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How to Plan a Live Event or Webinar: 4 Tips for Success

By: Cole Berman, Executive Producer, Dakota Live!

Originally posted on September 16, 2020
Last updated on September 28, 2021

We have been fortunate at Dakota to host many events, including three conferences, and numerous virtual panels – all of them live. This means that once the recording button is pressed, there’s no turning back. We trust that the extensive preparation leads to a fluid dialogue, but at the same time, you never know what may occur during a live production.

To that end, producing a live event involves some risk. Our webinar software once crashed during a live virtual panel, and we’ve had guest speakers disconnect by accident. Hosting a live event requires you to expect the unexpected, and is a constant reminder to always have a backup plan. When successful, there’s a feeling of great reward at the conclusion of the event, along with the  sincere hope that your attendees found value in the content presented.

This post will focus on how we prepare for and produce a live event with the goal of sharing some of our best tips and tricks to help you prepare for your own live event or webinar.

Some key themes we’ll touch on are:

  • Strategy
  • Preparation
  • Responsibilities 

Step 1: Choosing Your Topic

Hosting a live event requires an understanding that you’re going to be asking for someone’s time. Therefore, it's extremely important that the topic and underlying content of the event provide value to anyone who decides to attend. There are two main reasons why this matters so much. First, it will have great influence over your marketing capabilities. A topic that is able to grab someone’s attention or is highly pertinent to your audience will give you a greater chance of attracting them to the event. Second, an educational approach will deliver an impact that just focusing on your product cannot. What are you an expert in? Find a topic that allows you to educate an audience and display your credibility. Results will follow!

Step 2: What Are You Going to Talk About? 

You’ve picked a topic. Now it’s time to put together an outline or script. The goal of this phase is to create the actual substance of the event. You have a number of options that you can choose from or combine to guide you. These include: Group Q&A, panels, or interviews. Once selected, fill in the blanks with information that is engaging and can be delivered clearly. Start by thinking about this question: if someone listens to the entire call, what do we want them to have learned? Even though the event is live, proper preparation can ensure that you deliver the intended message.

Some other things we think about during the content creation phase of a live event include:

  • Refrain from having just one speaker
  • Create a presentation that serves as a complement to the audio and summarizes the information being discussed
  • Use video if possible
  • Create a pre-call and post-call document to share with registrants and attendees
  • The shorter the better

Step 3: How should we prepare and plan for the live event?

We sat down to broadcast our first live call without a minute of preparation. We quickly decided that we’d never approach a live event so casually again. Now, two years later, we’ve tamed the organized chaos that are live events through rigorous preparation and planning. Here is our advice that will help you get ready for showtime:

  • Create a rough timeline that you would like to follow
  • Set up a practice run for anyone involved in the production to confirm responsibilities, voice any questions or suggestions, and rehearse the content. You do not want to be on a live production with someone who is not 100% sure when to speak, change a slide, or ask the next question.
  • If you’re interviewing someone from an external organization set up a prep call with them. Walk through the proposed questions, logistical items, and communicate any other information that they need to know. 
  • If speakers are dialing in from various locations, make sure you have an answer to the following questions:
    • Have I shared the dial-in numbers?
    • Have I tested the dial-in numbers?
    • Do I have the cell numbers for all of the speakers?
    • What will we do if a speaker doesn’t dial in?
  • If you have a presentation running concurrently with the event, make sure to have multiple people review it. When it comes to live events you want things that you can control to be as perfect as possible!

Step 4: Execution 

It’s the day of your live event. You’ve prepared for any and all scenarios that could come up. Everyone with a speaking assignment is prepared and ready. Dial-ins have been shared and checked. Now it’s time to educate your attendees. Attendees will join and leave the event throughout the length of the production. That’s no problem; people have busy schedules! We’ve also found that attendees frequently dial in a few minutes after the scheduled start time. To account for this, just say hello to your audience and then take a two-minute break to allow for more attendees to sign on. Then you’re ready! Have fun educating your audience!

At the end of the day, the most important part of producing a live event occurs long before it is supposed to start. Give yourself and your team enough time to thoughtfully prepare an engaging topic, rehearse your production, and plan for unforeseen circumstances. In future posts, we will discuss: how to market a live event, what to send to registrants and attendees before and after your event, and the best live event software you should use.

Feel free to check out our production space, Dakota Studios.

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