If you decide to host a full-fledged virtual event, be sure to plan ahead, allowing at least 3 months for sales efforts, advises Persson. "If someone is trying to sell me a $10,000 or $20,000 sponsorship, I need time to plan for that in my budget," she notes. "You cannot sell sponsorships six weeks before the event and be taken seriously; … [and] you need to start planning your virtual event five to six months out. It's not that it is difficult to implement, but you need that timeline to develop sponsors [and] content."
Paul Way, senior director of business solutions at ON24, says the learning curve for new clients actually tends to be quite fast, especially if they have done live events. "It's actually very similar," he says of the process. "There's a million moving parts to staging any sort of collaborative event, and someone who has experience doing that, whether a breakfast panel discussion or three-day trade show, understands what it takes."
"The problem with the virtual event is people think it's automatic, it's on the Web, it's easy and you have everything there," says Rathenberg. "You still have to put in the work. You still have to make sure you prep your speakers, you have to practice, you have to do a dry run to make it a really professional event."
Molay says it's key that webinar and virtual events presenters constantly focus on audience value and benefits: "This needs to be emphasized in the event title, … description, … marketing and promotion, and … the content. … Give the audience what they came for as quickly as possible. People can (and will) leave a webinar within minutes if they view it as being for the producer's benefit rather than their own."
Don't use live video of your presenter unless you have the technical skills necessary, Molay adds. "Presenters can look uncomfortable on video, they can't reference their notes as unobtrusively, and modern audiences take note of every subtle production aspect such as framing, focus, lighting, clothing and background. We expect smooth and polished video from businesses because that is what we see on TV. It turns out to be difficult to reproduce that quality in a casual Internet production," he says.