This past July 28 and 29, two months of planning and coordination came together at Discoverr, a virtual 2-day conference of eCommerce lessons. Deliverr brought speakers from Marketplace Pulse, Walmart, Wish, and more to share tactics and advice for first- and long-time sellers to find success on their platforms.
It was an exciting, but nerve-wracking time, and I came away with a new understanding of what it means to organize a successful virtual event.
Three cups of coffee/night and a very messed up sleep schedule later, I’m here to share my big lessons from planning and organizing the virtual conference.
Lessons in planning an event
I was given an ample head start on this project, with Deliverr leadership asking me to take on the conference late May. I had all of June and most of July to organize, determine tools, and get everyone synced and on board.
There were more than a dozen speakers in total, so these two months were much appreciated. I sent out invites and information early in June, and then requested all of the info we needed from our speakers by end of June.
It gave everyone a month to decide on their speakers, which would give me plenty of time to collaborate and put everything together.
However, as you’ll see later in this blog, it’s still important to stay sharp. We had 4 speakers who dropped out of the lineup after June 30 and as late as one week before the event. Luckily, we were able to find some excellent speakers in our network, and the final lineup was A+.
Watch out for holidays
Prior to this event, we held a webinar after an American holiday weekend and got a lower response than expected. So this time around, I made sure to look up July 28 to make sure it didn’t fall near any holidays.
Since the event is online, I looked up big international holidays as well to make sure I wasn’t accidentally scheduling it during a huge occasion in another country.
July 28 is actually world hepatitis day, but it typically isn’t considered a day off work.
Beware narrow planner focus
When I first started scheduling the event, I got it set in my mind that this would be a one day event; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on July 28.
Big shout-out to Deliverr Director of Sales Michael Sene for bringing up that people may get viewer fatigue from sitting through a virtual event for a full day. It was the reason I decided to split the six conference sessions across two days instead – and it worked out perfectly!
We had a more general topic to introduce each day, then dove into specific marketplace/channel lessons following that.
Having the event live from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. across two days was better for the event flow, viewers, and our internal team. Since I’m on a different timezone than PST, it was also helpful for my sleep schedule! So a win-win.
Schedule a kick-off call
My nightmare is sitting in a call that should have been an email. To avoid this, I started off speaker planning via email, and operated as if our first call would be the rehearsal before the big event – with speakers and slides sorted through email.
Wow, that was a mistake. Turns out some emails need to be calls! Since I didn’t get everyone on a call right from the start, there were too many things left up in the air for too long, which caused confusion. The speaker list changed a few times, throwing off some well-laid plans and causing a mad rush to get the already-live landing page updated more than once.
Here’s what you want to cover on that kick-off call
- Who will be speaking during the event
- When you can expect their information (high res headshot, full name, official title, bio)
- Whether the event date and timeslot works for them
- When the slides need to be in by (also gives you a date to follow up on content with their team)
- When to schedule a rehearsal/run-through (ideally the week before the event)
- Who else needs access to the back-end (ie. For answering Q&A), their email addresses, and any other details you need to add them
Test out different tools
I didn’t have as much time as I’d have liked to test different webinar tools. We needed something that:
- Provided multi-session webinars with one registration form, so registrants only had to enter their information once to get access to everything.
- Offered unlimited registrants, and capacity for 3,000 or more live attendees.
- Gave us access to a quick CSV download of all registrants, so we could share the list with our partner presenters.
- Had a center stage with different back-end sessions so each team had a different link, but viewers wouldn’t have to hop in and out of different virtual rooms.
- Had a Q&A feature that we could make private, so attendees couldn’t spam others’ feeds.
- Allowed each speaker to control the presentation, so each person could control their own slides and pace.
- Gave us an embed form option so we could build our own landing page.
- Automatically sent out webinar recordings after the session, whether someone attends or not.
Our software solution workaround
I ultimately decided to go with Livestorm, even though they didn’t have everything we needed. This was in part because we used their tool before and were comfortable with them, and in part because of the great customer service (shout out to Sonya Ercout for all her help!).
I made this work by building our own registration page, and embedding the registration form for the first event. Then I used a Zapier integration so that everyone who registers for the first event was also registered for the other sessions. Finally, I made the other registration pages private. The Zapier flow took the first registration (submitted via our landing page) and used it as a trigger to send the same registrant info to all the other webinars, too.
Tip: Make sure you’re getting any opt-ins your software requires when manually registering attendees. Our landing page made it clear this event included all sessions, and the Livestorm registration widget captured the terms and conditions agreement.
One weakness of this setup was that it meant each registrant gets six emails; one for each session. It would have been nice to have one email round-up with their unique access link to each session within that email, or even better – just one link they had to keep track of.
I added a note in the FAQs and adjusted the wording of the emails to set expectations (ie. expect more emails haha). I also set things up so that on the day of the event, registrant will get a 1 hour reminder for the first event, and 5 minute reminders for subsequent ones. That will help to ensure it’s easy for them to find their access links among the sea of emails.
