No doubt about it, virtual events are on the rise. And while the global pandemic certainly helped these types of events grow in popularity, virtual events such as webinars, live sessions across the multiple social platforms, as well as online workshops and training sessions had already experienced a growth spurt in recent years. And the main reason for this is the fact that virtual events make it easier, and often, more affordable for brands to connect people with their content.
Podcasting in general lends itself well to virtual events due to the nature of the medium, but this does not mean that virtual podcasting events are easy to pull off! Quite the contrary. The truth is, organizing a successful virtual event requires just as much attention and preparation as an in-person event, perhaps even more so as you have the added element of keeping people engaged and excited across the great divide of their screens. But we’ve got some top strategies to share with you to help you pull off your virtual podcasting event without a hitch or a technical glitch!
But first, let’s take a quick look at some of the options available to podcasters when it comes to hosting virtual events.
Types of Virtual Podcasting Events
One of the most common types of virtual events is the webinar. Essentially, a webinar is a seminar that takes place online, hence the resulting portmanteau “webinar”. Depending on your niche and area of expertise, your podcast content may lend itself well to this type of podcasting event.
If you are a part of a strong community of fellow podcasters, you could consider hosting a full-fledged virtual conference. This could include multiple sessions featuring different speakers, virtual panel discussions, and even virtual networking sessions. Conferences are a great way to build connections in the industry as well as the perfect opportunity to gain new listeners.
3. Q&A Sessions
Your virtual podcasting event could also be simple Q&A sessions between you and your listeners. You can let them know in advance when you are hosting the event as this will allow your listeners some time to think about what they would like to ask you. You can then use your social platforms to host the event. These sessions may be informal, but they can really help strengthen the bond between you and your listeners.
4. Live Podcast Recording
A really great, and relatively simply virtual event that you could host are live recordings of your podcast episodes. Your audience can tune in to watch as you record your episode. These events are great as they don’t require you to do anything too different from your usual process (except, perhaps, a little extra preparation as you are recording live after all!) and the added equipment of a camera and the software or platform from which to broadcast your live recording.
Related read: How To Create A Video Podcast From Home
5. Behind-The-Scenes Tours
You could also use the live features on your social platforms to take your audience behind-the-scenes of your recording process, on a studio tour, or take them with you on a day in your life as a podcaster. Not only are these events fun to share with your listeners, but they also show your community just how much work and energy you put into making your episodes the best that they can be.
Ok so you probably want to make sure that any type of virtual event you host “fun”, but this is meant to be “fun” in a “not-actually-podcast-related-but-still-engaging” type of “fun”. So what do I mean by this? I’m talking about the kind of events that are not directly related to your podcast but still serve to build your podcast community, strengthen your relationship with your listeners, and help establish your brand, by offering something unique to your audience. This could be anything from a “pub quiz” on something related to your niche, a cook-along session where you share or favorite recipe, or even an arts-and-crafts event.
Strategies for Hosting Successful Virtual Events
Now that you know the nearly limitless possibilities available to you for virtual podcasting events, we now need to get to the nitty-gritty of this post: how to actually host a successful virtual podcast event. These strategies cover the basics of all types of virtual events, and so can be adapted depending on the type of event you are wanting to host.
1. Decide On The Type of Event
This may sound like a no-brainer, but you’ll be surprised by how easy it is to get the basics wrong if you fail to clearly identify the type of event you want to host. Firstly, not doing so can cause confusion and frustration during the planning stages, but it can also cause serious frustration for your attendees. If, for instance, you want to host a webinar, and you advertise it as such, your attendees will expect to learn something or glean some type of valuable information from attending your event. If your webinar is actually a sales pitch for something you or perhaps even your guest has on offer, you’ll have very few viewers left by the time you’re done. If it’s a sales pitch, advertise it as such, and you and your attendees will most likely get what they wanted from the event. But if you advertise a webinar, you need to be sure to deliver what you promised! A phrase we use regularly is “Know your why!” and this simply means knowing the reasons why you’re doing something. If you are fully aware of your “why”, not only does it give you a clear direction as to where you are headed, but it helps you make decisions that will lead to the desired end result.
2. Choose Your Software
Virtual events are virtually dependent on technology! It won’t matter if you have THE GREATEST speakers, killer content, or offer unique online networking opportunities if you do not have the software and infrastructure to pull this off and deliver what you’ve promised. So you need to pick the platform that will get the task done best. This choice will again be dependent on the type of event you are hosting (another reason to make that decision definite!) but there are a few to consider which can be adapted for a variety of online, virtual events. Some of the popular options include Periscope, Facebook Live, as well as the ever-popular Zoom, depending on the type of event and audience size you are aiming for. Almost every social media platform offers some feature that allows for live streaming. From TikTok to YouTube, most social platforms have features that allow you to broadcast live, making these viable options for virtual events if the type of event you’re planning and your audience are suited to these platforms.
3. Plan Thoroughly
Another key strategy for successfully hosting virtual podcasting events is to plan thoroughly! Put yourself in your potential attendees’ shoes. Think about what you would like to get out of attending a similar event, and what kind of experience you would expect or hope for, then set about to make that happen for your audience. Thorough planning involves thinking about each step of the event and doing all you can to make sure that each step goes off without a hitch. For instance, if you’re hosting a multi-session conference, not only do you need to thoroughly map out each individual session, but you need to think about how you will transition from session to session. Will you need an MC? Will you need to create video content to use for the transitions? If you’re getting guests to run certain sessions, what equipment will they need? What will you need to make provision for? Paying attention to all of these small details will help make the overall big event a rip-roaring success. Put aside the time to carefully think through all that you want to take place, and write down the steps, actions, or tasks you need to do beforehand to make it happen successfully.
