Your registration software should include a secure built-in payment processor (like this option) that enables discounts, dynamic pricing, and automatic billing.
- Accept individual and group registrations. Allow guests to register themselves and others. Enabling group registration has been proven to generate up to 26% more paid registrations.
- Manage attendees. You should be able to export, sort, and contact event attendees through your registration platform.
These features will help set your virtual event up for success by ensuring a simple and convenient process for all registrants.
Personalize the registration experience.
Registration software that supports conditional logic allows you to personalize the entire process for attendees.
With conditional logic, the registration form will change in real-time based on the options chosen and data entered.
To explain how this works, imagine you’re registering for an upcoming virtual silent auction. You select VIP registration and the form automatically adapts to include additional fields pertaining to VIP registrants. This can include more fields to fill out as well as early access to bidding. To further personalize the process, you may even receive emails with further insight and resources pertaining to the registration information given. A special discount for VIP registrations is also automatically added once the VIP registration is selected – no discount code needed!
Conditional logic isn’t available in every event registration software, but when available it can create a very positive and engaging user experience. People love to feel seen and catered to as individuals rather than an entire audience.
This feature also helps registrants avoid having to deal with unnecessary fields that just don’t apply to them. Since form length and risk of abandonment are related, minimizing fields can help you secure more completed registrations.
Additionally, if a visitor leaves your website before completing the registration process, powerful registration software can track their personalized progress. Then, if they return to the form, they’ll be able to pick up right where they left off. According to Regpack, the right online registration software can boost form completion rate by 25% and on-time payments by 35%.
Optimize everything for mobile.
To create the most convenient experience for attendees, you need to meet them where they are: on their smartphones and tablets. Gone are the days when online tasks could only be completed via a desktop web browser.
Today, more than 50% of web traffic comes from mobile devices. Consider how your own registrants will sign up for your virtual event. Many Americans even rely on their smartphone as their only access to the Internet, so you don’t want to miss out on potential registrants.
To reach as many attendees as possible, every piece of your event should be accessible and user-friendly across a range of device sizes. You’ll want to consider elements such as text size, images, layout, and form functionality. This includes:
- Your organization’s website
- The event microsite, if you have one
- Your registration page
- The event itself
If you’re using a modern event registration solution, mobile responsiveness should be built-in for maximum convenience. If you’ve taken a more DIY approach, be sure to double-check all of your content to see how it looks and functions on both desktop and mobile.
This principle is just as important to keep in mind for in-person event planning (or hybrid!) too, once groups are able to gather safely again. Mobile event apps create a centralized and mobile-friendly experience for both attendees and organizers.
Spread the word to bring in attendees.
Once you have a streamlined registration process up and running, it’s time to attract guests.Your marketing efforts should reach out to both returning and brand-new attendees.
To focus on bringing attendees back, put your past event data to work! With the right software in place, it’s easy to send automated communications and discounts to returning guests. You may even import user information directly into a personalized registration form to further streamline the process.
Next, you’ll want to use digital tools to spread the word to new attendees. Implement a multi-channel marketing strategy to reach potential attendees across all platforms.
Depending on your marketing budget and the demographics of your audience, you may choose to incorporate any or all of the following platforms:
- Social media channels including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter
- Email campaigns to potential registrants like current donors and association members
- Text messaging
- Digital ads
- Direct mail
Make sure your message is tailored to each platform yet still creates a unified campaign overall. You’ll want to drive traffic from each platform directly to the event registration page on your website.
To make your marketing strategy more successful, incorporate engagement data from past campaigns. Accudata’s digital marketing guide also recommends incorporating data-based practices like IP targeting and personalized social media advertising into your marketing efforts for improved ROI.
Communicate with attendees.
Once attendees are registered, they should receive a confirmation email with pertinent event details and a receipt for payment. But this shouldn’t be the last time they hear from you!
Part of your event communication plan should include distributing pre- and post-event information to attendees. You want attendees to feel adequately prepared for (and excited about!) your virtual event.
Make contact with attendees several times in the leadup to the event. A few of these communication touchpoints should include:
- Reminding registrants about your event. As the big day approaches, make sure your attendees are looking forward to your virtual event and know what to expect depending on their registrant level. Your remote event registration tool should make it easy to communicate with specific groups of attendees based on their registration choices.
- Distributing technical instructions. While you won’t need details like parking information with a virtual event, there are critical technical details your attendees will need to know to get connected on the event day. Make sure you’ve written clear instructions for using your virtual event platform and provided contact details for getting tech support if necessary.
- Sending a follow-up survey. Gather post-event feedback from attendees about the registration process, event technology, and content of the event. This information will be extremely useful in your future planning efforts.
Proactively keeping attendees informed will create a better experience and reduce the number of questions your team gets about the event—a win-win for everyone involved.
Even though it’s not feasible or safe to hold the same in-person events we are used to, we can still connect and collaborate through virtual events. In order to make the process as seamless and effective as possible, be sure to consider these strategies for organizing your event. Good luck!
About the Author:
Asaf Darash, Founder and CEO of Regpack, has extensive experience as an entrepreneur and investor. Asaf has built 3 successful companies to date, all with an exit plan or that have stayed in profitability and are still functional. Asaf specializes in product development for the web, team building and in bringing a company from concept to an actualized unit that is profitable.