Next round, if we continue with this software, I’ll set things up so registrants only get one initial email and then their individual session emails 5 minutes before each session begins.
Another notable conference option was Webinar Ninja, which provided multi-session webinars and had great support (thanks Omar!). However, the lack of a private Q&A function was what turned us away from them – though their team mentioned it’s being built now.
The other tools I checked out had more features than we needed for a single-track event, others were a bit too expensive, and others had poor customer support that I wouldn’t rely on the day-of in case something went wrong.
Lessons in creating a landing page
If your event is more than one webinar, you should have a landing page (not just a registration page). That means design, copy, web development, and more planning.
Get a professional designer onboard
Initially, part of my search for a good webinar tool was a nice registration page builder. In the end, nothing looked as nice as the landing page that Benoît Chabert, masterfully crafted.
It made a huge difference for branding and visibility. We were able to add it as a page on our own website, creating a more seamless flow to get people who were interested in Discoverr to check out Deliverr, and vice versa.
Get a wordsmith onboard
Every event landing page needs to speak in the same language as your audience – that means focusing on what’s important to them and highlighting what they’ll get out of the event.
To get this right, you need to bring on a wordsmith or three to get the copy down.
Deliverr’s Celena Chong focuses on user acquisition and reducing bounce rate and churn across the site. She does this with the sharp wit of a trained journalist. She took professional landing page copy that read like a manual and helped make it pop (and drive registrants).
Before: Laundry list/school syllabus
After: All the reasons you need to register
This is actually a lesson from many events and promotions past, but incredibly relevant for an online conference.
Your FAQ section works to preempt questions and will help keep your customer support lines clear of interested attendees that just want a little more information.
This also reduces the time it takes from someone to discover the landing page, generate interest, and then register (ie. no “contact someone” step in between).
Diving into my thinking behind each question, many of them were from past webinar experience. One of the most common questions I saw asked in live webinars was whether attendees would get a recording after. We also got multiple questions about sponsoring the event, and I was asked by friends and family if the event was free.
The FAQs were also useful for clarifying why registrants get so many emails, and reassuring registrants who lose their link that they’ll get another one 5 minutes before the event starts.
Finally, the FAQs section helped me lay out the terms and conditions for the prizes without stuffing up the sleek landing page copy too much. The full prize details would be emailed to the winners separately once they won.
Lessons in organizing an event
Then comes the scheduling, finalizing, and so, so, SO many emails.
Rehearse with your speakers
I booked time with each of the speakers in the two weeks leading up to the event. These meetings were to introduce them to our webinar software and run-through the content and slides they had provided together. Everyone learned how to log in, move slides around, where to find the questions tab, and see what the webinar looks like.
This is mission critical – you do not want to discover one of your speakers doesn’t have a working microphone on the day of the event. I was part of an event where a speaker didn’t know how to access the webinar room, and one of his team members had to heroically step in (she did great btw).
Embrace your send button
If you’re organizing an event, you’re going to annoy people with your emails. I sent the speakers multiple emails every week, sent attendees six emails upon registration and then extra emails the day of, and sent even my own team members multiple Slack messages and emails checking in and making sure everyone’s on the same page.
I bothered so many people just trying to get the right sized headshot so they wouldn’t be blurry on our speaker page. Imagine what I was like with the entire thing; Final speaker list, session titles, session descriptions, speaker bios, scheduling availability for the day-of, rehearsal availability, a content sync to talk about what they would talk about — I was a verifiable pest.
Thankfully, this was a virtual event. So big changes in speaker lineup, rewards/offerings, and logistics could all be done remotely and as quickly as your Internet connection allows.
It was important to stay flexible, because in every event things will always come up.
Lessons in marketing your event
Share far and wide
We shared this event out everywhere, driven by a lofty, daunting registrant goal.
We shared the event on our website via a banner, pop-ups on different pages of the site, and a pop-up on the back-end of our software where our users signed in.
I sent it out as a newsletter feature multiple times, and had it in every outgoing newsletter from the day the landing page was ready to the actual event (albeit at the bottom as a reminder that it was going on).
We shared it via social, ads, social ads, in sponsored newsletters, and everywhere else I could think of without being marked as spam – so I stayed away from Reddit.
We also asked each of the teams speaking to share the event with their audience. That meant we had the marketing engines behind all of our speakers at work on our behalf.
Quick checklist for event promotion
- Add event CTAs throughout your website (banner, homepage hero, resources page)
- Add event information to relevant blogs
- Link to the event in your email signature
- Share your event in a dedicated email newsletter at least twice (official announcement + reminder)
- Schedule social media promotions – you can set and forget these
- Find relevant email newsletters to sponsor
- Share it with your own networks in your group chats, masterminds, LinkedIn messages, Slack groups, and other communities
Everyone loves free stuff
Prizes, especially relevant or generous ones, are big registration drivers for any event. Deliverr went above and beyond at Discoverr by offering $15,000 in prizes for Deliverr users, such as free storage, free deliveries, and free inbound shipments (where you send inventory into the Deliverr network to fulfill).
