One of the weirder things to come out of this time of COVID-19 is the strong, immediate interest in hosting virtual events that at least sort of feel like you’re there. This can be tricky to do with online experiences, and so I’ve decided to help everyone out and put together this online guide based on what I’ve been able to do so far. Questions? Just leave a comment below!
Quick disclosure: I don’t use affiliate links. Everything on this post is something I’ve used and/or had recommended to me, and can recommend to you. Click away! And if you like these ideas but feel overwhelmed by them, reach out and I can help you put together your next virtual event.
I love this web-based event from Start Talking, Stop HIV
1. Make a totally custom landing page for all of your website’s content
Let’s be real – Eventbrite is fine. But these days, they only let you use a custom header image, and then get access to your attendees’ email lists and get to spam them forever. No one wants that. Don’t you want something that’s packaged in your own ecosystem that you can make sure is being handled appropriately, plus the added benefit of having a branded touch on all of the different design elements?
I usually use Squarespace for this, but you could definitely use WordPress if you’re more on the web-savvy end – you can create a quick website with your event’s brand assets and embed all of the various things you’ll need as part of your event. You can use a custom domain, like “youreventhere.com” which makes it really easy for people to find and register. Plus, since Squarespace offers month-by-month billing, you can sign up for a month or two and then cancel the subscription when the event is over!
Plus, Squarespace has a scheduling feature that allows your attendees to sign up ahead of time and add the event to their calendar. By signing up, you’re also able to email them directly when the event is about to begin, which makes it really nice to circumvent the hands-off feeling of Eventbrite.
2. Streaming your content to Twitch
If your event was going to be in-person and now it’s online, you’ll probably have some sort of programming in mind already. And you should be able to host it there too!
I know, I know – if you’re unfamiliar with Twitch, you might be looking away from this post already. But stick with me! YouTube requires you to have 1000 subscribers before you’re allowed to livestream content, but Twitch allows you to livestream from the getgo. I would know – I like to stream my birdfeeder occasionally when the weather’s nice and the birds are out in full force.
Twitch allows you to then embed that livestream player into a custom website, so no one needs to download an app or mess with making an account to be able to view your content.
You can host a Zoom Webinar and stream it directly to Twitch. You can prerecord content and start playing it on Twitch at the right time. You can even add a schedule as text beneath the video player so that, if someone signs on halfway through, they know what’s going on.
3. Hosting a live chat on your website
One of the bonuses of doing something through Zoom is that you have a premade chat room built in – people can ask questions and get answers live. However, it can feel a little clunky and separated from your brand. I like using Dead Simple Chat, which allows you to embed a group chat on your website. People can hang out in real time during the event, chat about what’s going on stage, and pop in and out throughout the evening.
You might be thinking, “okay what about trolls, or people who want to cause trouble?” – Dead Simple Chat offers moderation tools, like pre-approving chat messages and a banned words list. You can require people to sign up with their email for verification, or just allow them to pick a username. Plus, you’re able to control the color scheme and embed it directly below your programming.
4. Hosting a customer support chat option on your website
Let’s say you’re offering an auction, or some kind of live tie-in, like ordering merch and food. Wouldn’t you want people to be able to get in touch with you if they’re having an issue? In addition to a group chat, you could also embed a live customer support widget in the bottom corner, so if someone is trying to check out and keeps running into issues, they can simply click on the “help” button in the bottom corner and someone will (hopefully) be online and able to help during the event.
I like Tidio for this – they have a free option that can mostly get you there, but if you want to add more operators, it’s a monthly fee (which, you might only need to pay for one month during the event). You can set language like “we’re not online yet but we’ll see you during (event),” and even offer suggestions for what people can ask.
5. A Digital Photobooth from Anywhere
Is the photobooth your favorite part of hosting or attending an event? If so, maybe check out the OMG Booth – they offer a cloud-based photo booth (read: no apps to download!) where anyone can use the predesigned frames and upload their photo during the live event.
Their team will also work with you to design custom frames if you don’t have a designer on hand to submit one – that’s a win for keeping a cohesive event design!
6. Brand the whole broadcast
“StreamYard is a live streaming studio in your browser. Interview guests, share your screen, and much more. Stream directly to Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and other platforms.”
Here’s what they can do:
• Live interviews
• Show viewer comments onscreen
• Onscreen sponsor recognition
• Live and prerecorded video
What has inspired you lately?
I’ll keep adding ideas to this post as I find them – what are some cool interactive things you’ve seen online?