Virtual Event Planning 101

Your guide to planning successful and engaging virtual events.

SendGrid VirtualEventGuide LANDINGPAGE

Virtual events have become the new norm. Not only are they cost effective, but they also allow your business to reach and engage a larger audience — since you aren’t limited by a physical location. Whether you’re navigating intimate webinars or large-scale conferences, knowing how to produce effective and engaging virtual events is essential. 

But while you don’t have to worry about details like picking a venue, the number of chairs you need, or nametags, virtual events do require a well-thought out promotional strategy and continuous communication to ensure everyone is on the same page. Luckily, there are many amazing virtual event tools to help with everything from collecting registrations to hosting the video to sending follow up communications to attendees. 

In this guide, we’ll take you through some of our event planning experts’ best practices tips for business events large and small, internal and external. You’ll learn how to plan an event from start to finish — beginning with choosing the right platform to help and ending with analyzing your event performance. Plus, we’ll share some of our favorite tools and event platforms to ensure your virtual event goes off without a hitch. 

Chapter 2: Choosing a video conferencing platform

If your company already has a preferred video conferencing vendor, that’s great! You can move ahead to chapter three. On the other hand, if you’re on the hunt for a new video conferencing platform, here are a few things to keep in mind. 

Before you start your search, make a list of how you plan to use the platform and what features and functionality you’ll require both now and in the future as your virtual events program scales. 

Some features you might want to add to your list of must-haves include: 

  • Recording capabilities
  • Role-based access
  • Password protection and security
  • Data analytics dashboards
  • Audience engagement features (like Q&A, live chat, quizzes and polls, networking, etc.) 
  • Breakout rooms
  • Advanced branding options
  • Dedicated product support
  • Integrations with other tools in your technology stack
Group 4 Created with Sketch.

Once you have your list of your top use cases and non-negotiables, you’re ready to research vendors and schedule some demos. Fortunately, there are several best-in-class virtual event platforms available to help you run the smoothest possible program depending on the size, scale, and nature of your event. 

Here are a few of our favorites: 

  • Twilio’s Programmable Video lets you build agile video applications for your unique needs for up to 50 participants.
  • Zoom is a favorite of many for events large and small, from 1:1 meetings to company-wide gatherings.
  • ON24 is a popular choice for webinar-style events because it provides fun engagement opportunities between hosts and participants.
  • Google Meet boasts an easy-to-use user interface and is another great option for hosting events, including regular meetings and small gatherings.
  • Hopin allows you to recreate the in-person conference feel online with virtual stages, expo hall booths, networking, and more. 
  • Bizzabo powers studio-quality broadcasts for mid-market and enterprise companies.

Once you find and onboard a platform partner, you can get to work planning your next event.

Chapter 3: Collaborative software for picture perfect presentations

Virtual event planning takes a village, so you’ll need an efficient way to communicate and plan with all of your key stakeholders. Choosing the right collaborative tools can make it easy for your team to work together, assign tasks and deadlines, and ensure  everyone’s on the same page.

This can be especially useful if you have a hybrid team, speaker/sponsors with busy schedules, or colleagues in different time zones as these tools can allow you all to communicate asynchronously when you can’t find a time to meet. 

Here are a few tools we recommend for event planning teams: 

  • Use Google Docs to draft the event outline, run of the show, social media and email copy, and more.
  • Use a project management tool like Asana or Airtable to assign tasks, set deadlines, and hold everyone accountable. 
  • Use Google Slides to create a slide deck that all presenters can edit and view in real time.
  • Craft one-of-a-kind images with Canva (you can even set up brand-approved templates for employees to use in the platform!).
  • Communicate collectively with all responsible parties in a group Slack (or equivalent) chat.
  • Choose a video conferencing tool that’s easy to use and makes it simple to switch between content and presenters.

Together, these tools can ensure your team remains organized and on-track every step of the way. 

Chapter 4: Determine the goals of the event

Before you jump into planning, take a step back and determine the goal(s) of your event. This is an important first step as it can guide the format of your event, who you choose as your target audience, what speakers you need, etc. Plus, establishing goals and success measures at the beginning of the planning process can help you measure the overall success and efficacy of the event. 

To start, think about what your business is trying to achieve by hosting this event. Here are a few common event goals that might help guide you: 

  • Drive ticket sales or registrations
  • Increase product demo requests
  • Influence revenue
  • Drive cross-sell opportunities
  • Promote a recent data report’s findings
  • Raise brand awareness
  • Drive product adoption
  • Help customers network/connect
  • Set your brand apart as an industry leader
  • Raise visibility of internal subject matter experts
  • Highlight a new product release

Once you have your overarching objective established, it’s time to determine what key performance indicators (KPIs) you’ll use to measure success. While your goal is your north star, these KPIs break down that objective into smaller targets that your team can use to assess if you’re on track to meet or exceed your goal.

