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The Hopin Guide to Virtual Events

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Hosting a virtual event is like hosting an in-person event — it requires a similar level of care and planning — but one of the unique advantages of virtual events is the ability to provide more value at less cost, creating a positive result for attendees, speakers, and sponsors.

From making sure presentations go off without a hitch to creating opportunities for one-on-one networking, this guide will help make your virtual event planning clearer and simpler.

This is where a solid virtual event platform comes in. Using a dedicated online event solution with interactive elements, promotional tools, and networking features makes the planning process easier — from registration to data analytics.

If you are struggling to plan a successful virtual event, you are in the right place. Here's what you need to know.

In this article, you'll learn:

Common virtual event FAQs
How do you create a virtual event?
How long should a virtual event be?
How does a virtual conference work?
How much should you charge for your virtual events?
How do you keep attendees engaged at a virtual event?

7 virtual event examples and ideas
1. Create a virtual event series
2. Provide networking opportunities
3. Offer on-demand content
4. Host weekly events
5. Invite high-profile leaders to present
6. Host panel discussions
7. Make it interactive

Common virtual event FAQs

Virtual events bring people together, whether it's to help teams work, speakers to speak, companies to grow, or just people to build relationships — all through the power of the internet.

However, planning a virtual event might feel overwhelming. Below, we answer the most-asked questions about hosting a successful virtual event.

How do you create a virtual event?

To host a virtual event, you will need to start with an online platform — there are many options, from videoconferencing tools, to webinar software, to virtual meeting rooms, to full-conference virtual event platforms. Using an all-in-one virtual event platform such as Hopin makes it easier to replicate the in-person event experience with features such as a virtual lobby, online agenda, interactive content, expo booths, live broadcasts, and one-on-one networking.

Once you pick an event platform, it's time to reach out to speakers and sponsors, and start planning. You can create your presentations, plan interactive moments, pre-record any video content, and design a promotion strategy to increase registrations. 

Be sure to check out our team's top 13 tips for hosting successful virtual events.

How long should a virtual event be?

The short answer is — it depends on your event. Is it a conference? Meetup? Workshop? Fitness event? Entertainment performance? There's no right answer.

Fun fact: The average length of a Hopin event is 31.7 hours, but remember, your event can be any length.

One reason the average length of a Hopin event reaches above 24 hours is that when you host a virtual event, you open up your potential audience to the entire globe – meaning pretty much anybody in the world can register for your event when it's virtual. That's why a typically 4-6 hour event on the ground may end up being in the range of 24 hours or more because more people are attending from different time zones.

Keep this in mind as you serve an international audience. Don't hesitate to schedule pre-recorded content to stream live during your local off-hours. Also, there's no need to worry about any technical difficulties as Hopin's support team is 24/7 with global coverage.

Finally, when creating your event's schedule, don't forget to leave time in between keynotes and main sessions for interactive content like networking, polls, booths, and live Q&As that help attendees feel more connected to the content. 

For example, if your networking timer is set to three minutes, you may want to build 5-6 minutes in between speaker segments to give attendees a chance to network and meet 1-2 people.

How does a virtual conference work?

A virtual conference can use the same format as an in-person conference minus the physical space, travel, food, and other cost barriers and inconveniences.

The event can include large keynote presentations, smaller break out groups, panel discussions, networking opportunities, training, games — the possibilities are essentially endless depending on the platform you use.

With Hopin, we've seen people do all sorts of amazing things at events, including get hired, watch football, and perform DJ dance routines.

The major difference between a virtual conference and a physical conference is that attendees log in via a virtual event platform on their phone, computer, or tablet. This makes the event more inclusive, accessible, and even more valuable.

In other words, hosting a virtual conference can expand your audience while allowing you to provide the same conference experience, just in a virtual setting. And using a virtual event software doesn't mean you can't replicate in-person events — we've seen many companies do it well, including Figma, The Wall Street Journal, United Nations, the NY Jets, and more.

