As I’m sure any PR will tell you, hosting physical events is definitely nowhere near as glitzy and fabulous as what it’s presented to be in TV shows like Emily in Paris or Sex and the City. Physical events in the marketing world are filled with lots of stressful components and planning sessions, they often come at a very high cost to the brand and are very hard to translate into tangible results.

But enter a 2020 COVID-19 world and the newfound acceptability of Virtual Events, which has completely transformed the way businesses operate and share information with key audiences. Unlike webinars or online conferences, virtual events see guests interacting online with a brand or speaker, who provides real-time insights and information in a digital format.  

Over the past several months, I have worked with the team at Agent99 to run over a handful of virtual events. After some disastrous fails (such as the WIFI disconnecting right as the event kicks off) and fantastic successes (such as 100% attendance rates) I have pulled together a little list of the top do’s and don’ts for hosting online events.

First up, let’s start with the Dos.

DO spend as much time planning as you would with a physical event

Just because you can host a virtual event, doesn’t mean you have to. Brands and agencies should consider why they want to host a virtual event and put as much care and consideration into planning it, as they would a physical event. Start by asking yourself questions such as:

  • What am I hoping to achieve from this event?
  • Why am I asking people to come?
  • What value will they get from attending?
  • How will this translate into value for the brand?

Put great care and consideration into picking the right date and time for your audience, creating an interesting hook for why they should attend and executing strong materials such as invites, post-event materials and goody bags.

DO choose the right platform

Whether you are more comfortable with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, On24 or any other new online platform, be sure to choose the one you and your attendees will be most comfortable with. Agent99 hosts all of our online events on Zoom as we find this the easiest platform to manoeuvre. Regardless of your choice, be sure to upskill as much as possible on the platform before the event and be the expert to help navigate your audience.

DO get the right talent

When Agent99 hosted its first online event, we really had nothing to guide us in terms of what would pique media interest. Initially, we thought the freebies would be the major drawcard, but soon after our first few events, we started to realise the pattern – if the speaking talent was good, we had a winning event on our hands. The beauty of going virtual means that you can access a wealth of talent all across the world. For our product launch for Westward Whiskey, we dialled in the head distiller from Portland, Oregon who sat amongst the barrels in the distillery while taking attendees through a virtual whiskey tasting. For another event with the home shopping network, TVSN, we were able to have international celebrities such as Dr Paul Nassif and Katherine Kelly Lang join us from their work/offices to speak directly with attendees about their products. No matter what type of event you are hosting, consider your talent and ensure they are well-spoken, can keep guests entertained and provide value through their content.

Now to the don’ts…

Don’t leave anything to chance

Just because you can host a virtual event from the comfort of your home and in pyjamas, doesn’t mean things won’t go wrong. Be sure to test your WIFI connection before the event starts and ensure you have a backup option (like mobile data) in case it drops out. Be sure to also give more than one-person permission to host/be an admin during the event so that they can keep abreast of discussions, issues, etc.

Be sure to do several run throughs with your speakers and even do a ‘mock’ run with your team as attendees to test everything is running smoothly and that all your visuals, slides or videos will work on the day.

Don’t skimp on the goody bags

When you’re inviting people to come along to a physical event, they would often be given a beautiful venue to enjoy delicious food, plenty of free alcohol and a range of freebies to take home. While online events seem like a great way to cut those hard costs, Agent99 would recommend not skimping on the goody bags. Regardless of whether you are hosting a cooking class, a product launch or just an informative session, be sure to still impress your attendees with products they can use and enjoy. The expense of sending a few items to attendees via the post is still so cost-effective compared to a big party, so take the opportunity to still impress your attendees with other goodies.  

Don’t forget to record the session!

Despite the fact that online events are much more accessible, the reality is that you will still inevitably have dropouts on the day. Plan ahead and ensure you record the session, both for internal and external use. By doing so, you can provide the recording to those who missed out, as well as repurpose the content for anything you wish to do internally. For example, one of our clients Collins Debden hosted an event not long ago with great guest speakers and we were able to turn that information into a press release, angles for media stories and blog content. Even if you just want to share with your internal stakeholders, don’t forget to hit that record button!

These are just a few of our top tips for ensuring a great virtual event – but we want to hear from you. What are some interesting things you’ve discovered since hosting virtual events? Leave us a comment below.

By Agent Emilie

Good luck with your next event! If you need assistance or have any questions, please get in touch any time!

Agent99 is an award-winning PR and communications agency based in Sydney. For more information about our services, contact us at