SendGrid Affiliate Marketing Tile

Let’s see what this looks like in practice.

Say your team wants to host a webinar to raise awareness of your company’s most recent product launch (this is your goal). You’ll want to think carefully to determine how you’ll measure success. Will the number of webinar attendees dictate whether the event was worth it? The length of time they watch the webinar? How many customers reach out for a product demo after the event? Or how many used the new product in the week following the event?

Once you’ve decided, here’s what your KPIs might look like: 

Goal: Host a webinar to raise awareness of our company’s most recent product launch


  1. Drive 1,000 webinar registrations from email and paid social. 
  2. Have at least 400 current customers attend the event.
  3. Drive 5% of attendees to request a personalized demo of the new product. 

These KPIs give you more tangible targets to work towards. For example, to boost attendance at your event, you’ll need to strategize from the early planning stages and decide how and when you send invitations and event reminders. Plus, these goals and KPIs can help guide your early discussions and ensure all your stakeholders understand the priorities of your event. 

Of course, success will look different for every virtual event and your goals should adjust accordingly.

Chapter 5: Create a timeline

Every event needs a detailed timeline to keep you on track and ensure you host a successful event. The easiest way to make one is to establish your event date and then work backwards. Here’s a sample event timeline we’ve put together to help guide your timing:


Just remember, every event is different so depending on the complexity of yours, you may need more (or less) time to plan and execute. Just be sure to share it and get sign-off from all of your stakeholders so everyone knows exactly what to expect and when.

Chapter 6: Eliminate risk

Every virtual event host’s #1 fear is that a technical hiccup will derail everything. While you can’t predict every malfunction or technical failure, you can do your part to mitigate risk. Here’s how: 

1. Create a process

Processes ensure that what’s right gets replicated and what’s wrong gets avoided. Have a run of show ready with minute-by-minute plans for the virtual event, so you don’t have any surprises. Follow your outline for pre-, during, and post-event to make sure you don’t miss any critical steps.

2. Maintain a single source of control

Passing off slide control to each presenter adds technical risks and dependencies—now, you’re relying on every presenter’s internet connection, laptop battery, and digital savvy. 

Instead, have one reliable person and computer own the display and rotation of your slides. Yes, that means hearing “next slide, please,” but it’s much better than any potential errors.

3. Prepare backup plans

Always have backup and backup backup plans ready. Here are a few backup plan suggestions:

  • Determine what you’ll do if the slide host’s computer crashes. 
  • Make plans for when a presenter has technical difficulties and can’t present their slides (like moving a product demo up earlier in your agenda).
  • Have a backup computer ready to take over in case something happens. 

You can’t predict everything that can (and eventually will) go wrong, but be prepared for the worst.

4. Practice, practice, practice

Host a dry run a day before the virtual event to make sure the presenters, slides, tools, and technical details are ready to go. At least 15 minutes before the event starts, do an A/V test dry run to ensure all the presenters’ computers, audio, and microphones are working.

5. Build a speaker guide

A speaker guide shares general tips, tricks, and expectations with your speakers, like:

  • When to join the call and be ready 
  • When to mute and unmute your microphone
  • Where to sit for the best lighting and acoustics
  • If a headset or earbuds are preferred
  • How to hardline your internet connection
  • Tips for transitioning to another presenter or the host

Build this evolving guide and give it to all your presenters so they can be ready for anything. It’ll also help you avoid answering the same questions week after week and month after month, as well as ensuring a professional meeting for your attendees.

Chapter 7: Promote your event


One of the most influential factors around event promotion is location. When you plan a physical event, the location dictates who your target audience is, how you segment your email contact list, and where to target your advertising. 

But with a virtual event, you don’t have those same constraints. That might leave you wondering… where should I start? 

Know your audience

Since virtual events are so flexible, it can be tempting to send an event invite to everyone in your database. But, sending your virtual event invite to all your contacts can cast too wide of a net. Before you hit send, you’ll want to consider your target audience. 

To start, think about the timezone. Are there specific areas/countries that you’d like to target? 

From there, consider the topic of your event.  Is it geared towards prospects, existing customers, or both? Can everyone find this information helpful, or is it better suited for a specific segment of your users?

Evaluate the ideal audience for this event and segment your email contact list to the group of contacts that fits your criteria. This can help you reduce email and webinar fatigue and ensure only the users who will find this event topic most relevant receive your invitation. 

