When COVID-19 first began its quick sweep of the globe, in addition to ushering in the modern work from anywhere #WFA movement, it also provided a crash course in running virtual events. While it’s true that virtual events and conferences have been around long before COVID-19, the pandemic forced virtual events to no longer be an option, but a necessity. With in-person gatherings limited by state and local regulations to help stop the spread of COVID-19, virtual events moved into the spotlight as the natural solution to the problem of social distancing.

Virtual events come in many shapes and sizes, and can be hosted on a range of platforms, and in either a live or pre-recorded fashion. While there are some essential uses of pre-recorded virtual events—educational webinars, self-paced instructional events, asynchronous communication opportunities—live virtual events more closely mimic the atmosphere of in-person events.

When you use a live streaming app like Facebook Live for your virtual events, you’ll be able to expand the reach of your event and boost engagement in your organization while you’re at it.

How to Convert an In-Person Event to a Virtual Event

If you had previously planned an in-person event that is being prevented from happening by COVID-19 restrictions, your best bet on executing your event is to transfer it to the virtual world. There are many benefits of converting your in-person event to a virtual event—cost efficiency, wider audience engagement, and the creation of reusable digital resources, to name a few— but how exactly do you pull off this transformation?

  • Consider your attendees
  • Decide if you will host live or pre-record your sessions
  • Choose audiovisual software and equipment to host your event

Consider Your Attendees

If you have already promoted your event as in-person and now are converting it to a virtual event, stop and determine: what promises did you make to your attendees? Once you know the purpose of your event and what experience you intend to give your attendees, then it is time to consider how to translate the expected in-person experience into a virtual experience.

Start by reaching out to your keynote speakers, panelists, or featured guests. Once you have them all locked in for your virtual event, you will be able to reassure your attendees that the heart and soul of your event will remain intact. 

Then, consider your potential attendees. Now that your event is going virtual, without the barrier of physical space to consider you have the ability to expand your event attendees past the original intended audience. Take this as an opportunity to reach out to new demographics of potential attendees that you otherwise wouldn’t have had room for. The more inclusive and diverse your virtual event is, the more of a rewarding experience it will be for everyone involved.

To Go Live or Not To Go Live, That is the Question

While there are some aspects of virtual events that lend themselves well to being pre-recorded—educational webinars, self-paced instructional materials, and asynchronous communication amongst others—the only way to recreate the energy and atmosphere of an in-person event is through live streaming.

Live virtual events tend to lead to more engaged attendees and a more interactive experience all around. 

Some other benefits to choosing to make your event live are:

  • Speakers participate in live Q&A sessions with attendees
  • Event hosts can gather attendee engagement in real-time with polling tools
  • Attendees can participate in workshops and active brainstorming sessions
  • Coveted face to face networking can be recreated in breakout rooms

Some aspects of your event will lend themselves naturally to being pre-recorded or broadcast live. In that case, don’t be afraid of embracing a hybrid system to highlight the range of experiences you are providing through your virtual event. Fully live virtual events, as engaging as they may be, may become too fast-paced for some event attendees. In this case, a hybrid event schedule that combines live keynote speeches, Q&A sessions, and more personal breakout rooms with interspersed pre-recorded self-paced segments can make your virtual event more accessible to a wider audience.

Using Facebook Live to Host a Virtual Event

Once you have decided to convert your in-person event to a virtual event, it is time to choose the best digital platform on which to host it. If you or your organization has an existing following on Facebook, you may decide that it is in your best interest to stream your virtual event on Facebook Live. To do so, follow these steps.

Step 1: While keeping in mind your Facebook event page specs, choose the name, length, schedule, and sponsorships of your event.

Step 2: Create an event page on Facebook where you can host your event. Facebook provides more than 20 event categories for you to choose from, pick the one that best describes your event so Facebook can help you accurately market it.

Step 3: Write the description for your event. Include the who, what, when, where, and why of your event so anyone who happens to stumble upon your event page can easily catch up to speed on your organization and event. Remember to add three searchable keyword tags to your description.

Step 4: Grow your Facebook audience before your event by inviting friends to share the event, share posts about the event to the timeline of your business page, briefly go live to give potential attendees a taste of your main live event, and continuously drive interest in your event leading up to it.

Step 5: Once your event is done, review the “event insights” provided by Facebook to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your virtual event.

How to Foster Virtual Networking on Facebook

Networking is a classic perk of attending in-person events, but just because your event is virtual this year doesn’t mean your attendees can’t meet all of their networking needs. There are many ways to provide your attendees with virtual networking opportunities

When hosting your event on Facebook, take advantage of the wide reach of Facebook’s audience to optimize your professional networking. To get the most out of your virtual networking on Facebook, make sure to:

  • Create a new “Friends” list to separate your friends and family members from your potential networking targets. To create a separate “Friends” list:
    • On your newsfeed, scroll down and click “Friend Lists” in the menu on the left. 
    • Then click “+ Create List.” 
    • Add a label like “Business” or “Professional.” 
    • Select colleagues or professional networks from your current list of friends to add to the new list. 
  • To keep up a professional appearance on Facebook: set your privacy settings to “Friends” instead of “Public” and change who can see your tagged photos to “Only Me”
  • Change your profile picture to a more professional image. There’s no reason your LinkedIn headshot should stay on LinkedIn, use it on Facebook too to make your social media accounts professionally synced up across the boards
  • Add your job history to your profile for optimum professionalism
  • Promote your professional brand on Facebook, instead of just your personal photos and updates
  • Join industry-related Facebook groups to bump up your exposure to professional and networking opportunities

Remember, your events are only as marketable as your content, and your virtual events are only as successful as your tech is reliable. To get the most out of your virtual event and tap into the expansive network of professionals on Facebook, use Facebook Live to stream your next  virtual event.

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