Recent Coronavirus developments have made virtual events a necessary solution to keep organizations connected to their audiences. As you consider your options, these tips can help you ask the right questions, provide thoughtful answers, and be ready to discuss initial details, from picking a virtual format to providing tips on how to make the event run smoothly.
Guiding the conversation
In an increasingly busy virtual world, where people are seeking immediate crisis-related information, first ask yourself:
- Is the event’s message immediately relevant in the current landscape? How will the message be received if put out there today? Can the message shift to become more relevant or appropriate?
- What is the benefit in having this event now?
- Can we postpone or use another communication tool more successfully at this moment in time?
If you are uncertain about transitioning from in-person to online, consider these pros for moving forward virtually:
- Technology connects people, making it possible to reach a much wider audience and increase engagement.
- You can include speakers who may not have the time required for an in-person appearance.
- Virtual events are a cost-effective option to live events.
Transitioning from in-person to online
With social distancing and limitations on gathering, most events will likely become webinar-type experiences. Below are key considerations as you plan and execute your online event:
- Platform selection. When choosing a platform to host your virtual event (e.g., Zoom, GoTo, Webex), select one that you and your speakers are familiar with. Most platforms offer similar features, so unless there is a very specific need, use the one that you know best.
- Three-person team minimum. To run a successful virtual event, you need a team of at least three people to ensure everything runs smoothly and no one is overwhelmed in their role.
- This person speaks to the audience, introducing speakers, and often controlling the progression of slides, if applicable.
- This person performs important behind-the-scenes functions (chatting with attendees, sending links to resources, filtering audience questions) and also serves as backup emcee should the emcee’s computer go down.
- This person runs the technical aspects of the event (monitoring the audio/video, muting/unmuting speakers, enabling/disabling polling, controlling screensharing), critical for an event to feel smooth and polished.
- Prepare a script. While you don’t want an emcee to sound overly scripted or unnatural, you most certainly want a script to ensure the event’s run of show is followed.
- Know who’s in control. Different platforms have different host, presenter, and attendee capabilities. Know these different controls (how to mute/unmute, screenshare, enable video, ask a question, use the chat box) and determine who needs access to what and how to give it.
- Schedule (and record) a dry run. You want to host a dry run so your team and speakers are familiar with the platform technology and can troubleshoot any technological or physical issues. You should record the dry run so you have the entire event backed up in case of unforeseen technical difficulties during the live event.
- Lay ground rules. People come to virtual events with many different expectations and professional etiquette can be unclear when joining the event from the comfort of their own home. Clearly communicate your expectations to speakers and attendees (e.g., keep your video disabled and yourself muted until it’s your time to speak) to help ensure your event appears polished.
- Ask for feedback. Consider including a post-event survey to collect feedback on the presenters, content, and audience satisfaction.
- Hardwire internet connections. Whether a small meeting or large livestreamed event, don’t rely on Wi-Fi whenever possible. The system might not be able to support the bandwidth and the wireless connection could go down.
- Dress to impress. Whether video is enabled or not, dressing professionally and looking your best will make you feel confident and help you deliver a more engaging presentation.
- Sign on early. Have your team and speakers sign on at least 30 minutes early to individually test audio and video and work out any technical issues before the event begins.
- Minimize background noise. Encourage your team and speakers to join from a quiet place, use headphones, and keep themselves muted until it’s their time to speak to cut down on noise distractions.
- Be mindful when screensharing. Know if your platform automatically shares your screen or must be enabled after the event starts (nobody wants to see you checking your email before the official event starts!).
- Start on time. In addition to signing on early, give your team and speakers five, two, and one-minute warnings before going live, mute everyone who’s not the first speaker, and then action!
- Give a two-minute audience tutorial. Your audience may or may not be new to the platform so take a couple of minutes to explain how to use the chat box, ask questions, answer polls, raise hands, mute/unmute themselves, etc. This is also a good opportunity to note whether the event will be recorded and shared following the event’s conclusion.
These practical tips are just the starting point for a successful online experience. With our expertise in conceptualizing and executing virtual gatherings, Hatcher Events can help you navigate a quickly-changing events landscape and keep you connected to your audience.