Build a landing page

Once you have a list of people that you want to send the invite to, you need somewhere to send them. When setting up the landing page, you’ll want to include information on: 

  • The hosts (names, headshots, companies, job titles, bios, etc.) 
  • The date/time of the event
  • The agenda or key talking points
  • Specific information that will draw people in
  • How to register
  • That last one may be worth a bit of discussion. Most companies include a form on their landing page for attendees to enter their email and receive an event invite. At Twilio SendGrid, we’ve found that less is more when it comes to signup forms

Talk to your team about keeping the form short and only asking for information you absolutely need in order to encourage more signups. We’ve discovered that the longer the form the less willing people are to complete it. Of course, every audience is different so consider conducting your own A/B test with form length or style to see what helps improve your conversion rates.

Deliverability Help 01

Send email invites

Now that you have the landing page put together, you can send out your email invites and start promoting the event online. Keep the look and feel of the event consistent across landing pages, emails, and advertisements to help create a cohesive multichannel experience. Place the most important information like the event date and time above the fold. This way, if a recipient only glances at your email, they’ll still see the most important details.

In addition to your initial event invite, you’ll want to send a confirmation email to those that sign up as well as a reminder email 24 hours before the event. In both of these emails, include a link for the recipient to easily add the event to their calendar so they don’t miss out on the fun day-of. 

Push on social media

If you have the budget, consider promoting the event across paid social channels. Some channels will be better suited than others depending on the type of event. For example, if you’re hosting a career development event, then LinkedIn may be your best bet. If you’re hosting a live hackathon, then Twitter or Twitch might be better channels to leverage. 

Wherever you promote, make sure you have a way to track who is signing up via each channel so you can measure the success of each platform and better understand your campaign ROI. We use UTM parameters to track our signups.

Keep on testing

To see what promotions work best for your company, you’ll need to experiment. A few elements that we continue to test are:

  • Different promotional channels
  • Event messaging and visuals
  • Using email and SMS together
  • The order of information on the landing page. E.g. Topic description then speaker information or vice versa?
  • The timing of the email invites. E.g. Is it best to send the invite 4 weeks in advance or 2 weeks?
  • There isn’t one recipe for success, so testing and having fun with the promotion of your event is how you will find what works best for your brand.
Hub Image

Chapter 8: Follow-up post-event

The hard work doesn’t end post-event. You already have your attendees’ attention, they’re buzzing with excitement from your fantastic content, and they’re thinking favorably about your brand. Now is the time to build a lasting relationship with them. 

Post event recap and thank you

The first email you send attendees post-event should include the following information: 

  • A thank you for their time and attention,
  • A link to the event recording, if available,
  • A CTA with next steps (download a relevant guide, talk with a member of your team, watch a demo, etc),
  • Or, a survey to collect customer feedback.

You can even reiterate some of the event’s key messages or takeaways, or include a way to connect with speakers post-event, like via their social media channels. This is a great way to share key event information with attendees in case they want to rewatch the event or share it with a friend or colleague. 

Dynamic Templates

Lead nurture campaigns

If you use events as a way to drive sales pipeline or increase upsell/cross-sells, creating the perfect post-event lead nurture sequence is a must. Using an 

email marketing platform like Twilio SendGrid, you can send helpful follow up messages that build on the themes and content discussed in your event. These resources can share more detail on ideas, best practices, or products and services you touched on during the event. You might even choose to give attendees an exclusive discount or enticing offer to create a sense of urgency (like offering a gift card to anyone who signs up for a product demo this month). 

It can be a bit harder to know how to segment your audiences for virtual events than in-person events as you can more easily talk to individuals and vet their interest level. Still, you do have options. You may choose to enroll all event registrants, all attendees, or only those who indicated they want to receive post-event follow up — or, you can always segment your audiences by lead score, industry, company size, etc. depending on how much information you know about them. 

Of course, you can also ask attendees at the end of your event to indicate if they wish to speak to a sales representative. This can be via poll, survey, chat, etc. — however your business wants to collect this information. That way, you can label these users as “hot leads” and pass them directly along to sales. 

Chapter 9: Measure event success

There isn’t an exact formula for measuring the success of a virtual event. Every event looks different, which means that success will vary widely. 

Revisit Your Goals

First and foremost, revisit the goal(s) you set earlier and see how you fared. Did you meet, exceed, or fall short of what you set out to achieve? This can help you determine the overall success of your event before you dive into your data to look for more detailed insights. 

Look at The Data

From pre-event communications to post-event follow-up performance, virtual events create a lot of data. It’s your job to collect and consolidate this data to understand what your company is doing right and where you need to improve. 

