How to Host a Virtual Event for Your Library (Start to Finish)

April 17, 2020 — Libraries, Virtual Events

Are you nervous about how to host a virtual event for the first time? You shouldn’t be, it’s easier than you think! Shared content and videos are a great way to keep your patrons engaged with your library’s social sites, but a bit of personalization from your staff might be what’s best during this time. Help your staff and your patrons get through this period of isolation while continuing to cultivate a relationship with your community with virtual events. You may have canceled events and closed your doors, but we have some ideas on how to get events back onto your calendars, engage your patrons, and track your data.

  1. Select the right service

Many companies and organizations are using Zoom to host their virtual events, while this is a great free service, some of your libraries might be concerned with the security of the site. Facebook live is another great option, this might exclude some patrons or other want-to-be attendees that do not use Facebook. Here are a few others that do not require your patron to sign up for an account:

  • Webinar Ninja
  • Google Meet
  1. Registration

Use registration software to collect attendee information when you host a virtual event. This will let you collect as much data as possible for your library to use in the future and for end of year reporting (if needed). Here are some free registration solutions:

  • LocalHop
  • Eventbrite
  • Bookwhen
  1. Add to your website calendar

A virtual event earns a spot on your library’s event calendar. Keep those calendars populated for your patrons so they can plan ahead. Categorize your online demos for your records and mark age groups, just as you would for regular library programs. This might be data that your library will want to look back on.

  1. Promote

You may be finding that promoting virtual events is easier for some libraries and harder for others. Some small & rural libraries may not have a website calendar to post their events and likely rely on foot traffic to spread the word about programs. This is where you can best utilize email marketing and social media sites to promote your new virtual programs.

  • Facebook – Create an event on your Facebook page with a link to your registration. Consider joining other Facebook groups and pages about your community or in your community to promote your event as well.
  • Twitter – Post day of the event
  • Email Marketing – send to your patrons or include on newsletters
  • Website – add to your website events calendar or include on your homepage
  • LocalHop – Post your virtual events to LocalHop for free. LocalHop users can search for events in their community by organization name, location, or categories on the LocalHop website or mobile app.
  1. Host your event

Get all of your staff involved, let each one host a virtual event. If you are using Facebook Live, add staff members as “page editors” so they can help out. Have other staff members view each other’s virtual events and take notes. Rotate the responsibility of who hosts the events, see which ones perform the best and share the replay, post on YouTube, or create similar events.

  1. Collect the data

  • Facebook – If you are using Facebook Live for your event, track the data you can, likes, comments, shares, viewers, and other live video metrics. Boosting the event post in your community (even for only $5) will help increase visibility. Boosting increases the amount of data you will be able to collect as well as letting you refine your target audiences.
  • Registration – Names of attendees, custom questions/answers (can be collected during the signup process), and contact information
  • For all posted videos – Who hosted, where did they host from (city), when was the program (date/time), what was the program/event topic, and who was the target audience.
  • Website – Google Analytics is the best way to capture landing page data. Hotjar is a great way to view the exact location of clicks on a particular page or pages on your website. These are both free tools and great for pulling in your data regularly, not just for virtual events.
  1. Share successes and failures openly with staff

Keep a digital spreadsheet that can be populated at the end of each virtual event. Some events might be great, and honestly, some may tank. Either way, record everything for each program instance and find a way to easily share it amongst your staff. The information may help your coworker avoid a similar mistake, unpopular topic, or program, or could help them ride on the coattails of your successful event next time around.

Well, now that your library has mastered how to host a virtual event you might even consider continuing them when your doors re-open. Try to collect all of this data and find a great way to present it to your Director. Make sure you add them to your community calendars, but most of all, have fun! If you need help along the way, reach out to us.