While some consider COVID-19 the death knell for events, others, like us, look at the opportunities and creative possibilities that virtual events present. Come back stage with us and think about some of the things that you need to consider when staging an event online!
As an Event Manager, I always loved that feeling of standing at the back of a full room. A full house meant that we had created a programme that people really wanted to hear. The presenters delivering content in a dynamic manner that connected with the audience, energising and inspiring them. The electricity and buzz of networking on the coffee breaks, new connections being made and opportunities materialising. That buzz, that energy, that opportunity … that’s when you knew you had done a good job.
While large public civic gatherings may be impossible at present, corporate events still need to go ahead. And thankfully, we now have the technology to create exciting new learning and networking experiences for people, even if they can’t be in the same room.
The detailed planning tools we used for traditional events are now even more important for planning virtual or remote events. Essentially, when you take your events online, you’re creating a TV show. You need to think like a TV producer to deliver a high quality audience experience. So here are some of our top tips of things that you need to consider when planning a virtual event.
1. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE: Who is this event aimed at? What do they need to learn? Who do they need to learn from? Does it need to be interactive? When you put your audience at the heart of your planning, you will design a better event.
2. CHOOSE THE RIGHT TIME OF DAY: Again, think about your audience. What is the time of day that they are most likely to tune in and participate in your event? Is it an early morning briefing session, a morning conference, a lunch and learn, a full day conference, or an evening time webinar? You want to maximise your audience, therefore staging the event at the right time of day will help you to do that.
3. DURATION OF EVENT: What’s their tolerance threshold for watching an online event? Physical events have natural breaking points in them e.g. coffee breaks, lunch or workshops and networking sessions. But virtual events are far more intense. So think about audience tolerance levels more carefully than you do with the physical event.
4. FORMAT OF YOUR EVENT: How long will your audience sit and listen to or watch a presentation? How do you break up those sessions to keep your audience interested and engaged? You will need to create a detailed running order to share with your AV team. So a top tip is to document the format of your event during the early stage of planning and this will give you a great structure from the start.
5. WORKSHOPS / PANEL DISCUSSIONS: The live stream technology platforms allow you to create “rooms” so you can still have breakouts, workshops and panel discussions. Be creative with the format of your event, knowing that the technology can support you.
6. EXHIBITIONS: Sponsors are often a crucial part of funding events and it’s important to give them a chance to engage with attendees. Taking your event online doesn’t mean ruling out exhibitors and sponsors. Depending on which technology you choose, you can offer your sponsors the opportunity to connect and have one-to-one appointments with attendees. They can also promote their goods and services, showcase videos of their products, upload brochures and so much more.
7. HOST WITH THE MOST: An online audience needs somebody who carries the event and walks them through it. Whether you pick a professional MC or somebody from within your organisation, having that key person is really important for the audience experience.
8. THE TECHIE BIT: This is probably the part that most clients find daunting … getting the right technical set-up for your event. Managing live links with speakers across the country and across the world as well as taking care of your audience is not a task for the faint hearted.This is probably the part that most clients find daunting … getting the right technical set-up for your event. Managing live links with speakers across the country and across the world as well as taking care of your audience is not a task for the faint hearted.
When planning a physical event, you don’t scrimp on your AV set-up and nor should you with a virtual event. Having a professional streaming service manage the technical part of your event is an important investment. Completing tech checks, rehearsal, teeing-up graphics, cueing speakers from remote locations, vision mixing – all these things matter in delivering a professional remote event. Make sure you have an experienced professional team working with you on your livestream event.
And remember, just because there are free streaming and video conferencing facilities available doesn’t mean that they are right for your event.
9. LOCATION! LOCATION! LOCATION! Some virtual events will still need the support services of a venue, such as accommodation, food and beverage etc. Others won’t. But as you plan your virtual event, think about the location that it should be hosted in. Should it be an in-house studio at your AV company premises? Or could it be a venue such as a theatre or auditorium? Many venues now offer in-house live streaming facilities so perhaps they could be right for you. Think about the technical and logistical requirements of your event and allow that to guide you in selecting the right location for your broadcast.
10. PRACTISE MAKES PERFECT: Schedule a rehearsal, for two really good reasons:
- The rehearsal gives you time to tech check with your contributors – to check their cameras, mics, backgrounds, broadband speeds etc. This gives you comfort and minimises the likelihood of any technical difficulties on the day.
- Remember, staging an online event is new territory for you and for many of your speakers. By rehearsing your event, you ensure that your MC, speakers, facilitators and workshop leaders all feel comfortable and confident in the role that they play. This ensures a better experience for your attendees.
11. MAKE YOUR AUDIENCE COMFORTABLE: What information do they need to ensure they can login easily? Send them clear instructions 7-10 days before the event and send them a reminder with those details 24 hours beforehand. Assume that most people don’t check those notes until minutes before the conference starts so make sure you have your team ready to deal with last minute login queries.
If it’s a day-long conference, use the facilities in the livestream platform to include a schedule so the audience can follow the event. Consider adding a downloadable conference brochure or speaker notes.
12. BOOKINGS, PAYMENT & GDPR: We recommend that you still manage the booking and payment system in the same way that you would ordinarily, on your own booking platform. This gives you control over the data and revenue collected.
Once their booking is complete, redirect attendees to the event website to allow them to create their own username and password to access the conference. Be rigid about the amount of information gathered in this process. We recommend just name and email address so that you don’t run into GDPR issues. After the event, download the list of people who attended and give clear instructions to the live streaming provider that your attendance list should be deleted.
13. SECURITY: You wouldn’t allow just anybody to walk into your event. In the same way, security for your online event is also crucially important. Make sure to choose a platform that allows your attendees to create a unique username and password to access the conference.
14. RECORD YOUR EVENT: You are essentially producing a TV show from your event. Get permission from speakers and record the event so that the various speeches/elements can be packaged as individual segments and shared on member platforms or social media.
15. FINISHING TOUCHES: Essentially, when you’re bringing an event online you are now creating a television show. Planning is critically important. Think about your event moment by moment. What do your audience see, hear, feel? What do you need to deliver on each of those things? Plan your graphics, music and links to give it a polished, professional finish.
AND FINALLY, BE CREATIVE AND HAVE FUN: this is a really exciting time for events. In the past we were limited in the speakers we could approach because sometimes it was just not viable to have them travel halfway around the world. But now we can approach international speakers and invite them to participate. We can also be creative and imaginative in designing the format of our events. Yes, staging events online is different. But using your detailed planning skills and imagination opens up so many opportunities.
You can be scared of it or you can be excited by it. Which option are you going for? Lead the way. Be innovative. Be ambitious. Enjoy the new opportunities that this online world is bringing to you and your events.
And don’t forget, if we can help in any way just reach out and give us a call on 041 9830142 or buzz Karen directly on 087 8131901 … we’d love to help!