BONUS TIP: Once you’ve written down your initial action plan, a great strategy is to have someone (preferably more than one!) read through your play-by-play to make sure you haven’t missed something crucial. Different perspectives are some of the most useful ways to ensure that you’ve crossed all your t’s and dotted all your i’s and will play a massive part in ensuring that the actual virtual event is a success.
4. Promote Your Event
You can plan the best virtual event anyone could imagine, but if no one knows about it, all that hard work will be for nothing. That is why promoting your virtual podcasting event is another key strategy for success. There are so many ways and places to advertise, and you should aim to hit all of those that will resonate with your audience and potential attendees. Start with your loyal listeners and podcast community. Use your podcast to let your audience know about the event, as they are, after all, who you are catering the event to. If you’ve got a weekly newsletter or blog, you can also use this to share the event. Eye-catching posts or ads splashed across your social media profiles with all the event information, as well as well as ways to register or sign up are also super effective ways to create buzz around your event.
Bonus Tip: Whichever ways you choose to get the word about your event out there, what is most important is that you clearly convey the details about the event, like how, when, and where it is taking place, as well as making it easy to sign-up and register. You should also consider sending out reminder emails closer to the time, to ensure that all those that signed up show up.
5. Prepare For Problems
As great as the technology that allows these online events to take place is, it’s also infamous for having glitches, and usually at the most inconvenient times! And while you can’t prepare for every possible Internet gremlin that may strike, you can certainly prepare for some glitches that may occur. Some ways to prepare for potential problems is to have stand-by versions of any visuals, presentations, or videos, ready and waiting in case there are problems with the ones you have lined up. You should also definitely test your Internet connection before you launch the event, and have back-up power supplies where possible.
Bonus Tip: Having an MC could be a life-saver if technical problems do occur! Not only are MC’s great for transitioning between different events or sessions you have on offer, and keeping the attendees focused and engaged, but they can help fill the gap and keep viewers entertained should there be a delay or problem for whatever reason.
6. Aim For Inclusivity and Accessibility
It’s just as important for virtual events, as it is for in-person events, that all aspects of the event are as inclusive and accessible as possible. As the host, your aim is to get your content to as many people as you can, which means that as many people as possible need to have easy access to the content. Some simple ways you can aim for inclusivity is by using large, easy-to-read fonts for any text on display, and making sure that these, as well as any images or graphics used, are clear, which high-contrasting colors for a high visibility factor. You should also ensure that any pre-recorded or created video elements include close captions or subtitles and that the audio, whether recorded or live, is clear, without too much background noise or music which could be distracting. You could also think about offering transcripts of the sessions after the event.
Related read: Podcast Accessibility: Why And How To Make Your Podcast More Accessible
7. Encourage Engagement
If your virtual podcasting event is to be truly successful, it will require that the audience actively engages. No matter how many of these online virtual events people attend, there is still some awkwardness and lack of participation that creeps in. You can avoid this by prepping your attendees well in advance for engagement. Tell them about any Q&A sessions you have planned so that they can get those burning questions ready. Let them know that there will be platforms to enable them to engage with the speakers, tell them about live tweeting options or the hashtags they can use so that they will feel comfortable and ready to engage when the time comes. If you are hosting a conference, you could even consider setting up a platform where attendees can interact before the time. This allows networking to take place and helps build those relationships that you would have been able to have if you met in person at a conference. You could set up a private Facebook group for attendees to introduce themselves, share what they are most looking forward to, and just to drive up the hype and excitement around your event.
Bonus Strategy: No matter what platform you use, there will likely be a feature that enables participants to interact and ask questions in real time. These types of features make it easy for participants to ask questions or share their input. If you want this to run smoothly for all involved, think about getting someone to handle that side of the platform. It’s one less task you have to handle while you’re running the event.
8. Ask For Feedback
To help you make the next event even better than the last, you should ask your attendees to share the highs and lows of their experience at your event. Remember, opening yourself up for attendee feedback may also mean that you receive some criticism, which is unpleasant, especially if you tried your absolute best to host a great event, but it is also necessary. You want to show your audience that their opinion matters and that you really want to give them the best experience possible, and that means learning from mistakes and missteps. When you view criticism as simply a way to make all the great stuff you offer much better, it helps to take the sting out of it and allows you to view it objectively and constructively.
9. Provide Additional Value
Our last strategy is to consider giving something extra to your attendees at the end of your event, or even after the fact. This could be a PDF of some of the salient points made during the event, or a document of your own that you’ve created that contains valuable content related to the subject or topic of the event. Giving something extra, completely for free, will help solidify your authority and can go a long way to ensuring that you’ll have many returnees for your next event, as you’ve established that you provide what you promised as well as way more!
How soon we will be able to safely have large gatherings and in-person conferences is anyone’s guess, but that doesn’t mean we have to miss out on all the valuable content, networking opportunities, and audience building these types of events provide. Virtual events can be just as effective for all of the above, and can even offer more opportunities than their in-person counterparts. Virtual events make it more affordable to attend events that might have otherwise not been possible, and they also provide a space for people from all over the globe to connect. Virtual podcasting events are a great way to build your authority within your niche, strengthen your podcast community, and provide new opportunities for you to share your content with your audience. Follow our strategies for hosting successful virtual podcasting events, and whatever you have planned is sure to be a hit!