It’s said that necessity is the mother of invention, and if that’s true, the needs that have been created by the global pandemic are one of the greatest sparks of creativity we’ve ever seen. The Internet, as a communication channel, has been growing and developing over the past 20-30 years, but always as a supplement to the real-world experience. Now, the experiences we’re having through our screens are sometimes the only interactions that we’re able to have.

Virtual events are poised to step into the void that has been left by canceled conferences, festivals, and concerts, but as I think we’ve all experienced over the past few months, you can’t just point a camera at a stage and call it an event.

The reason that we all used to hop on airplanes and spend thousands of dollars to attend physical events was because of all of the other stuff we get from them: Meeting people, interacting with vendors, discovering things by chance and, of course, the happy hours where we let down our guards and sometimes get the most real work done. The fact is that the virtual event experience will likely never be able to compete with that, so any good live event planning needs to start with the foundation that it must find new and creative ways to offer value. We can certainly be inspired by what we loved at those live events, but when it comes to virtual we are not adapting them, we are building something brand new.

Last week I was invited to share my thoughts on exactly this topic with BC’s Tourism Resiliency Program. I’m going to break down what I shared with them below and, if you’d rather watch, I’ve embedded the recording from the event here:

The first thing to figure out when planning live virtual events is, why are we planning a live virtual event? Going live takes a lot of work, it has a risk of technical issues, and it limits the quality of the show because there’s only so much editing you can do. In many cases, it makes much more sense to simply record the show, polish it up, and share the video with our audience.

Take the example of TV content: The vast majority of what we watch is pre-recorded, then edited and published. In some cases, however, there’s a magic to the live experience that no amount of editing can replicate. Have you ever tried watching a recording of your favourite sports team’s game the next day? Somehow it feels more ridiculous to yell at the referee, or cheer from your home when you know that the rest of the world already knows the outcome.

When it comes to events, there are a few reasons we should consider going live:

  1. It’s interactive — Forums, expert talks, wine tastings, and live music are all made better when the viewer can be interacting with the on-screen show.
  2. The outcome is unknown — One of the reasons why “reality” is still must-see-TV is because it give us an opportunity to collectively speculate about an unknown outcome. Panels where experts debate topics are a good example, so are contests and live interviews.
  3. It offers real-time updates — why would someone watch a live music/wine/literary festival when the Internet already has so much great content on that topic? It’s for the sense that they’re seeing and hearing from experts or entertainers about what’s happening right now.
  4. You have an audience — unlike most other types of content, live events are difficult to use to attract new people. In most cases, the people who log on to your live event are going to be people who have been following/subscribing already. This is your opportunity to provide value, drive conversions, and deepen relationships, but rarely is a stream going to acquire a large amount of new awareness for you.

Alright, so you’ve decided that a live event is the right choice for you. Here are a few things to start thinking about:

The Two Types of Virtual Events

There are fundamentally two different formats of live virtual event: Social and Owned.


Social events are the ones that we’ve been seeing in our newsfeeds. They are hosted on a social media platform and are distributed through that platform’s algorithm. The benefits of social events are that there is no cost for hosting, the setup is minimal, and there’s an audience already there; all you need to do is convince them that your live stream is more interesting than all of the rest of the content flowing across their screens.

Social event platforms include:


Owned events are produced on platforms where we can control the access. They can be embedded onto our websites, or live within a provider’s application. They often provide more features for interaction and control of their viewing experience. Typically, brands choose to go with an owned event when they want to be able to restrict the audience, or when they want to use the show as an opportunity to collect leads. B2B marketers have been using this tactic for years in the form of free webinars. Now, B2C marketers are starting to catch up, and wine clubs are collecting emails in exchange for virtual tastings, golf courses are building their lists by doing lessons with their pros, and music festivals are selling tickets to virtual shows.

A few owned platforms worth checking out:

Driving Revenue from Live Events

A common question that’s been coming up as businesses are transitioning to live events is how they can continue to generate revenue from them. There are several ways that we can use live events as revenue drivers and, of course, the simplest is to sell tickets. The good (and the bad) news about virtual event ticket sales is that there is no magic method – you probably already know how to do it.

Recently, a few services have sprung up that promise to offer live event ticketing in a variety of ways, but when we peel back what they’re doing it’s as simple as:

  1. People buy a ticket online.
  2. They get a private link to a stream.

You can accomplish that by using whatever online ticketing service you previously used (ie. Eventbrite) and simply sending private links out to the people who paid.

That being said, there are cases when it makes sense to explore the software options out there, so here’s a list of a few good ones:

Beyond selling tickets, there are so many more creative ways that we can think about generating revenue from live virtual shows. The principle to keep in mind when building any monetization plan is the simple fact that we are creating our own media channel. Whether our audience size is 50 or 50,000, we now have the opportunity to do any and all of the things that other media channels do to make money. Here are a few that we’ve seen work well:

Your Live Event Gear

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we come to the equipment you’ll need to produce a high-quality virtual event. Of course, there are many different types of events that require a whole array of gear, but I’ll get you started by focusing on the most basic setup. The same categories and principles that go into a single person webinar can be extended to just about any scale of show.

Of course, all of this planning and gear and software is only going to be as good as the content you’re delivering, so as you’re planning, always return back to the question: Why will people watch this live? You should have a clear and obvious answer, and that will make the promotion of your show that much easier.

If you’re on the fence about whether your event should go live, and what the value could be to your business, you should give our live streaming primer post a read, it’s called Staying Connected With Live Streaming Video.