September 13, 2021   |   Abby Foutch

How To Flip the Switch From an In-person Event to a Virtual Event at a Moment’s Notice

Just when event profs thought they could let down their hair, the Delta variant swooped in and started shaking things up. We thought hybrid events were going to be the conversation of 2021, but as we approach winter in North America and Europe, we are quickly seeing in-person and hybrid events turn into virtual events. Instead of stressing out, we’re simply changing the conversation—it’s not about which event type to plan but rather how to plan an event that can flip between in-person and virtual at a moment’s notice.

In this blog, we’re breaking down how to plan an in-person event while preparing for a virtual event so, in the case of restrictions and shutdowns, you can easily flip the switch on your event. 

Flip the switch from an in-person event to a virtual event in 8 steps 

1     Event management platform that has both in-person and virtual capabilities

To be able to flip your event at a moment’s notice, you are going to need an event management platform that is capable of hosting in-person and virtual events—preferably one where it doesn’t take you a month or more to set up the in-person event and the virtual event. You’re probably thinking that doesn’t exist, but there’s actually a platform out there that you can set up both events in just a day. Click here to see your event management unicorn.

2     Registration 

When planning for an in-person event but preparing for a backup virtual event, it’s important to ask the right questions on the registration form. For example, it’s important to ask about attendee time zones. If your event needs to flip to a virtual event then you’ll have a better idea of where your attendees are located and what times your virtual sessions should take place. 

Look at your past virtual registration form to see what other questions you would like to have the answers to. It’s better to ask them upfront to be prepared instead of scrambling to send out additional questions via email that most likely won’t get answered. 

3     Set up the virtual location of your sessions

This is the easiest step of all, and you may be tempted to wait on it until you actually need to do it, but we’re here to advise against it. So take 3 seconds to set up the virtual link of where you’ll host the session if you go virtual. 

Bonus points if your event management platform has a universal virtual link. A universal virtual link goes into your calendar invites and that will be the link everyone uses to join the event/sessions. That means if you need to change your video hosting platform from GoToWebinar to Zoom at the last second, you can change it in the backend but the universal link will stay the same. Your attendees will never know. It’s also useful for security and tracking/reporting.

4     Create your virtual-only pages 

Don’t wait—create! Bad rhyming aside, we suggest you create all of your virtual pages ahead of time including your EventHub, waiting rooms, on-demand pages, etc. When the time comes that you actually need to switch from an in-person event to a virtual event, this is the last thing you want to sit down and do. So take an hour or two to build out these pages, while you’re still cool, calm, and collected. 

Once you create your virtual-only pages you can use flexible visibility settings to simply hide the virtual pages until you need them. 

If you think we’re telling jokes by speaking of easy page build-outs and flexible visibility settings, then it might be time for you to consider a new event management platform. Just sayin’. 

5     Gather sponsor material for virtual booths 

This is one of the biggest prep items for making sure you can flip your event to virtual at any moment since it relies on other people. When communicating with your sponsors, ask them for the information you need to make their virtual sponsor booths a hit. Your sponsors should feel pretty dang good about sponsoring the event when you tell them that the show will go on no matter what. 

6     Prepare your event production 

There’s a lot that needs to be considered for event production as you have to prepare for in-person and virtual. You’re probably a pro at both by now, but as you plan your in-person event don’t forget to consider what needs to be done for virtual. How are your speakers going to deliver virtual content? Are they set up with best practices for presenting virtual content? How will you record it?

7     Know your supplemental software      

Know what supplement software you will want to use if you switch to virtual. If you don’t currently have software for virtual engagement then start taking demos and figure out which software you’d ultimately like to go with if you need to flip the switch on your event a week before. This applies to any supplemental software you’re considering. 

8     Make a ‘switching to virtual’ checklist to help you think straight 

Last but not least, make a checklist with everything you need to do if the event is switched to virtual. We aren’t going to sugar coat it and say that it’ll save you from all stresses but we guarantee you’ll be a lot less stressed with this checklist that says who exactly is in charge of what and a solid game plan. 

Wrap up 

That’s it! It’s really quite simple, or rather, should be simple. However, we know that not all event management platforms are like Swoogo

Horn toots aside, you don’t have to give up on your in-person event dreams just yet. Continue planning safely and cautiously with the expectation that you might have to switch to virtual, and that’s ok. Following these steps, you’ll be prepared.