How to Host an Effective Virtual Event in 2021

Last updated: 

May 3, 2021

Olivia Cohen

Ready to host your first zoom virtual event? Make sure you follow these 5 steps to make your event a success. Step #1 is to...

Ready to host a virtual event, webinar, or lecture with video conferencing?

The pandemic has made video conferencing and virtual events more common than ever. If you and your team plan to continue to work remote in some capacity, learning how to host great virtual events is a worthwhile skillset to learn. 

What do you need to know to knock it out of the park? In this article, you’ll learn the best steps to host a world-class virtual event from beginning to end. You’ll also learn about our ultra-simple transcription app that works directly in Zoom (and very soon in EVERY video conferencing app), making it easy to capture and share text from your digital events.   

Hosting a Virtual Event in 2021

More and more brands are making virtual events a staple of their business model, investing in online training, webinars, and live presentations. It's easy to see why with reduced expenses, logistics, and removal of geographical barriers.

With this influx of digital meetings to choose from, the ones that will continue to draw participants worldwide will have helpful information and the most engaging experience. Here's what you need to know to make sure you host a noteworthy virtual event. 

1. Choose Event Type: Webinar or Meeting

On Zoom, and other video platforms, your virtual event can come in two forms: a webinar or a meeting. The purpose and audience size are key factors in deciding the correct event type. Will your event be primarily informational or interactive?  

Webinars are generally less interactive than meetings, with few speakers and limited interaction from the participants. Think of them as lecture hall presentations with a speaker providing information to an observing audience. Webinars are ideal for lectures and town hall meetings. 

With Meetings, you can allow the participants to interact more by dividing the session into smaller groups using breakout rooms. Meetings are ideal for sales presentations, client-facing discussions, and group training. 

Another factor to consider is the audience size. Using Zoom as the example here, the default plan maxes out at 100 participants. If you need more than that, you’ll have to purchase the Large Meeting Add-ons, which can accommodate between 500 and up to 1,000 attendees. Each video conferencing platform is slightly different with these parameters.

2. Prepare the Stage

Like any extraordinary meeting, preparation can make or break it. Plan out your presentation by rehearsing your slides in advance, planning pre-meeting preparation calls between you and the other speakers, and timing the length of each section. Decide if you want to leave time for questions, AMA (Ask me anything), and/or conversation. 

Test the internet connection and audio signal before the event starts. Nothing is worse than the internet not working properly and having to reset a router a minute before you’re supposed to go live. Use a wired internet connection, if possible.

Using an External HD Camera

One way to level up your presentation is to use an external camera to broadcast HD footage. You can use a capture card, like Black Magic’s Ultra Studio 3D, to connect an external camera. 

You can record your event using Group HD in Zoom, but it is somewhat limited. Zoom resorts to standard definition with three or more members in a meeting and 720p for two participants. 

Full HD 1080P is available with a Pro, Business, and Enterprise account but has to be enabled by Zoom. Streaming 1080P with large audiences can get pricey, but it may be well worth it if you’re planning on repurposing the event later as a digital product.

You would be amazed at the impact it can have on your presentation or meeting if you invest into higher-quality video and audio.

Using an External Microphone

Which leads us into the next “level-up” hack. Lousy audio quality can kill a great digital event. The built-in microphone on your computer has limited range and can make for a harsh, thin sound. Make a point to improve your audio by using an external microphone. 

You can use an inexpensive USB microphone, like the Blue Yeti. It’s a plug-n-play option that will make your audio remarkably better than the mic on-ear-bud headphones or your computer. 

If you’re planning on doing virtual events regularly, consider investing in professional audio gear. You’ll need an audio interface, an external microphone, and an XLR cable to connect the mic. 

Here’s an example setup:

- Broadcast Microphone: Shure SM7B

- Audio Interface: Universal Audio Apollo Twin

- XLR Cable: Mogami Gold 10'

Make sure to test and double-test that all of your equipment is working correctly. The more elaborate setup that you have creates more opportunities for a chink in the system. It’s best to make sure all systems are operational with ample time before the event kicks off. 

3. Create an Engaging Experience

Like any conversation, it’s best to break the ice to get the energy flowing. Instead of diving right into a presentation, give your attendees time to settle in. Ask where participants are joining in from and use open-ended questions to stimulate the conversation. For a list of great icebreaker questions, see here.

A great event is organized well and incorporates multiple forms of content. Participants will get bored or lose the impact of your message if there isn’t enough variety. Consider using multiple elements to enhance the overall experience, like visuals, music, and sounds. 

If you’re using slides, make sure that they have minimal text and are easy to read. Nothing is worse than looking at a wall of text that you can barely see. Keep slides legible, minimal, and use strong visuals to enhance your talking points, not overpower them. 

For Zoom webinars, the Q and A function allows attendees to ask questions, sending them to the host or panelists to respond. Another feature is Polls for Meetings, which allows single or multiple-choice questions during the meeting. 

Both add variety and build in opportunities for attendees to participate. Make sure to incorporate these elements for a dynamic experience.  

4. Record and Go Live

With all the prep work and activities you do to start your digital event, don’t forget to hit record! It’s not a bad idea to set a reminder to record the meeting, so you don’t run the risk of forgetting when you’re halfway through the event.

Zoom allows you to record to the cloud or external to your computer. Be sure to know the recording location you will use before you record. If you do a lot of Zoom recording, you might need to clear out space on your cloud storage. If you’re over your capacity, you won’t be able to capture the recording.

Do you plan to stream your virtual event on social media? How many channels do you want it to be on? Zoom allows you to use tools 3d part apps like Restream that will simultaneously broadcast live to multiple social platforms. Test everything before the event to make sure that you’ve set up the integrations correctly.

This is also an excellent time to make sure that you’ve installed our app to transcribe the audio of your event. You can share the top highlights paired with the time-stamped video. This is great for testimonials, collaborating with your team, or other content.

5. Pre and Post-Event Tools

What information will you ask after your event is over? Getting input from attendees will keep your attendees engaged, provide value beyond just the event, and help you better prepare for next time. 

In Zoom, you can ask for feedback in a post-event survey. You can also use other survey tools like Survey Monkey or Typeform to create a thoughtful list of questions to learn takeaways and general feedback on duration and content. 

With tools like Salesforce Pardot and Marketing Engage, you can make it easier to update your participant list. These tools integrate directly with zoom, syncing registrations, attendance, no-shows, automatically updating the platform. Similarly, Zoom for Hubspot allows you to register webinar attendees from your contact list and customize event registration emails and reminders. 

Running a Killer Virtual Event

Like anything else, the more you host virtual events, the better you’ll get at it. Mastering your setup, preparing your presentation, engaging the audience—it’s a lot to juggle. By taking the steps in this article, you’ll be on your way to deliver a great event that provides value to your attendees. 

Sharing, learning, and repurposing your virtual event content is a solid plan to amplify your brand’s message. And what better way than to share highlights from real attendees

With Grain, you can quickly edit the top moments of your event with our text editor and share them with the world. Who knows, the clips could be part of your next marketing strategy.

“My favorite thing about Grain is that it solved the problem of the old game of telephone,” says Scott Michaels, Chief Strategist at APPLY. I now share client feedback directly with my team.”