Best Practices for Hosting a Digital Event
Event organizers should be their own class of superheroes for all the effort it takes to design, plan, and execute impactful attendee experiences. Current health concerns and travel restrictions related to COVID-19, however, have canceled or postponed many events around the world and could jeopardize future events as well. While it may not be feasible to host those experiences in person, it doesn’t mean they can’t go on.
Event organizers looking for ways to quickly adapt and host trade shows, user conferences, sales kickoffs, and other events online have a great option in Zoom. Zoom’s video-first unified communications platform is a great alternative to hosting an in-person event because you can connect speakers, sponsors, panelists, and attendees — and replicate much of the face-to-face interaction — anywhere and on any device.
At Zoom, we’ve successfully run countless online events using our own technology. Here are our best practices for creating an impactful, world-class virtual event experience using Zoom.
Pick your solution: Meetings vs. webinars
Virtual events can take many different formats, and Zoom offers a solution tailored to fit any use case. When you’re planning an online event, think about what you want your user experience to look like and ask yourself this question:
What level of interaction do I expect from my attendees?
If you expect attendees to mostly just listen, you’re on the fast track to Zoom Webinars. When you need more back and forth between the audience and the host, a Zoom Meeting might be the better option. Here’s more info to help you decide whether to host your online event as a webinar or a meeting.
When to host a webinar
Think of webinars like a lecture hall or auditorium. Webinars are ideal for large audiences and events that are open to the public. Typically, webinar attendees do not interact with one another. Though Zoom provides options for you to get more social with your attendees, your average webinar has one or a few people speaking to an audience.
When to host a meeting
Zoom Meetings are great for hosting interactive sessions where you’ll want to have lots of audience participation or break your session into smaller groups. Zoom’s Breakout Rooms feature allows you to easily assign participants to virtual side sessions and bring them back to the main meeting. If you are hosting a secure internal event, we suggest using our Waiting Rooms feature. You can send all participants to the Waiting Room when they join your meeting or only guests (participants who are not on your Zoom account). You can then admit attendees one by one or all at once. While Zoom Meetings also offer tools to manage participant interaction, they are more impactful when you’re looking to have broader participation.
For the most part, a Zoom webinar will be the preferred solution for many digital events because it provides a simpler platform to manage large audiences.
Host a virtual event using Zoom Webinars
Whether you need to host digital marketing events, all-hands meetings, product announcements, or training sessions, Zoom Webinars is an easy-to-use option for managing and engaging with your audience. For instance, you can quickly promote an attendee to a panelist so they can interact live. Other features like hand raising, Q&A, and polling enable additional engagement.
Here are some other benefits of using Zoom Webinars for your digital event:
- Customize the webinar registration page to better support your event needs.
- Turn on webinar registration source tracking and discover what promotions are most effective so you can optimize your efforts.
- Leverage Zoom’s webinar integrations with Marketo Engage and Pardot to streamline post-event follow-up.
The event host sets the tone for the event. Practice and preparation beforehand will ensure your audience has the very best experience. Here are a couple of pro tips to ensure you have a successful digital event:
- Hardwire your internet connection: This will help you avoid any issues with an unstable wifi connection, which can affect your audio quality and the overall attendee experience.
- Test the audio before your webinar begins: This will ensure your speakers and mic are working properly before the live event begins. Here’s how to test your device audio.
- Minimize background noise: Try to host your webinar in a quiet place. If you must be in a loud environment, using a headset with a mic often reduces background noise compared with your computer’s built-in microphone. In fact, a headset is a general best practice for higher-quality audio than other built-in options.
- Dress to impress: You’ll be on video, so be sure to wear business attire. We recommend solid colors as opposed to garments with patterns. Be mindful of any accessories or jewelry if you are expressive with your hands as the noise and movement can be quite distracting.
- Set proper expectations: Create a clear webinar title and description for the content that will be delivered. Make sure you deliver on the content that was promised in the promotions leading up to the digital event.
- Start on time: We recommend you start your event 5 minutes early to allow your attendees to join before the content kicks off. The host should let attendees know when the event will begin and if the content will be recorded and shared afterward.
For additional webinar best practices on designing content and creating impact, check out these webinar hosting tips from Let’s Do Video founder David Maldow.
Engaging your audience
One of the main benefits of an in-person event is the interaction. Online events also can offer an informative and interactive experience while you enjoy the comfort of your home or office.
It’s important to put just as much effort into the online experience as you would for an in-person event. Here are a few tips to help you maximize engagement:
- Set the tone: Welcome attendees as they join the webinar or meeting. Start with an icebreaker question and ask attendees to send in their answers in the chat. “Where is everyone joining from today?” “What are you looking forward to hearing/learning about?” Call out some of the answers you hear and share your own response with the audience.
- Enable Q&A: Designate panelists or other hosts to help answer questions that come in during the event. We recommend you encourage attendees to ask questions throughout the session. This gives you a chance to collect questions as you go and decide whether to answer them live or wait until the end. There’s nothing worse than dead air, so prepare a few questions in advance in case you need to fill the gap.
- Polling is key: Create 3 to 4 polling questions that can be set up before the event. This is a great opportunity to gauge what information your audience is interested in, their level of expertise, and their current understanding or opinions on the content you are sharing.
- Ask for feedback: With Zoom Webinars, you can include a post-event survey to collect feedback on the presenters, content, and audience satisfaction. All you need is the URL for your favorite survey tool. As attendees leave the webinar, the survey will automatically launch.
- Reactions: Zoom is feature-rich and capable of hosting all-hands meetings or other internal events for large audiences. Participants can now react during a meeting by sending a thumbs up or clapping hands to communicate their excitement without interrupting the presentation.
Monetize your event
Zoom’s PayPal integration allows you to charge a registration fee for events hosted on the webinar platform. This seamless payment process ensures you can focus on delivering a great digital event experience without worrying about collecting fees. All you need is a personal or business PayPal account.
When registering for your event, attendees will be redirected to PayPal to complete their payment. To complete the payment, they will log in to their PayPal account or use their credit card during guest checkout. Once the payment is complete, they will receive instructions on how to join the webinar.
Broaden your reach
Have you thought about going bigger with your digital event? When the content is set, your speakers are prepped and ready, it’s time to go live.
Zoom webinars and meetings can be broadcast across social channels with Facebook Live, Facebook Workplace, and YouTube Live, as well as a custom livestream integration. This allows participants to join via Zoom or watch on social, so your content can reach a larger audience without any extra effort.
Here are some additional resources to help you deliver a successful online event experience:
- Zoom E-Book: Running Engaging Online Events
- Your Top Five Online Event Questions: Answered!
- Host and Panelist Tech Setup Best Practices
- How to Create the Best All-Hands Meeting Experience With Zoom
- Technical Deep Dive: How We Live Streamed Zoomtopia Without a Hitch
- Get More From Zoom Webinars with New & Expanded Apps
Still have questions? Check out our support page for meeting and webinar best practices, or watch our webinar on “Best Practices for Hosting Digital Events”:
You also can contact a Zoom product specialist to learn about our online event consulting services or get a personalized demo today!