The 4 best ways to host virtual events - with examples

Online communities extend the value of virtual events. Here are our 4 best options to run one, with examples from our customers.

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It has been over a year since we were able to attend in-person events. During that time, virtual events have exploded in popularity - so much so, in fact, that they will most likely continue to exist in a hybrid form even after human beings can congregate again.

Any organization with its own online community already has the tools in place to host virtual events of its own. But for those with less experience in this area, pivoting to a virtual format for an event can seem like a daunting task at first. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide in order to help you get started.

Option 1: Live streaming on the homepage

With virtual events, the simplest way is often the best. Ensuring a smooth customer journey is pivotal, as creating an event with a confusing layout will drive people away. For this reason, live streaming directly from the homepage of your community is a great way to make your event simple and accessible. 

You first need to hold your video call on a separate platform such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams. You then need to set up an RTMP encoder in order to embed this live video on your community. For audience interaction, simply embed Sli.do - an easy-to-use app that allows audience interaction and polling.

Our friends at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation took this approach when they held their annual Network Workshop last month. The event, aimed at creating a circular economy free of waste and pollution, brought together experts from a variety of sectors. Despite only launching their community a few weeks prior to the event, the EMF attracted over 1000 attendees. Sessions were then made available on-demand for community members, so nobody missed out.

Option 2: Webinar tool embedded via an iFrame

With its simplicity and cost-effectiveness, using an external webinar tool can be a great method for hosting a live event - provided you find the right vendor. Be sure to spend a decent amount of time browsing, as you will need to find one which operates well when embedded via an iFrame and still suits your budget. From our own experience, we can recommend Jit.si, Kaltura and BigMarker. We used the latter for our recent Community Marketing webinar to great success.

The beauty of this approach is that the audience is kept within the community. A great example was the International Compliance Association’s BIG Compliance Festival. With hundreds of attendees, it was vital that the ICA made the festival easy to navigate. Thanks to this simplistic approach, they were able to pull off the event without a hitch.

The ICA are a shining example of building a community around an event. The BIG Compliance Festival takes place over several dates throughout the year, making it important that attendees feel incentivized to return after their first visit. Event sessions remain available on-demand long after the event, extending the audience reach and keeping the conversation going.

Though the end result is not hugely different from Option 1, this method has the benefit of being more cost-effective over the long term, making it a good option for running multiple events throughout the year.

Option 3: Load recordings into community

For a more simplistic approach to virtual events, record your video content on a separate platform and load it into your community when finished. There are more options for webinar tools than in Option 2, as there are no restrictions with compatibility with Zapnito. From here, all you need to do is record your webinar as a .mp4 file and upload it to the community.

This was the method used by the AI community VisionAIres, who use Zoom to host ‘roundtables’ which are then uploaded to the community later. 

These recordings are sorted into rooms on the community by subject, allowing visitors to find expert insights with ease. This is a great way to extend the reach of webinars long after they are finished and to create a conversation around them.

Option 4: Using a TV studio

If you’re looking to give a real air of professionalism to an event, one option is to follow the lead of simplycommunicate. For November’s simplysummit, they hired an event and film production company with its own TV studios. This meant that a professional film and TV crew were on hand to handle details such as sound and lighting, lending a more polished feeling to the webinar sections of the event.

The method used for simplysummit provides a great example of a hybrid event. While the TV studio setting meant people could view the event in person, it was simultaneously streamed to a larger audience at home. This hybrid model is something we will see more and more as we exit the pandemic, as it captures the best elements of both in-person and virtual events.

In addition to Teams, simplycommunicate used a range of other tools in order to get the most from this event. These included Zapnito for the event portal and breakouts, Vimeo to stream the event and sli.do for audience interaction. This method is more complex than others of course, but for a flagship hybrid event post-pandemic, it is a worthy investment.

The future of events is here

Virtual events are not simply a quick fix during the pandemic - they are here to stay. Even as we creep closer to the return of in-person events, we can expect to see organizations take the virtual route or create hybrid events which combine the two formats. Fortunately, as this guide shows, hosting events like this can be straightforward regardless of budgetary and technical constraints.

What many people are yet to realize is that the virtual format has the power to enhance events and provide greater ROI than the in-person model. Rather than lasting just 2 or 3 days, an online community extends the lifespan of an event - as well as the potential audience. Online communities continue the conversation long after the event itself, allowing attendees to network with peers and speakers without the time constraints.

With a Zapnito community, there are multiple routes to creating a thriving virtual event. Whatever your organization’s requirements, our team of experts will always be on hand to make your event a success.

Georgina Sánchez Moles

Customer Success Executive, Zapnito Ltd.

It's a pleasure to meet you! I'm the customer success executive at Zapnito. I help businesses develop their websites, grow their online community and organise events. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to get in touch!