We randomly awarded a live attendee in each session with one of six prizes, which encourages registrants to join live. I measured this by sending out a poll at a random time during each webinar to find out who were active attendees. Anyone who answered the poll would be eligible to win.
Since the poll was in a different tab from the Q&A section (the default for people joining the webinar), I flashed a slide in each presentation that asked attendees to switch over and answer the poll to be eligible for the random drawing.
Set rewards based on your event goals
The big goal of this event was to highlight the multi-channel opportunity. To do that, the $15,000 in Deliverr credit was a good start to help sellers grow their business, but not geared toward channel expansion.
Our data-driven business development and strategist Justin Rezende put together a First-10 promotion wherein every Deliverr merchant who attends the conference live can get their first 10 orders on a newly activated channel fulfilled for free.
This was a great way to get merchants to take advantage of the multi-channel opportunity. We’ve seen merchants boost their profits exponentially with each channel they add, and the First-10 promotion would help them see it too.
Lessons in executing an event
There are a few things we did during the planning and organization stages that helped us during execution. Here are lessons around that.
Pad your start times
I sent out Google Calendar invites that reserved 15 minutes before the actual session would go live. This was so speakers and panelists arrived early enough to test their sound, get re-acquainted with the software, and look through the slides one last time. It’s also a great time to share current registrant counts and get everyone excited about the event.
Get your team good equipment
We had someone from the Deliverr team on each session to introduce the speakers and work as moderators for the panels. To ensure clear sound and good lighting from their end, we sent them some key pieces of equipment beforehand.
Here are a few suggestions for audio and visual equipment you can check out. The list includes the items we used, online recommendations, and suggestions from a digital producer team I work with.
- Microphone: Audio-Technica ATR Series or 20 Series
- Microphone: Rode NT-USB USB Microphone (find it here)
- Microphone: Blue Yeti USB Microphone
- Amplifier/VST box: Scarlett by Focusrite
- Headphones: M6 Memory wire in-ear sports headphones
- Headphones: HyperX Cloud Flight Wireless Gaming Headset
- Camera: Logitech C525 USB HD Webcam (the one we used)
- Camera: Logitech B525 HD Webcam (find it here)
- Camera: Logitech Brio Ultra HD Webcam
- Lighting: Stellar Diva Desktop LED Ringlight BiColor USB-Powered
- Lighting: UBeesize 10″ ring light
After the event
Send out a recap email
To close out the event, we sent a thank you email to every registrant that included:
- Links to all the recordings: The purpose of the event was education and to follow a CTA to take advantage of the multi-channel opportunity, which means the more people get to view lessons from the event the better.
- More information about each speaker: Since there was so much cross promotion across all partners, we couldn’t share the full registrant list with everyone. So in order to help our speakers connect with registrants, I included links from our guests along with any promotions they provided for attendees.
- Prize information: We announced the first name and last initial of the prize winners, to let everyone know winners had been chosen and to let the winners know we would be following up with more details in a separate, private email to look out for.
- Reminders: There were plenty of benefits to attending this conference, and so I included reminders about rewards like the First-10 promotion (applicable to everyone who attended at least one session) and the referral program. I also included contact information of the team members leading those initiatives so anyone who had questions knew who to contact.
Measure the results
Registrants and live attendees are the one of the more obvious ways to measure the success of your event, but it’s important to see how an event moves the needle for your business.
Look at what you wanted to achieve with the event. If it’s to get your current customers to take a different action, like start using another of your services, evaluate the activation rate of that before and after the event.
- % of known users who are using service A before the event
- % of known users who are using services A and B before the event
- % of known users who are using service A after the event
- % of known users who are using services A and B after the event
- Ratio of 1:2 and 3:4 to see what service B activation looked like before and after the event
Find ways to spread the information further
There was so much useful information throughout the event that it makes sense to share it across as many channels and mediums as possible (similar to diversifying your eCommerce business).
So, after the event, we:
- Published recordings of all the sessions on our YouTube channel (find the playlist here)
- Wrote recaps of the lessons for our blog, and embedded the videos
- Put it in our resources page, where content has a longer shelf life for website visitors than the ever-changing blog homepage
Last lesson: It’s worth a try!
I was nervous about getting so many moving pieces together, but ultimately it has been a great learning experience that taught me many valuable lessons in teamwork, coordination, and now caffeine withdrawal.
If you’re thinking of putting on a similar event, but aren’t sure whether it’ll be a success or waste of time, I encourage you to give it a try and apply the lessons above.
Check out recordings of the event below.
Thanks for stopping by!