How to run a virtual event on Zoom

How to run a virtual event on Zoom

Alex Patriquin
Alex Patriquin
July 26, 2021

Zoom was already taking off as a videoconference solution for meetings and webinars well before Coronavirus sent us all to work from home. Then, when the Coronavirus lockdowns hit the US in March, Zoom broke the growth stratosphere. Nearly 300 million people used Zoom in March, 2020, up 1500% over a year earlier.

Any while most of these new users were small meeting participants, quite a few companies found that they could effectively host virtual events on Zoom, as well. As an easy-to-use and cost-effective tool, with the advantage of extremely broad user adoption and best-in-class video connectivity, Zoom turned out to be an excellent option for virtual event organizers.

How to set up Zoom for virtual events

In our pivot to virtual events at EventGeek, we hosted Reboot 2020, a full-day multitrack conference, using Slack and Zoom, demonstrating what could be done with these highly accessible tools. In this third and final post in our Reboot 2020 behind-the-scenes series, we offer up tips & tricks for utilizing Zoom for your next virtual event.

Make Zoom Invite-Only

Courtesy of Positively Osceola

First and foremost, lock down Zoom using the built-in security settings so that only registered attendees can join. This helps avoid Zoom Bombing (which now has its own Wikipedia page!) and ensures all attendees are registered. Providing passwords is another Zoom security option, but we found that many attendees at our b2b came from the same company, and password sharing probably would've bypassed our registration.

Once locked down, you can manually add attendees to your Zoom Meetings or Webinars by copy & pasting a list of email address or importing a CSV spreadsheet. Both are a bit tedious so, alternatively, you can use EventGeek's new Zoom integration for virtual events to add attendees automatically. If you plan on having multiple tracks or sessions during your event, we highly recommend an automated option to save the time and frustration of repeating imports for each session.

For b2b marketers, we recommend that you not to use Zoom's built-in registration forms, as the branding and customization options for registration forms are limited. And, with Zoom's built-in registration forms, attendees may opt to sign in with Gmail or another personal email service, so you'd miss out on their work email. However, for free b2c virtual events, Zoom's built-in registration options should work just fine.

Choose to use a Zoom Meeting or Webinar (or both!)

Courtesy of Darren LaCroix

Zoom offers two base options: Meetings and Webinars. Both work well for virtual events, but in different ways.

Zoom Meetings are best for participatory sessions, like roundtables and workshops. You can have multiple Meeting Hosts, who can control whether or not Participant video and audio is enabled at different points in the session. Another advantage to Meetings is that they can be split into Breakout Rooms, which is a great way to split up a workshop session into small groups and then bring them back together for a wrap-up.

Pricing for Zoom Meetings starts at only $15/Host/month and up to 100 attendees are free. Note that for multiple concurrent sessions tracks, you'll need a Meeting license for each Host. With add-ons for up to 1,000 attendees at only $105/Host/month, Zoom is the most cost-effective virtual event platform on the market.

Zoom Webinars are great for presentations, like keynote speaker sessions. They don't offer the participatory features of Meetings, but do come with additional roles for Panelists, Practice Sessions and enabling attendees to "raise their hand" for Q&A.

Webinar is an add-on feature, starting at $40/month for up to 100 attendees. The next tier $140/month for 500 and scales all the way up to 10,000 attendees. Not quite as affordable as Meetings, but still one of the most cost-effective options for larger scale virtual events that need rock-solid video streaming.

Both Meetings and Webinars come with built-in Recording, Polling, Whiteboards, and Virtual Backgrounds, which you can use to put consistent event-branded background behind every presenter.

Keep attendees engaged between sessions

At Reboot 2020, we had multiple current sessions which ran with short breaks in between sessions. To seamlessly manage transitions between sessions, we staffed one Host per track and created event-branded graphics announcing the next speaker.

Attendees were able to hang out in the Reboot 2020 Slack Workspace, while listening to music between each session. Note that you should still license music for virtual events and that different licenses apply for playing music live online or including in post-event videos.

For networking & chat, use Slack instead

One Zoom feature we did not use for Reboot 2020 was chat. While Zoom truly excels on videoconferencing, we found that Slack provided the most engaging networking and chat experience for virtual events.

Keeping virtual attendee data together on Zoom and Slack proved a bit of a challenge, which is one reason we used our experience to build a unified registration across Zoom and Slack for virtual events.

Livestream to Facebook & YouTube

Courtesy of FitPro Lead Generation

A newer Zoom virtual event feature, which wasn't available a few months ago when Reboot 2020 happened, is that you can now live stream your event directly to Facebook, YouTube or a custom destination, like your website. This enhanced Zoom capability comes at no additional license cost and enables virtual events or "public" sessions to maximize audience reach. Zoomtastic.

Export engagement data from Zoom for post-event reporting

Not an actual Zoom engagement chart, courtesy of Seven Days VT

Zoom isn't really intended to be a marketing power tool, so reporting doesn't come built-in. However, Zoom does allow you to export useful engagement metrics for each Webinar and Meeting, like time spent by attendees in sessions.

If you want to get a complete picture of the attendee journey for multi-session events, you'll need to join engagement data across multiple spreadsheets... which can get a bit tedious, to say the least.

To solve this hurdle, EventGeek recently created a Zoom integration, which allows you to bring in Time Spent per Attendee across multiple Zoom sessions. This can be a huge time-saver and help to prioritize your attendees for personalized sales follow-up based on session topic interest, for example.

Publish video after the event for SEO & replay anytime

The Reboot 2020 Wistia Channel

One of the strengths of virtual events is that they can be made available for replay immediately after the event and even long afterwards can continue to pick up clicks from Google. (For SEO-minded marketers, here's a thorough and easy-to-follow article on video transcript SEO.)

YouTube lets you host unlimited videos at no cost, but for a branded and professional look, as well as built-in viewer metrics, we created a Wistia Channel.

Wistia Channels can be embedded on your website and come with a super slick and fast player that auto-loads the next video in your series. If you haven't registered for the Reboot 2020 replay already, it's worth it just to check the Wistia Channel!

Wrapping up Reboot 2020

While it's taken some time (ok, way too much time) to wrap up this blog post series on Reboot 2020, we've not been lounging on the virtual beach!

At Reboot 2020, we saw the power of community coming together in the immediate wake of the COVID-19 lockdowns and we were blown away. The ingenuity of in-person event managers in adapting to virtual events on the fly inspired us then and has every day since.

Keep an eye for big news from EventGeek soon as we take the lessons learned from Reboot 2020 and adapt them to the future... not just 2021, when we're likely to meet in-person again, but beyond the COVID-19 recovery to a new era for events.

Thanks again for joining us!

Update: Santa Fe, N.M.  – Aug 3, 2020 – Event management platform EventGeek relaunched today under the new name Circa, with an updated mission as the first and only event management platform built to help marketing teams adapt strategy and skills to succeed in the new world of virtual and hybrid events. While EventGeek was originally designed to help marketers coordinate logistics for dozens or even hundreds of in-person events, Circa adds virtual event measurement capabilities, ensuring that enterprise marketing and sales teams can adapt existing event programs effectively and unify engagement data across all their events, whether they are hosting or sponsoring an event, and whether events are in-person, virtual or hybrid.

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