Back in April 2020, amidst the stay-at-home orders and uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, our special events guru shared her expertise on how to make the most out of our strange situation in the age of social distancing. One year later and she’s back to update us on the tried-and-true tips for hosting a virtual or hybrid event.
First, Adequately Market Your Event
Three to four months before your event, start pushing messaging to your constituency to keep your organization’s fundraiser in the forefront of their minds. Use these months, and especially the month before your event, to build excitement for the big day or night. A benefit of virtual or hybrid events is that attendees can be across the nation and still engage with your nonprofit. Build this engagement, as well as curiosity and enthusiasm, by highlighting and marketing a few of the silent and live auction items as they’re secured.
Provide Technical Support
To ensure your attendees are prepared to navigate a virtual event, send simple instructions a few days before the event on how to launch the platform and troubleshoot any problems that may arise. This could even include a “test-run” link. Another way that you can extend technology grace is by using the first 10-15 minutes of the program to allow people to log in and get comfortable. Fill these minutes with a slide show, a series of pre-recorded welcome remarks from sponsors, or other time-fillers to ensure all attendees are ready to go for the main event.
Get Creative and Have Some Fun!
To bring a virtual event to life, show your appreciation for attendees by sending them something to enjoy during the broadcast. This could include a dinner package, sweet treats, cocktail kit, or a bottle of wine. Another way to enhance your event is to create a hybrid atmosphere – where a small group of attendees gathers to view the broadcast. The group could consist of the Chair or other honorary attendees plus a few of their own guests. I recently attended the Mizzou Tiger Ball which used this format, and it was a hit! We gathered for cocktails and hor ‘d oeuvres to view the virtual programming then enjoyed a beautiful dinner. After dinner, there were photo-ops in the host’s speakeasy. It was the combination of preparedness, ambiance, flowing drinks and appetizers, lots of bidding coupled with great conversation that made this event successful.
A good question to ask yourself is, “What is a winning combination when you think about success?” Keep this answer in the forefront of your mind and your 2021 event is bound to be a hit! As the boy scouts always say, “Be prepared”. That is the winning ticket!