Gone are the days of attending in person events - whether this be a conference, networking event or a company-wide happy hour, the event industry was faced with an entirely new wave of disruption and change: virtual events
The industry was recently faced with the harsh option to "sink or swim."
This year, (due to the pandemic), organizations of all sizes were forced to outright cancel their events or find a way to bring people together online.
Events, an industry fueled by human connection, and where the norm has always been to meet in person has to restructure how events are organized, planned and executed.
Virtual event planners that are experts in event planning, execution, and technology
How much do virtual events business charge?
virtual events business typically charge on a per-hour basis at an average of $22/ hour.
Why do people need a virtual event planner?
Putting on a virtual event is a foreign concept to businesses right now. By outsourcing this to a professional coordinator, companies are able to focus on what's most important for their virtual event: the content and the overall value of the event.
Small Players (the opportunity)
How It Works
The virtual event coordinator is responsible for:
- Information Gathering: Meeting with the client (decision maker) and establishing timelines, deliverables and overall needs for the event.
- Sourcing: Hiring the proper vendors needed for the event. This ranges everything from the IT person responsible for setting up and supporting the technology, to virtual team building workshops, to gift/swag bag offerings.
- Planning: Gathering RSVP’s, sending emails and reminders, building event registration platform.
- Execution: Remaining available at all times during the virtual event to ensure technology is working properly, client is happy, and the event is flowing properly.
- Follow-up: Surveys conducted after event to gather feedback and present to the client.
We looked at the trends and saw the search interest for virtual events.
This shows us that interest over time is gradually increasing, which proves that people are looking for this type of service.
Here’s an active list of all virtual events and conferences going digital in 2020
Write a Business Plan
Writing a business plan from the start is critical for the success of your virtual events business.
Because this allows you to roadmap exactly what you do, what your overall structure will look like, and where you want to be in the future.
For many entrepreneurs, writing out the business plan helps validate their idea and decide whether or not they should move forward with starting the business.
You may want to consider expanding upon these sections in your business plan:
- Executive Summary: Brief outline of your product, the market, and growth opportunities
- Overviews and Objectives: Overview of your business, target customers, and what you need to run your business
- Products and Services: Specifics on the products and services your business will provide
- Market Opportunities: Analysis of customer demographics, buyer habits and if your product is in demand
- Marketing: Outline of your marketing plan and how you plan to differentiate yourself from other customers
- Competitive analysis: Analysis of your competition and the strengths and weaknesses therein
- Operations: Hierarchal structure of the company and what it will take to run the business on the day-to-day
- Leadership Team: Detailing roles and responsibilities of each manager based on their specific skill-set
- Financial Analysis Understanding of all expenses, operating budgets, and projections for the future.
Learn more about how to write a business plan here
Build A Website
Building a website is imperative when launching your business, and with the right tools in place, this can be a simple task to check off the list (without having to hire someone).
- Pick a domain name that's easy to remember and easy to type
- Choose a Web Hosting Plan (ie. Shopify, Squarespace)
- Make sure you choose the right theme and design
- Implement the proper page structure (ie. about page, contact page, pricing etc)
To learn more about how to build a stellar website with little stress, we give you all the details on this step-by-step guide.
Once you have chosen the domain, web hosting, and platform, it's time to get started with the design phase.
Themes are a great way to produce the fundamental style and identity of your website - this includes everything from your font design to your blog post styles.
One of the best ways to get started is to simply explore the various themes (free or paid depending on what you're looking for) and test them on your site.
If web-design really isn't in the cards for you, you may want to consider outsourcing a web designer to help bring your vision and brand to life.
Here's an example of a great website by The Planner Collective
- Their online events tab states exactly what kind of services they provide
- Personalized and friendly messaging
- Simplistic design
- Soft colors and design elements (which speaks to the type of customers they work with)
Setting Up Your Virtual Events Business (Formation and Legal)
When it comes to setting up your business, you may find yourself in a place where you have to make some financial and legal decisions.
The first thing you'll want to decide on is whether you want to be an LLC, S-Corp, or C-Corp.
These three options are found to be the most common when starting a small business, and all serve to protect your personal assets and also provide you with certain tax benefits.
- LLC: All income and expenses from the business are reported on the LLC personal income tax return.
- S corp: Owners pay themselves salaries + receive dividends from profits.
- C Corp: C Corps are separately taxable entities that file a corporate tax return (Form 1120). No income tax is paid at the corporate level and any tax due is paid at the owners individual expense.
Depending on where you're conducting business, you'll also want to consider securing the proper permits, licenses and liability insurance.
Need to start an LLC? Create an LLC in minutes with ZenBusiness.
Certifications in the event planning industry will help take your career to the next level.
Here are the top 5 certifications you should consider:
- CMP: Certified Meetings Professional
- CPCE: Certified Professional in Catering and Events
- CGMP: Certified Government Meeting Professional
- CSEP: Certified Special Events Professional
- GTP: Global Travel Professional
Startup Costs For Your Virtual Events Business
If you are planning to start a virtual events business, the costs are relatively low. This, of course, depends on if you decide to start the business with lean expenses or bringing in a large team and spending more money.
