I have always loved to try something new, experiment with new software and offer alternative solutions to communications or event problems. For these and many other reasons I was an early adopter of the virtual event. A number of years ago, I wrote a post on how virtual events were a good way to engage a global workforce on a budget, now it would seem that virtual events are going to become the new norm, well for the foreseeable future until social distancing and everyone working from home ends.
To help you make the most of this new way of working and ensuring that your virtual events deliver the same benefits to your business as face to face events here are my top 5 tips for a successful virtual event.
#1 Virtual events require the same amount of planning as live face to face events
Although your event is virtual it requires the same amount of time to plan. You still need to develop resources, build the platform, create content, brief and coach speakers and deliver the event on the day.
Pay attention to your event agenda, viewing an event in this format is different to a live face to face event. Think outside the box and get creative so you can keep people engaged and interested throughout the event. Death by PowerPoint is not good at any event but especially bad in the virtual world, adding music and videos can help along with having speakers live via web cams always increases engagement. Also try to create a structure that allows the audience to feedback or participate it helps too in this format.
#2 Provide plenty of information and training in advance
If this is the first time you have done a virtual event, you need to create a “how to” guide that your participants/speakers/panelists can easily follow. Providing plenty of information in advance can help participants understand what is expected of them and gives them a reference point if they are unsure at any point.
Ensure that you have assigned enough time for training any speakers/panelists in advance of the event so that feel comfortable with the technology and how the event will run in the virtual environment. Taking the time to do this will mean the event is better and more engaging on the day, especially if you plan to include a live Q&A. (If your chose software doesn’t provide this feature try Slido, this software allows you to have live pools and Q&A’s that you can run throughout your session.
# 3 Ensure that you have good quality content
Good quality content is always important and just because your event is virtual this is no exception. A great advantage of virtual platforms is that attendees have the chance to view the content again later. This can extremely beneficial if the event is conducted in English which is not the first language for any members of your audience. It can be difficult to absorb information when it is presented in long sessions, especially in a second language.
A virtual event also allows for external presenters who may not have been an option before to be part of your event. A good quality web cam and decent internet connection is all they need and as they are not having to travel, they may suddenly become more affordable.
#4 Do not use Wi-Fi were possible and pre-record some of your content.
If possible do not use Wi-Fi when running a virtual event, the signal can be more likely to drop out, with viewers missing parts of the presentations. Use an LAN cable to get the best broadband speed and ensure that there are no other pressures on your system during the event.
If your event involves several different presentations, if possible, try to have some of these pre-recorded. These recordings will be extremely helpful if there are any technical problems during your live event with the live speakers allowing you to run content without the audience being any the wiser.
#5 Consider the time you want to run your event if you plan to attract a more global audience.
Time zones are an important issue to think about when planning your event if your audience is globally based. Many larger events and exhibitions will attract audiences from all over the world, but they are usually all in one location, so time isn’t really an issue. Now your event is virtual, you don’t know exactly where your attendees are located, and you don’t want the time your event starts to be a barrier to someone. One solution is to run the meeting in the afternoon GMT.
If your target participants are based within a 4-hour difference of GMT then it’s possible to involve everyone as part of a normal working day. By starting the meeting at lunch time, you will allow any US participants to be involved at the start of their working day and then working across the world each country will be using the later part of their working day. Group work can also be facilitated at the beginning or end of the day depending on location.
Hopefully you will have found these tips useful and in these new and challenging times we event managers will do what we do best, adapt and make the best of the situation we find ourselves in and create some new memorable experiences!
Stay safe everyone xx