Here are a few data points you can use to measure your event performance: 

  • Attendance: Use your video conferencing software to see how many people attended your virtual event. Did they join from the get-go or were most attendees late? Was there a certain point where attendees dropped off? Use this data to see what might have gone well or wrong.
  • Invites: Use your customer communications platform(s) to see engagement data for your chat, email, and SMS invites. Which messages had the highest open and click rates? Why did those messages stand out (send time, audience list, subject line, CTAs, etc.)? If you sent any reminder messages, did users click-through the personal invite or just use the mass calendar invite?
  • On-Demand Performance: If you record and upload your virtual events (which you should), take a look at the data to see how many clicks and views it gets. Do more people attend the live event or watch it on-demand later? How can you drive traffic to this recording post-event? 
  • Leads: How many people who attended submit a contact sales form or purchase your product/service? This requires more analytics to track but can be really interesting to see how the virtual events are impacting the business’ bottom line.

Using many different marketing tools and channels (like video hosting, email, SMS, and social media platforms) can create data silos and make it harder for your marketing team to get a holistic view of the experiences you are building for customers.

Luckily, a customer engagement platform (CEP) like Twilio Segment consolidates user data from different sources into unified profiles that your business can use to build audiences and create omnichannel customer journeys. That way your business can have a holistic view of every prospect and customer so you can customize every marketing message (like event invites and lead nurtures) to their interests and needs. 

Learn how Twilio Segment can help you build better marketing campaigns.


segment logo avatar blue icon blue

Chapter 10: Collect feedback from participants

Understanding how participants experience your event is important for improving future events. There are several ways to collect feedback, depending on the type of event and the platform you use.

Here are a few platforms you can use to collect feedback:

  • Zoom has chat functions that can be used to collect qualitative data from your participants in real time. 
  • Slido offers an interface that allows participants to ask questions and upvote others’ inquiries. 
  • Poll Everywhere allows presenters to get instant feedback and engage with attendees.
  • Google Forms and Typeform help you to create simple surveys you can share with attendees.
  • Slack can send out polls to employees within its communication platform. This is a great option for internal events.

Ask attendees what went well, what went wrong, what they loved, and what they’d change. Make this both quantitative and qualitative so you can identify useful insights while also gathering data to compare events.

Apply feedback to the next event

Now it’s time to apply what you’ve learned. After collecting and consolidating all your event data, host a post-mortem meeting to review your findings as a team. Discuss what worked and didn’t work, then focus on specific feedback you can apply towards planning your next event. 

This could look like: 

  • Altering the timeline of your reminders to gauge how attendance is impacted (e.g. sending an email 1 hour before the event vs. 1 day before the event) 
  • Changing the content of your initial email invitation to see if the number of RSVPs increase
  • Increasing your promotional timeline
  • Trying new ways to promote your event
  • Offering a giveaway to attendees to boost attendance
  • Using more interactive elements like surveys and Q&A
  • Testing new subject lines in your emails to see if CTRs and read-throughs change

Of course, you’ll want to think of applying feedback like A/B testing, so don’t change everything all at once. Instead, change one variable at a time to measure what has the largest impact on your goals.

Email Testing Hero

Chapter 11: Ready, set, record!

Much of event planning, especially in a digital context, is about trial and error. Give yourself the flexibility to learn from these events and refine your strategy over time. The last few years have transformed the way we think about and host virtual events and this industry is only continuing to evolve. Take this change in stride and use it as inspiration to experiment with new ways to engage your audiences virtually and take your events to the next level. 

In review, as you plan your next virtual event, keep these takeaways in mind:

  • Determine what success looks like for each individual event. There isn’t a formula for success with virtual events. Whether you’re looking for MQLs and conversions or attendance and participation, identifying your goals ahead of time will help you to determine what went well and what didn’t.
  • Promote your event to the right people. Sending out huge email invitation blasts may seem like the right thing to do, but it may in fact hinder the success of your event. Know your audience and target them.
  • Make a plan, but don’t panic when things get derailed. Know your process and how your event should run while remaining flexible. Think Murphy’s law but for technology—if something can go wrong, it may go wrong.
  • Learn as you go. Always be testing. Experimenting with new ways of doing things can help your events program grow, while ensuring your current and future attendees remain engaged. 

The success of any event depends on getting the word out. Check out our Using SMS and Email to Engage Your Customers in 2023 guide to learn how you can leverage these two complementary communications channels to engage your customer and drive event attendance. 

Get Started with SendGrid

SendGrid helps you focus on your business without the cost and complexity of owning and maintaining an email infrastructure. And with a full-featured marketing email service that offers a flexible workflow, powerful list segmentation, and actionable analytics, all of your email needs are met in one simple platform.