Virtual events sound a bit like something from a Sci-Fi movie, but we're all finding out that they are very much part of 2020. Whether it's online networking, a virtual course, Zoom meetings or an online only event, if you haven't been to one yet, you're probably going to be attending one soon. But can they really be as engaging as the real, in person deal?
While nothing can replace meeting face to face, virtual events are sure to find their place post Covid-19, and can be really enjoyable, natural and very convenient. But with the convenience to attend comes the convenience to not show up! So what can you do to make sure you put on a successful online event? Here are our 5 tips:
1. Be Prepared.
Just because it's virtual, don't think you can skip the prep. Get to know the software and plan for if things go wrong. There's nothing worse than a glitchy event, and while people are usually understanding that technology does not always go to plan, as the host, there's nothing worse than watching a bunch of virtual faces in little boxes waiting for you to figure out how to share your screen.
Try a run through first, get someone to join the meeting to watch and give some feedback, you'll feel so much more confident and it will show through. If something does go wrong though, just use it to lighten the mood, it will make the whole thing feel more human.
2. Warm Welcome & House Rules.
Just as it might be your first time hosting a virtual event, it is probably the first time some of your guests have been to one. Treat it as if it's everyone's first time and set out some easy to follow guides.
- How best should they have their screen display? Speaker view? Gallery View?
- Can everyone see and hear ok?
- How long will the event run?
- Will there be a break?
- Should they be on mute?
- Can they join in with comments?
- Are you using the chat facility to encourage engagement?
- Will there be a chance for group discussions in breakout rooms or on the main call?
- Do they have any questions?
Being clear at the start will make everyone feel much more comfortable, set expectations, and ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible.
4. Encourage Engagement
Why? It’s simple: Creating opportunities for engagement will make your audience feel more engaged.
Here’s a simple example: Ask the audience to submit questions through the chat tool or introduce themselves to others. Chances are the people who do ask a question and join in are going to stick around to see if they get answered, or feel more involved if other audience members get involved in their discussion.
Virtually every online platform has interactive features. Create polls or quizzes and reveal the results at the end of the event. Encourage live tweeting and posts on LinkedIn with specific event hashtags. Take requests and suggestions. Or give a shout out to people as they tune in. At the end of the event, ask for feedback, there's always room for improvement, and as this is pretty new to most of us, it's going to be invaluable.
3. Build Anticipation.
Online events can sound a little flat, especially if it was originally supposed to be in person. Let's admit it, when we go to events we are mostly looking forward to a good catch up with some free food and drink, experiencing a nice venue and perhaps even a little goodie bag. We might have a physical ticket, have planned transport and agreed to "see people there". Without these pulls, there's always a chance that with the best intentions, people might just fail to show up.
So get creative! Make your event a little different, use social media to encourage engagement before the event. Your invitees will see people committing to attending and remind them to get it in their diary.
4. Stand Out.
Send your attendees something physical before the event. There's nothing more exciting than a box with "Do Not Open Until ..." The intrigue has the knock on effect of encouraging people to post about their excitement, creating a real buzz. You have to agree you would feel much more compelled and eager to attend an event after receiving a little gift.
Our clients have had great success sending out branded biscuit and cake treats to be enjoyed at online events. Pro tip: Opened and enjoyed live on the call really brings people together and adds a hard to recreate physical element. Having something in their hands makes the whole thing feel more real. If you would like to chat about how we can make your event go with a bang, just get in touch!