Top 10 Things to Know About: Creating Safe and Profitable Events

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On Thursday, October 15, the American Booksellers Association held a webinar with ABA Senior Education Manager Lisa Winn on the “Top 10 Things to Know About: Creating Safe and Profitable Virtual Events.” With the growing number of virtual events across an expanding number of platforms, this session aimed to offer booksellers tips, tricks, and guidance on how to create safe yet profitable events in the new digital world.

A recording of this session can be found on the Education Resources page on

Here are the top 10 tips:

  1. Research different platforms to choose the one that best suits your event. Decide based on cost, features, security, and the nature of the event.
  2. Always review security options before you make the final decision on the platform you plan to use. Have a plan in place in the event of a security breach.
  3. Keep profitability in mind when hosting events by considering a variety of different RSVP options.
  4. Budget your time to market each event effectively.
  5. Send at least two reminders to attendees with login information. Be sure to have a canned email response ready for attendees asking for login information at the last minute.
  6. Have a pre-planning video call with speakers to establish goals, encourage a rapport, and set expectations.
  7. Ask someone to watch the tech rehearsal as an attendee to see what the experience is like. Record the rehearsal for later review.
  8. Define your event — not every event has to be live, and they don’t have to be large or complicated.
  9. Leverage local connections just as you would for an in-person event. This broadens the depth of your reach and brings in a new audience.
  10. Use social media to your advantage. Consumer engagement has shifted during COVID; there’s been a 44 percent increase across platforms since March, so be sure to market events there.

Here’s a more in-depth recap of the session:

  • Keep security in mind when hosting virtual events. Security options on virtual event platforms often change and are updated over time. Always review the options before you make a final decision on the platform you plan to use.
  • Ask yourself the following questions when you’re planning a virtual event: Can you ask for advance registration? Can you require a password to access the meeting? Can you enable a waiting room? All of these boost security for virtual events.
  • Google Meet is primarily for meetings, and while it can be used for public events, it doesn’t have webinar functionality. On the other hand, Zoom has both meeting and webinar functionality, in addition to registration tools, including payment (through PayPal).
  • Some platforms, like Hopin and Crowdcast, can be thought of as convention centers. Hopin is an event platform geared to scheduling and hosting multiple webinar-style and meeting-style video events. Crowdcast is similar to Hopin, but also offers services geared toward presentations, conference structure, and registrations with payment.
  • Consider a variety of different RSVP options. Require a book sale for admittance to the event; require a registration fee for admittance to the event; create a sliding scale policy to keep the event accessible; provide an option to donate to the event with a range of $0 to $25; or ask attendees to pay what they can.
  • When marketing events, send at least two reminders to attendees with login information. Be sure to have a canned email response ready for attendees asking for login information at the last minute.
  • For author events, remind the author and publicist that the author needs to actively promote the event on their social media. To that end, booksellers, publicists, and authors should be clear about expectations regarding marketing.
  • If you’re promoting a book/books during the event, don’t be afraid to ask for materials from the publisher, such as book plates, signed copies, social media assets, or an educators’ guide for children’s events.
  • Just like with in-person events, be sure to budget your time to market each event effectively.
  • If you plan to record the event itself, record the rehearsal, too. This will help you see what the event will look like and tweak the actual event in whatever way you want.
  • Choose moderators for events wisely; it’s crucial that moderators are comfortable in the virtual environment.
  • Be sure to prep speakers thoroughly with a tech rehearsal where everyone can test their camera, lighting, and internet speed, and get familiar with the platform and controls. Also, make sure all presenters have access to login information.
  • For author events, check to see if your author has a contract regarding distributing the video of the event. Keep the publicist in the loop and ask them for what you need, including headshots, logos, outreach to schools or libraries, etc.
  • Have a plan in place in the event of a security breach and review this with all participants. Be mindful of what you’re asking of participants given the stresses of the current climate.
  • Before the event, decide how to communicate with your moderator.
  • If holding a Q&A, decide which questions to prioritize.
  • If multiple staff are assisting, make sure everyone knows what and when their duties are.
  • Consider recording content ahead of time and streaming it as an event, then invite speakers to participate in a live chat. Also, consider your industry connections. Ask a rep to participate in a book-talk conversation.
  • Reconnect with local authors. Ask them to do a five-minute book talk on their book and upload it to social media. When working with authors, be sure to watch other events they’ve done to make yours unique.
  • Think creatively. Virtual events are happening all the time. Convince people they should tune in to your event over someone else’s.