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How to Minimize Stress When Planning a Virtual Event

Updated

Tried-and-true stress management tips from our team of event professionals.

Running an event is as stressful as flying a plane.

If that sounds crazy, consider CareerCast’s 2019 survey, which ranked event planning as the 6th most stressful occupation in the world—just behind enlisted military personnel, firefighters and pilots. And that came before events shifted online virtually overnight. 

Now, running a successful event requires recruiting and preparing partners from all over the world, keeping your team on track and picking the right virtual event platform... all while still giving your guests the "surprise and delight" they desire. It's a daunting task for even the most experienced event coordinators.

But not all stress is inevitable. Since 2012, we've executed millions of online events per year. Along the way, we've learned tried-and-true tips that will help you execute your event and *gasp* actually enjoy it, too.

Why is planning an event so stressful?

The best way to combat stress is to understand it as a symptom, not a disease. 

Stress arises from deeper problems in your event planning process. So to minimize the stress of event planning (and prevent it in the future), you need to understand—and combat—its root causes. This starts with: 

  • Insufficient planning/prep time: Breaking news, tight and inflexible deadlines are stressful. And event day is the ultimate inflexible deadline. Moving on…
     
  • Misaligned expectations: By definition, events are special. They’re not just an external representation of your brand, they’re a huge driver of demand: 73 percent of B2B marketers use events to identify leads and demand. 

    This opens the door to unrealistic expectations, especially from CEOs and CMOs looking for your event to magick marketing gains and a whole new sales pipeline out of thin air. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, the C-suite might not understand the value of your events, forcing you to constantly justify your event budget with a sky-high ROI.

  • Insufficient organization: With so many internal and external stakeholders involved, it’s hard to keep everyone moving in the same direction, at the same pace. A key to hosting a successful event is streamlined and clear project management, which can be difficult to manage if you don’t empower your project managers.

  • Cross-departmental and cross-team miscommunication: The biggest appeal of events are their scale and diversity: Events centralize a staggering amount of thought leadership, networking opportunities, sponsor booths, amenities, etc. in one venue. 

    This creates a diverse, well-rounded attendee experience, but getting everyone in the right place at the right time with the right preparation also requires a tremendous amount of coordination.

    From sourcing and selection to negotiating prices, orienting your entire team to the virtual event platform, answering last-minute questions and handling day-of mishaps, handling even one event partner can be stressful. Multiply that by 10 or even 50 event partners and the stress skyrockets.
A virtual event session on BigMarker

Minimize Stress and Host Better Events

Now that you understand its root causes, learn how to slay your planning stress and host more seamless events. Here are our best practices, sourced from our own account managers and event producers. Collectively, they run more than 1.5 million virtual events each year, so rest assured that all our advice is actionable and battle-tested.

1. Accept that not everything will go according to plan

Something will go wrong. And as much as it sucks in the moment, you won’t lose your job or your clients as a result. Say it once, say it twice, write in your bullet journal, whatever you need to take the pressure off of yourself to execute your event to perfection.

2. Create crash plans

You may not be able to control every problem, but you can minimize its consequences. Besides the practical benefit of avoiding worst-case outcomes—an Internet outage won’t end your event—the mere presence of a backup plan relieves anxiety. 

So while you’re creating your run-of-show timeline, start to anticipate places in which the process could fail and plan an emergency response for each of those scenarios.

This don’t need to be as thoroughly detailed as your run-of-show, but they should be step-by-step processes that include: 

A. Internal communication: Bottlenecks and communication breakdowns prevent hosts from solving problems quickly, turning minor mishaps into major obstacles. So empower your team members to present issues to one another in a way that minimizes lag time and maximizes efficiency

You could post issues in a separate internal Slack channel, call team members directly, or set up a day-long video call specially for talking through these issues.

Speakers, sponsors and exhibitor relations/ROI: When an unforeseen issue disrupts or prevents your partners from presenting in front of your guests, they’re losing valuable face time with possible leads, which lowers their event ROI. That in mind, proactively suggest alternative ways that your partners can interact with your guests and, in turn, benefit from their participation in your event.

Some examples: set up a separate informal Q&A for speakers whose sessions were cut short, alerting guests to disrupted exhibitor booths later in the day via push notifications, or even hosting interrupted speakers on a webinar on a different day. Updating guests on technical issues in a timely, transparent manner can make or break your event’s success and your company’s reputation, so keep this top of mind throughout your crash planning.

If your BigMarker software is still operational, you can send push notifications and/or an email with news to guests through the platform. If not,  post any changes on social media. Besides providing updates, proactively offer your guests with alternative programming (if possible) through those channels.

3. Pick the right project management process

What I really mean is: Kill 50+ email chains. Kill them with fire.

If you are coordinating with your team—and each of your event partners—solely through email, your inbox will quickly inflate until it turns into a black hole of lost deadlines and information.

Besides being a “literally inhumane way to collaborate,” email is also inefficient for project management. If you assign someone a new task on the 13th message of a 25-email thread, that person might not see it or may lose track of it, which can lead to missed milestones and miscommunications down the road. 

We also recommend using project management platforms like Asana or Trello instead. In these platforms, you can create channels/boards for each of your external stakeholders. There, you can create through tasks and schedule meetings in a more streamlined and organized interface.

Then your internal team can create to-dos on the same platform, which ensures that everyone knows what to do at what time. From there, split long-term tasks into multiple 1- or 2-week sprints, during which your team can tackle the intermediate to-dos that ladder up to the “big” deliverables. 

4. Empower guests to self-educate

Every event planner's worst nightmare: The morning of your huge event, you’re receiving hundreds of emails from guests that can’t log in. 

