Meetings & Events: Take It Virtual
Are you planning a virtual event or meeting?
What you need to know!
Business conferences often inspire thoughts like:
- “Travel is such a pain”
- “There are 3 workshops I want at one time, and nothing good the rest of the day”
- “Do I have to?”
And for the organization hosting the event:
- “This is going to be expensive”
- “How do I ensure everyone enjoys the event”
- “What liabilities and risks do I have to worry about?”
For attendees, sometimes the event is great and sometimes it’s fun to get away. But more often than not, it’s a necessary evil.
For the organizers, that’s a lot to take on for something most people are only half-heartedly participating in.
With the pandemic and all the change it’s brought, organizations have a chance to change this experience for attendees (and also make their events more profitable!)
Let’s be really clear though – if they aren’t done correctly – virtual conferences can be pretty bad.
So your first step is deciding not to cancel the event, but to take it virtual. Honestly, virtual events are going to be a large part of the future. Embracing them is necessary to remain relevant in your industry space.
Your next step is to learn all you can about creating and hosting a fun, informative and exciting virtual event for your audience.
Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the benefits of going virtual – there are cost savings, you have the potential to increase attendees with no geographic and travel barriers. Your event is available on-demand via a recording, giving it a longer shelf-life and bigger impact. A big one – there is less of an environmental footprint. There is a lot of good packed into that event on your laptop or phone screen.
Before we dive in, let’s cover some of the questions we are asked frequently.
What are virtual events?
A virtual event is any fundraiser, conference, meeting, celebration, team building etc., that is hosted online. Participants and guests attend virtually via phone, computer table.
What are virtual meetings?
Virtual meetings are simply a group of people meeting digitally, over a conferencing platform. Virtual meetings may be small and routine, like a daily meeting or it may be a larger event like a quarterly or annual large meeting – complete with entertainment and all the “usual” components – they just happen online.
What are live streaming events?
These are once again, meetings, conferences, really any kind of digital event that happens in real-time. The event is live streaming instead of being pre-recorded content. It’s dynamic, engaging and interesting for the audience when they can take in live action.
What do you have to consider when you decide to take an event virtual?
- Determine what technology you need and be sure you know how to use it. Consider:
o The platform (example: Zoom)
- How to stream live
- Learn to share pre-recorded content
- Can you record
- Ways to control attendee participation
- Attendee limits
- Passing control access to different presenters
What is the format and agenda for the event? How do you break up the content to allow for mind-breaks? Do you keep the audience entertained and engaged? Can you make the event interactive? While the tech makes the event function, the content and scheduling will determine what your guests get out of the event.
Pro tip: Consider working with a virtual events company – one that can offer advice and tips on everything you need to consider and help you find the right talent to act as an emcee or entertainment.
Virtual Event Tips
Stay laser focused on the theme and intended take-away of the content. With a virtual event, it’s harder to focus if the presenter meanders away from the core topics and rambles. Keep content on-point and easy to consume.
Don’t rely on tech and fancy images to engage your audience. But do ensure there are no lighting or sound issues! Offer quality information and quality entertainment. The experience they will remember is laughing and enjoying entertainment and insights, tips and information that inspires them. They came for a reason – to learn – make sure they walk away with what they expected.
Offer an opportunity to network virtually. Maybe share the attendee list or create “breakout rooms” where people can network and chat, outside of a formal session.
Don’t worry about perfection. Focus on authenticity. Someone speaking authentically – even if they screw up – is more compelling than someone reading a prepared script. Think about it – a perfectly polished presentation feels robotic. When someone is at home taking the content in, there is no energy in the room, there is no shared laughter. It’s very one dimensional. Your presenter can break through that and make the virtual audience feel connected by keeping it real.
The unexpected, even if it’s a small glitch, reminds the audience that this is still a live event with real people. It’s a great way to humanize an otherwise digital experience.
Invite engagement with polls, comments turned on and other strategies that invite participation. In a live event, feedback comes in the form of laughter, body language, applause. The speaker feeds off that. Comments are a great way for the speaker to glance at feedback. Keep them short and concise so the reader can skim a scrolling feed and respond.
At a live event, there is often food. What if you sent a virtual gift card for Uber Eats or some other place that offers food delivery. An unexpected perk that your attendees will love!
Where in real life, you may have filler content in your presentations. When you go virtual, cut the filler. Go right to the heart of the topic and don’t hold back. Your virtual meetings will be more effective if it’s shorter. This is especially true if you are live streaming. You have a chance to share great content and keep it brief – improving the audience experience.
Trivia, happy hours, speed-networking and more add fun to the event and allow some much-needed connection.
As we’ve mentioned a couple times – please don’t leave out the entertainment. Your guests will notice. Athletes, celebrities, comedians, magicians and musicians are all available for live streaming and pre-recorded events. Want to increase your attendance rate? Hire a celebrity to record an invite and overview of the event and send that to everyone on your mailing list. It will help your event stand out. Remember celebs generate interest and buzz. That doesn’t change just because it’s virtual.
Swag is a big part of conferences – and should be part of your virtual events too. Everyone visits the exhibit hall to gather the swag. How can you offer a digital swag bag? Is it content, discount coupons, gift cards? Come up with something unexpected and fun. Everyone will be talking about it online – it’s well worth every penny invested.
The key takeaway here is: learn what you need to know, plan well, don’t skimp on the details and the extras that event attendees expect. Make it an experience and it will help with all virtual and live events going forward. Make a name for yourself now! Be known as the company that nailed virtual conferences.