Photo by Kushagra Kevat

How to Create an Online Event Your Audience Will Love

By Peter Barber

As companies rapidly look for ways to maintain communications with their customers and teams in this new world of social distancing, switching from planned live events to online or virtual events is the obvious answer. But creating an engaging online event, one that people enjoy attending takes real thought. Here are some things you should consider in order to make your online event as successful as possible.

Understand your audience

Firstly, it’s key to make sure you’ve fully assessed your intended audience. Do you really understand the demographics and characteristics of your attendees? What one key thing is on their mind right now? If you don’t yet have a clear picture of your audience and what they’re thinking, assessing these factors by sending out a short online survey in advance is a good idea. Having your finger firmly on your audience’s pulse will allow you to decide how best to tune your content to suit them & keep them watching.

Define your format

Once you’ve done a deep dive into your audience’s characteristics & mindset, you need to decide what format your event should be. The key factor to bear in mind here is that you will need to go the extra mile; beyond creating a presentation that you might create for a live event if you’re going to keep your viewers engaged.

Depending on your content, ask yourself: Do you think that a simple presenter-to-camera approach will be interesting enough to keep people watching? Or would a studio sofa-based discussion-style setup be more likely to keep your viewers’ attention? There’s lots of options here, so think about TV show formats that could best suit your vibe and budget.

You’ll need to be as creative as possible to deliver your key messages with impact and make them memorable. You’re crafting an entire virtual experience for them to (fingers-crossed) enjoy, so keeping the delivery fun and varying the type of content will increase the likelihood of keeping viewers’ attention. There are some great online tools that allow you to interact live with your audience to boost interaction & generate insights. There are loads of platforms available which can deliver online events and give you analytics to measure how your audience received the event. Do your research to work out which one works best for your particular situation as they will all have their pros and cons.

Prepare Compelling Content

Preparing rich content in advance, to stream during the webcast can really compliment your event. Whether this is a video or an animation you’ve commissioned, customer case studies, user-generated content or just simply creating visually-engaging slides with well-designed graphics – these visual aids will boost the impact of your messages and make sure you look professional.

All your content needs to be tailored to suit an online event as opposed to a live event. For example, when creating slides to support what you’re saying in your presentation, they need to be well designed and simple to understand. Your audience will be viewing the event on a far smaller screen compared to a projection screen in a venue, so there’s little point in sharing complex graphs or charts for your audience to spend time trying to analyse, if in doing so they completely miss what you are saying. Information overload is a real danger here, so be sure to simplify your messages, design them well and use them to support what you’re saying. If you have more to say than can comfortably be covered in the event, consider simultaneously releasing a document or white paper in advance of the event to prep the audience and fill in the details.

Any customer case studies or animations you produce need to add context and perspectives to your narrative. Live video links from another location can work nicely. For instance, dialling other members of your team and interviewing them. Look for different angles to your story and keep things varied and test the technicals thoroughly beforehand.

Go live, pre-record or both?

There’s something about a ‘live’ event that instinctively makes us want to attend, to diarise it, to be there. You can tease it, build up to it and create suspense and anticipation. The same thing goes for virtual events – being live beats on-demand in driving attendance hands down. But what can you do if you can’t control all the elements to make them live?

Whether your online event is best suited to being ‘live’ or if it’s better suited to being pre-recorded and made available ‘as live’ is a key question to answer early on so you have enough time to plan.

If you want to feature contributors who are unlikely to be able to join live, or you’re not confident in their broadband connection, pre-recording them is the best option. Pre-recording means you can still schedule your event with all the build-up of a live event; with a date and time to attend but you can relax in the knowledge that the risks presented by all elements being live have been minimised.

And you don’t have to pre-record the whole thing. A blend of pre-recorded elements and live reaction in a studio set-up means you can have the best of both worlds. And with the ability to react live to pre-recorded pieces, you can always re-frame things should circumstances have changed since recording.

Pre-recording parts of your webcast will also give you the opportunity to tighten things up and improve elements by tweaking the edit and adding graphics before making it available, without losing that sense of being ‘live’.


Rehearse, rehearse – then rehearse some more. Your presenters may be confident public speaking in front of an audience, but when they’re looking down the lens of camera as opposed to a room full of people, it really is a whole different ball game.

When delivering a presentation online you need to increase your efforts to build a connection with people who aren’t actually there in the room. This is a real skill. Be sure to rehearse your presenters and do some trial-runs on camera, using the technology. The more they rehearse, the better rapport they will be able to develop with the virtual audience when it comes to the real thing. Invest in some coaching for them on the subtleties of presenting on camera to give their performances some polish.

Be Prepared

Finally, the classic boy scout motto, be prepared! Ensure your internet connection is good and test all audio thoroughly. Have help on hand in case you have issues during the webcast. You may need a different range of skills to your usual production team to ensure the webcast runs smoothly. Have the right people on hand so that you are not panicked if you do have any technical issues or have any fumbles on camera. Just remember try to have fun with it and enjoy the experience!

The WHY Agency are creative communications specialists, creating engaging live & online events. We help companies & individuals tell their stories by creating inspiring, engaging content: video, animation, presentations, design & technical event production.