Some stress on event day is inevitable, but it gets a whole lot worse when attendees don’t know how to log into your virtual event platform, they don’t know how to turn their microphones and cameras on, they don’t know which session is happening in which room, they don’t know who to contact for technical issues, etc.

And if all your attendees have the same 5 basic questions, your team will need to spend time giving repetitive advice instead of achieving higher-level tasks. Your team will be stretched thin and more likely to make mistakes, which can create a vicious cycle.  

But there’s an easy solution: Address the most common issues through your pre-event communications and an FAQ page on your event site. 

The more you educate your guests before the big day, the fewer last-second questions and/or technical issues your team will hear about during the heat of the event. 

To reach the most guests, we recommend creating these resources in many different formats: a PDF sent via a reminder email, a short video posted on social media, a blog post with an FAQ, and/or push notifications on the platform itself.  

True, some people won’t read any of the above. That’s about as predictable as death and taxes. But by giving your customers more resources, you can keep the majority of them from making the same common mistakes—and save your team’s sanity on event day. 

5. Add buffer time to any external deadlines

We’ve all experienced *that* group project: You completed your portion well in advance, but hours before the deadline, you’re sweating it out while waiting for your partner to submit their piece. 

Since events require so many inputs from your speakers, sponsors, vendors, and more, organizing an event can feel all too similar. 

Your sponsors don’t give your team the assets necessary to build their virtual booth. Your keynote speaker can’t find time to learn how to use the virtual event platform. Your video producer needed to film your event’s welcome video two weeks before event day, but now they’re going to blow past the deadline.

Sometimes, no amount of politely worded reminder emails can make your event partners make their deadlines or make your event their top priority. What you can do is minimize the chances that their missed deadlines harm your virtual event.

So when giving your event partners deadlines, assume that they will miss their deadline and add buffer time to account for it. So if you absolutely need to receive every visual asset from your sponsors by July 1 to include their booth in your event, tell the sponsor it’s due June 25 or so. This way, they can miss a deadline, you can send that URGENT final email, and increase the probability of getting everything you need on time.

An Expo Hall featuring individual exhibitor booths

6. Standardize processes

Virtual events are a lot like Jenga towers. Their flow depends on a lot of tiny little details that, left ignored, could topple one of your biggest sessions, or your whole event. 

But when you’re taking so many external stakeholders through so many intricate processes, it’s hard to keep everyone on the same page unless everyone is following a single source of truth. One that’s written out, widely accessible and unambiguous. So as you plan, enlist your best writers to document each of the following processes: 

  • A sponsor and exhibitor asset checklist: Imagine an event with 30 virtual sponsors. Each of them needs to create a virtual booth with images, videos, and branding, all of which need your virtual event platform’s exact requirements. Without air-tight organization, something can and will fall through the cracks.

    And you do not want to be the person asking your most valuable sponsor to resize their header image the night before the event (trust us!). 

    So create a spreadsheet listing out all the visual, video and text assets you need from sponsors and exhibitors to build their booths, as well as any dimension requirements. That way, sponsors know exactly what they need to give your team—and you can visually see which sponsors still need to submit which assets to you. 

    Pro tip
    : BigMarker account teams have tips and tricks so make sure to consult them for best-in-class examples.
  • A sponsor and speaker onboarding process: Leading up to your event, each speaker and sponsor will need to learn how to use your platform. This includes the basics like logging in and using their cameras—and the more advanced stuff like engaging with audiences and distributing offers/handouts.

    If you’ve got multiple people conducting onboarding sessions with speakers, chances are that someone will forget to mention something. So create a script for virtual event platform onboarding, including both the basic steps for accessing the platform and any trouble spots your partners will need to know before they present.

  • An attendee log in process: As mentioned, most questions you receive from attendees will center on logging in and using their cameras. So before your event, write out (or record) your virtual event’s platforms login process. That document needs to answer the following:

    A.
    How will attendees enter the virtual event platform? How early will the event open to attendees? If your event site will open for networking several days before the big day, let attendees know how to take part! 

    B.
    If they’ll enter via an access link, when should they expect to receive that email? What email address will it be sent from? (This way, guests can add the sending address to their contact list ahead of time, which lowers the odds that this super-important email ends up in spam.) 

    C.
    What browsers or devices should attendees use to access the platform? Will they need to turn off any other video apps or avoid corporate firewalls? Let attendees know of any potential restrictions at least a week in advance, so they can make any necessary changes before event day. 

7. Leverage integrations

Have you ever looked at your browser, taken in all 18 of your active tabs, and just felt your brain melt into quicksand? 

Event organizers feel the same way when they have to manage their virtual event platform, their payment processing app, their registration platform, their CRM and MAS, etc. And that’s before considering that they have to consolidate all of the data collected on these platforms and send them to their sales and marketing coworkers, their CEOs, their sponsors and vendors. 

Data is dispersed across several different platforms, which might be managed by different stakeholders. So if your team has to transfer that information to one another manually, while executing a big event, someone is going to drop the ball somewhere. And the event experience will suffer. 

So use integrations to connect your apps with one another. Once you set up an integration between two softwares, data will flow automatically from one platform to another, which minimizes admin work for your team and reduces the risk of lost information and error.  

For example, you can “send” all of your virtual event data—attendee names and emails, how long they stayed in each session, how engaged each person was, what offers they clicked, etc.—to your CRM. This empowers your sales team to reach out to each new lead with a more targeted ask, minutes after the event ends. 

(Learn more about BigMarker’s integrations with Marketo, Eloqua, Salesforce, HubSpot and more here.) 

Wrapping up: The more you can empower your team with the resources and shared knowledge they need, the less stress (and more fun!) you'll have as you bring your dream event to life.

Want to learn more about how the world's most innovative companies are using online events to drive business results? BigMarker's Account Executives are here to help! Contact us to schedule a demo or get started.

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