How much should you charge for your virtual events?

Pricing is different for everyone. It largely depends on a number of pieces, such as your goals, audience, industry, speakers, event format, and so on. 

Typically, there are three options for pricing your virtual event: 

1. Make it fully free to attend. This is great for reaching larger audiences, which helps with lead generation, sponsor value, and adding to the top of your marketing funnel.

2. Charge for tickets. Paid virtual events can be major money-makers, especially if your event has personal networking, creative interaction, and high-value speakers.

For reference: using Hopin, thousands of organizers have made millions of dollars from ticket revenue in the past couple of months. 

Fun fact: the average ticket price for virtual events hosted on Hopin to date is $35.37.

3. A combination of both. Most often, we see event organizers offer both free and paid tickets for their virtual events. This not only makes your event more flexible and accessible but it also supercharges your earning potential, allowing you to tap into both ticket revenue and sponsor revenue.

For example, one organizer made $220,000 from sponsor revenue and another six-figures in ticket revenue. 

Before we move on to examples, remember every event is different and your pricing should match the experience and value you're providing at your event.

How do you keep attendees engaged at a virtual event?

The best way to keep attendees engaged at a virtual event is by letting them meet each other. At Hopin, we believe people are the most interesting part of an event. So we made it easy for people to discover new connections at every event hosted on Hopin.

To connect people, leverage interactive features such as polls, two-way Q&A sessions, group chats, gamification, interactive demos, sponsor giveaways, watch parties, and more. These features help attendees meet one another and contribute to the experience, while also keeping easy online distractions at bay.

7 virtual event examples and ideas

Plenty of companies have been holding remote workshops, conferences, and webinars for years. However, as in-person meetings have become more inaccessible, virtual events have grown tremendously in popularity — and value.

Using the right virtual event software, your online events can be just as engaging and valuable as in-person events. In many cases, they can better, more affordable, and generate more insights. They allow you to carefully track metrics, such as which sessions were the most popular and gather more behavioral information about attendees. That information can be critical to planning your next event or marketing your products and services.

Let's look at seven examples of virtual events to inspire your next live event.

1. Create a virtual event series

When COVID hit, The Next Web was forced to postpone its popular annual conference, TNW2020. After brainstorming about how to move the event online successfully, they decided to host a series of events called "Couch Conferences."

Each event focused on a specific technology topic, such as digital marketing or how retailers use technology. Using Hopin, they hosted a total of nine events with an incredible 276 speakers over 78 sessions.

The results were impressive. Throughout their virtual conference series, TNW had more than 20,000 attendees and delivered more than 35 hours of quality, online conference content.

In the end, TNW culminated its series by hosting the grand finale as their annual conference TNW2020 on Hopin on October 2, where tens of thousands of people showed up, including some of the world’s biggest brands such as  GoogleFacebookSpotifyIBMSnap inc., and 200+ more to share their expert insights on what’s next in technology.

2. Provide networking opportunities

Networking is one of the biggest benefits of attending in-person conferences and events. At almost any event, there are plenty of chances to talk to other attendees while you wait for a session to start or while in line to grab lunch.

Translating networking opportunities to a virtual event requires even less effort — with even more benefits.

At TechCrunch Disrupt 2020, the renowned CrunchMatch networking experience took place on Hopin, where thousands of attendees, startups, investors, and more met over one-on-one live video inside the Disrupt event on Hopin — no need to create separate meetings outside the event. This enabled the event to have a seamless, high-quality networking capability.

3. Offer on-demand content

Building an interactive online experience is critical to any virtual event’s success, and GitLab knocked it out of the park with its interactive, company-wide event Contribute 2020. As the largest all-remote company globally, GitLab understands the importance of in-person events to help remote teams bond.

In fact, they hold an annual in-person event every year to bring their whole team together. Then, of course, COVID happened.

The planning team had to pivot to an online format, but they weren't sure how to get the same networking and bonding experience online.