We’ve outlined two common scenarios for “pre-opening” costs of a virtual events business and outline the costs you should expect for each:
- The estimated minimum starting cost = $515
- The estimated maximum starting cost = $17,100
|Startup Expenses: Average expenses incurred when starting a virtual events business.||Min Startup Costs: You plan to execute on your own. You’re able to work from home with minimal costs.||Max Startup Costs: You have started with 1+ other team members.|
|Employee & Freelancer Expenses|
|Payroll: This number depends on if you decide to pay yourself a salary upfront and how many employees you have on payroll. At first, many founders take on all responsibilities until the business is up and running. You can always hire down the road when you understand where you need help. Keep in mind, if you do plan to pay yourself, the average salary founders make is $50K.||$0||$4,000|
|Total Employee & Freelancer Expenses||$0 (min)||$4,000 (max)|
|Equipment & Supply Expenses|
|Technology Office Equipment: This includes (but is not limited to) physical items such as: laptops, cameras, monitors, microphones, speakers, headsets. Technology needs grow as your company evolves, so to minimize costs, try and only purchase what is needed for you to run your business at the time.||$500||$5,000|
|Total Equipment & Supply Expenses||$500 (min)||$5,000 (max)|
|Website builder: The cost of your website will vary depending on which platform you choose. There are many website builders on the market, so it's important you choose the right one for your business and overall goals. To learn more about your options + how to build a great website, check out this article.||$15||$100|
|Web Designer: If you have the necessary skills to design your website, then it may not be necessary for you to hire someone. However, if you do decide to go that route, make sure you establish an understanding of upfront cost, design and what the ongoing costs will be to manage the site. Here is what to expect when hiring a web designer.||$0||$6,000|
|Total Website Costs||$15 (min)||$6,100 (max)|
|Office Space Expenses|
|Rent: This refers to the office space you rent out for your business. To minimize costs, you may want to consider starting your business from home or renting an office in a coworking space.||$0||$2,000|
|Total Office Space Expenses||$0 (min)||$2,000 (max)|
|Total Starting Costs||$515 (min)||$17,100 (max)|
Since the startup costs to start virtual events business range between $515 - $17,100, there are ways you can raise money to cover these costs.
Here are a few ways you can secure additional funding:
- Launch your product on Kickstarter
- Raise capital by asking friends and family
- Apply for a loan
- Find an investor!
Tools to Get Started
As an event planner, there are some tools and platforms you may want to consider when getting started:
- Proposal software such as Proposify
- CRM system such as Pigeon, Hubspot or Salesforce
- Accounting/Billing system such as Quickbooks
- Internal communication (if you have employees or other members of the team such as Slack
Know Your Audience
Identify a Target Market
Depending on your interests and expertise, there are different markets you can focus on in the events world.
Corporate market (the opportunity): trade shows, meetings, networking, company happy hours, non-profit organizations
Social market: birthday parties, weddings, baby showers, anniversaries
Not to say it’s completely impossible, but capitalizing on the social market in a “virtual” way is far more difficult than the corporate market.
We are seeing big companies like Microsoft, Salesforce and Docusign shift their biggest events of the year to digital, so there’s a very big opportunity for the corporate market when it comes to virtual events.
It's important to research other virtual events business in the area to get a gauge for what the competition looks like and find something that others are not capitalizing on.
This will help you differentiate yourself in the virtual events business space and gain an understanding of what people are looking for.
Research your competitors and figure out what makes you unique, different and why your customers should really choose you. Deliver impeccable services or products. There’s no shortcut to this!
How to get corporate event planning clients [step by step]
Promote your business on LinkedIn
One of the best ways to attract new clients in the virtual events business is through LinkedIn.
Here’s an effective way to reach out to target customers personally through LinkedIn:
- Identify businesses you’d like to work with and do some research as to who would be in the decision maker shoes for that company
- Personalize. For example, recognize something specific about the company and how you could improve that through your services
- Follow up via email and be the squeaky wheel! Sometimes, it takes a few different outlets to reach the right person within the company.
Tap into your network
One of the most effective ways of getting the word out about your business is simply by tapping your network.
This means friends, family, counterparts, neighbors, even your uber drivers!
No matter where you are, there’s always an opportunity to promote yourself and your business.
Build a Referral Program
Word of mouth is one of the best ways to get the word out about your business and acquire new customers. Especially when you are starting out, it’s important to build a solid referral program to encourage existing customers to help you find new ones.
A great way to do that is by offering a reward (ie. credit on your service or cash) to customers that refer you to their friends and family.
A fantastic referral program will help with clout, credibility, and establishing yourself in the space.
Looking for inspiration on how others started their own events business? We got you covered.
We do two main things- bring in entertainment for high-end events and also plan, design and produce high-end events. Mostly on the West Coast with our offices being located in San Francisco (headquarters) and Los Angeles, but we work all over the world in major markets.
Professional Event Planner Associations
- American Planning Association
- Meeting Professionals International
- Professional Convention Management Association
- International Congress and Convention Association
Magazines and Publications
- The Business of Event Planning: Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Success Special Events
- Event Planning: The Ultimate Guide to Successful Meetings, Corporate Events, Fundraising Galas, etc.
- How to Win Friends & Influence People
- Into the Heart of Meetings: Basic Principles of Meeting Design