How Cara Galloway Launched a Virtual Event Planning Business During a Pandemic
After nine years in the meetings industry — where she went from managing large-scale, consumer-focused festivals to consulting on corporate events to guiding a software company as it transitioned its in-person roadshows to virtual when the pandemic hit — Cara Galloway has launched her own company to assist businesses with virtual event planning and execution. Based in Toronto, Events by Cara aims to help entrepreneurs deliver high-impact events, workshops and summits that build community and scale their business.
Galloway talked with CEN to share more about the launch of her new business and how companies can improve their virtual events.
How did Events by Cara come to be?
I saw a need for virtual event planning services for small businesses and entrepreneurs. These businesses thrive on community, many with lean teams that lack the bandwidth or expertise to successfully execute an engaging online experience. With COVID-19 making it difficult to connect in-person, I wanted to help small businesses make that transition seamless and continue to maintain an active presence in their communities.
Why the focus on virtual events?
People are seeking connection and community more than ever. While virtual events can’t fully replace in-person events, there is a place for them in the market, and I don’t think that’s going away anytime soon. I also saw a huge opportunity for utilizing virtual events as a marketing tool — to help the businesses I work with gain visibility, build community and, ultimately, generate new leads.
Virtual event offerings — and virtual summits as an example — provide a low-barrier way for businesses to position themselves as an authority in their niche and gain new eyeballs for their offerings by bringing together experts in their field.
What mistakes do you see companies making with virtual events?
Many companies want to jump right into the planning phase without giving much consideration as to why they’re holding their event. I’ve seen a lot of companies try to take an in-person event and replicate it piece by piece into an online experience — and it doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t translate.
I make sure my clients take the time to consider the “why.” Why are we hosting the event in the first place? What are the goals, objectives and key performance indicators? What do we hope that attendees will take away? How do we plan to measure and define success? This allows us to understand the foundation of the event, so that we can find ways to bring it to life in a way that shines.
Another big mistake is not setting aside dedicated time for event run-throughs and speaker rehearsals. When delivering presentations via a computer screen with no in-person audience, it’s crucial to set up multiple speaker calls and run-throughs to ensure that the content is delivered to be as engaging as possible. Completing audits of speaker home studios to make sure the lighting and sound are optimized is another key step in the planning process.
Any advice you can offer others looking to launch their own company?
Taking the step into entrepreneurism is one of the most rewarding things you can do. I would encourage anyone thinking of taking the big leap to work for themselves to go for it. Take a careful audit of your skills, experience and the needs of the market. The magic happens exactly where your passions, skills and the market demand meet.