Using Hopin, they were able to host a live 1,200 person event spread out over multiple days (to account for time zones!). The program involved two keynotes, several workshops, D&I roundtable discussions, and a final themed party with costumes encouraged.

Using features like live presentations from the leadership team, an awards ceremony, live polls, and Q&A sessions, they were able to keep their entire team engaged and excited — even though they were thousands of miles apart.

To get the most out of their content, GitLab used the recordings from Hopin of the first half of their event to play on-demand in the Expo area. This format worked well for making information accessible to all no matter where teammates were in the world.

4. Host weekly events

Many virtual events are one-off events such as a conference, training for a new feature, or even announcing a new product. However, there is a lot of value in hosting weekly online events and internal meetings.

I know, I know. Does anyone want more meetings right now?

Well, meetings are missing that vital in-person connection. Which is why videoconferencing can be tiring. But if you build in various modes of personal interaction and "movement" inside the event, they allow you to meaningfully connect with co-workers, prospects, customers, or just other industry professionals.

The Culinary Institute of America hosted a five-week event series called the Global Plant-Forward Culinary Summit. 

A highlight of the attendee experience was to view culinary demonstrations from chefs around the world bringing their kitchens to the screen, along with some live dialog and Q&A with the chef on stage.

Weekly events can also be standing (we do this for our internal meetings at Hopin) and used to provide customer or developer support, offer mentorships, or just meet for coffee and chat with other industry professionals.

These events can be casual; they don't even need a fancy agenda. One way to do this with Hopin is to leave out the Stage and Expo areas and just publish an event with Sessions and Networking. This creates a more intimate environment that is ideal for cross-team communication and team-building.

5. Invite high-profile leaders to present

One of the highlights of large conferences is the chance to hear — and maybe meet — high-profile industry leaders. Luckily, that draw is easy to recreate in a digital format by inviting leading industry professionals to present.

Attendees who follow those leaders are more likely to attend to hear what their favorite industry professional has to say.

And, because you won't have to cover transportation and accommodation costs, you can likely land busy, high-profile speakers at a much lower cost.

6. Host panel discussions

Panel discussions bring together two or more experts to discuss and analyze a specific topic. They can be more engaging than single-person presentations, as the back and forth conversations (and sometimes jokes) tend to be interesting to folks on the other side of the screen.

If you have more than two panelists, consider designating a moderator to help keep the conversation flowing. They can be in charge of fielding questions from the audience, bringing audience members on screen, and asking questions from the audience chat. Here's a screenshot from an event that Knotch and Salesforce hosted on Hopin featuring Gwyneth Paltrow, Marc Benioff, and Ambassador Susan Rice.

7. Make it interactive

One of the biggest challenges of hosting a virtual event has historically been being able to meet other attendees. How do you build a relationship with people when you can't make eye contact, bump into them on the way to the happy hour, or ask in-person questions?

Many platforms have limitations here. However, with Hopin, you can host virtual events without limits. As you can see from the examples above and below, there are multiple ways for connecting and engaging your attendees.

For example, the University of Notre Dame successfully virtualized their football stadium. They took watching football to a whole new level, introducing exciting elements to delight Fight Irish fans.

It doesn't stop there. You can have a happy wedding on Hopin, enjoy yoga sessions at a beauty pop up event, host a fundraising event with live poker featuring Lena Evans and Lou Diamond Phillips, or even watch Dave Cremin, worldwide magician, perform magic.

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Conclusion

If you're thumbing through the internet's how-tos, virtual events may seem like a lot of work. But fret not. The best virtual events find ways to smartly mirror the in-person experience by providing engaging and uniquely interactive content and networking opportunities. There is a whole world of creativity we're only at the start of exploring. The opportunities are limitless.

We hope the few examples of virtual events in this article gave you a little inspiration for your next event — be it for yogis, poker players, magicians, developers, musicians, chefs, startups, team members, or anything! We'd love to help you host a virtual event your guests will never forget. 

The question is: what event will you create next?

Create your Hopin account today.