The COVID-19 crisis has changed the way comic shops are able to do business. Despite new restrictions, it’s important that comic shops continue to serve their communities. Hosting a virtual event is a great way to bring people together and keep customers engaged with your store. Here are some tips on hosting a great virtual event as well as platform specific resources to help you get started!
Choose Which Platform Works Best for Your Event
There are pluses and minuses to any platform you could use to host your event from Facebook Live to Zoom. Research the various platforms and decide what has the best functionality for the event you’re hosting. If you’re hosting a virtual book club and only want to make it available for members, a Zoom meeting might be a better choice than Facebook Live. Keep in mind that you may be able to use multiple platforms for your event. For example, you can share Zoom webinars with Facebook and YouTube Live.
Consider each platform’s privacy agreement and terms of service and make sure they fit with the event that you’re planning. Above all, make sure you’re comfortable using the platform you choose. You’ll host a better event if you have a degree of familiarity with the interface of the platform.
Plan Ahead and Practice
Take time to craft a plan for your event. Decide what you’re trying to accomplish, whether it be selling a set amount of comics during a Facebook Live sale or having a certain level of engagement with an online book club. Setting goals ahead of time will help you determine if your event was a success later.
It’s also a good idea to plan for mishaps. Assume you’ll have some technical difficulties when you’re hosting your first few virtual events and come up with contingency plans.
Completing a dry run of your event before you host will also help you work out any kinks or issues. Consider privately testing out the platform you plan on using before the day of the event.
Optimize Your Set Up
Before the event, make sure you test your set up. If you plan on using video, check to make sure that you have adequate lighting. After going through the trouble of setting up a virtual event, you’ll want to make sure your audience can see you.
Check your background as well. Make sure to remove any clutter that you don’t want to be seen by your audience. Some platforms like Zoom allow you to set a virtual background if you don’t want viewers to see your actual surroundings.
Finally, test your audio. Check that your microphone is in working order and set your levels, so that your audience can hear you, but not so you’re deafening.
Promote Your Event Ahead of Time
There’s no use hosting an event if you don’t promote it. Use your store’s social media channels and email marketing to let your customers know that your event is coming up. Don’t wait until the last minute to begin promoting. Give people ample time to plan on attending.
Moderate Your Event
During your event, it’s vital that you are moderating users and comments to ensure no one is abusing the platform. Set some ground rules beforehand about what kind of comments and behavior are acceptable and hold your attendees to them. Don’t be afraid to remove bad actors from the event. Moderating helps ensure that everyone attending is able to have a good time.
Follow Up with Attendees Afterward
Make sure the people who attended your event keep engaging with your store. End your event with a call to action that asks attendees to follow your store on social media or to sign up for your store newsletter, so they can keep track of future events. If you were given contact information, send a follow up email thanking them for attending. Make sure to include information about any upcoming events that you think they’ll be interested in.
Tips for Various Virtual Event Platforms
Crowdcast is a platform that allows you to host interactive live events.
Facebook Live allows you to broadcast a conversation, performance, Q&A or virtual event live on your business’ Facebook page.
Instagram Live is a feature on Instagram Stories that allows users to stream video to followers and engage with them in real time.
YouTube Live allows you to stream video directly to your YouTube channel.
Zoom is an online videoconferencing platform.
CBLDF is providing resources for retailers throughout this crisis at http://cbldf.org/coronavirus