How to run a virtual event

21 July 2020, 12:05 PM
  • Edward Berry, former managing director of the Ludlow Food Centre and now head of food and retail consultancy The Flying Fork, offers his top tips on the fundamentals you need to know
How to run a virtual event

Having an online presence is hugely important, from an efficient website to engaging social media platforms. With social distancing guidelines in place, members of the food industry, from retailers to events organisers, have been taking their offerings online. If you previously ran cheese and wine tastings for customers or hosted ‘meet the producer’ events, then you can continue to do so virtually. Here are some key considerations before getting started.

Choose an event to suit your business
The first step is to decide whether to invest in external resources, such as a professional to run a masterclass, and whether to charge viewers for the event. Edward suggests masterclasses using products or Q&A sessions as good examples of giving viewers value for money. “You can sell the event and people will pay, but what they are really paying for is product - for example, cheese. Send them a selection of cheese in a pre-event pack so that during the presentation they are sharing the experience. A Q&A is also good value - you may decide to restrict it and have a limited number of people in attendance, which gives it a certain amount of extra kudos as an exclusive event. As it would if you were having it in your premises.”

Preparation is key
Getting to grips with technology in advance is crucial to delivering a good online event. Edward advises, “Online events can be quite a challenge for some if they require unfamiliar technology. However, if you’re asking people to book their time, be there on time and to learn or receive an experience, and if you are late to deliver or haven’t figured out how the camera works, it all falls over. Treat these events seriously otherwise people won’t come back. A rehearsal beforehand is well worth doing, particularly if your event involves people in two different locations. If your technology enables it, perhaps enhance your event with photos or film to make it not only educational but also more entertaining. Make sure you keep to the time frame or you will lose your audience. It’s like with any production, you’ve got to engage with your audience and keep people hooked until the end. The end is when you do your sale!”

Make it a diary date
“Slotting these things into a regular schedule is really important. Whether it’s going to be weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, having your event happen at the same time and place is a really useful tool - it’s in people’s diaries then and they look forward to the next one. People have had a lot of time on their hands and to look forward to a 6pm cheese masterclass is a real highlight,” says Edward.

Promote on social media
Ensure that people know about your event in advance by promoting it on social media. “Social media needs to be well planned and well executed, so consider the quality of your Instagram pictures and messaging on your feed,” says Edward. “It’s your brand, your shop - so everything you do should be reflected in it.”

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