5 Steps to a Great Virtual Event

Amanda Loveday • June 17, 2020

The new world we currently live in is changing a lot of what we do and how we do it. We are no longer just matching outfits before we head into work, but we’re also making sure our new face masks don’t clash with our office attire. Another big change we’ve seen with a number of our clients is adapting events to the “no gathering of large crowds,” rule that COVID-19 has enacted.

Our team recently worked with two clients that moved their large annual events online and they’ve both been a success. They are each very different and the way they virtually adapted was different, too. However, their efforts and achievements were similar.

Here are 5 steps to turn your in-person event into a virtual success:

1) Provide ample time for guests to plan for your online event.

This allows for you to make sure they are watching, listening and not distracted. One of the events we’ve taken online was an organization’s annual retreat. This is normally a three day conference with numerous speakers, breakout sessions and evening dinners. When the decision was made to cancel the in-person programming, we quickly announced our efforts to bring the scheduled speakers into a bi-monthly webinar for nearly three months.

2) Provide something your in-person event might not offer.

Being able to bring your events online can actually be a blessing. Your speaker line-up can grow due to the ability for them to do the program from their living room. You don’t have to work around as many schedules or travel accommodations. For one event we brought online, we previously invited Georgia’s former Minority Leader, Stacey Abrams, to be a speaker for two years. This year, we were able to secure her as a speaker because no travel was necessary and we worked around her schedule.

3) Keep people engaged

The scariest part about changing your events from in-person to online is the engagement. Your speakers can’t look in the eyes of the audience. Have you ever told a joke to a webinar audience? It’s excruciating. On Zoom and WebEx, when you host a webinar, you can’t see or hear the audience unless specifically allowed but this feature also provides security to your event. However, you can provide numerous ways for the audience to be engaged. You can let your audience take polls to get an understanding of the sentiment of the audience. You can allow for an open dialogue of questions and answers. However, you want to make sure you’re able to allow the audience to ask questions, provide feedback and feel engaged in the program.

4) The time at an in-person event doesn’t always correlate online

When you’re changing your programming from in-person to online, you can’t expect the time to adjust one to one. So, if you’re taking a 3-day conference virtual, you can’t expect people to go online for three days straight. In the instance of our client, we took those three days of programming and hosted a conversation every other Thursday for nearly three months.

5) Have fun!

This is the most important piece of advice. Online events can seem tedious and time-consuming. However, you can make them fun. You can let people interact with your speakers. You can present audio and video to break up the speeches. There are a lot of things you can do that make online events entertaining and worthy of hosting.

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