Organizations around the world and across industries have been forced to either cancel or re-format their events, many of which are critical to the success of the organization itself. While the COVID-19 pandemic may be unprecedented, our team has decades of expertise in event coordination. Here are nine tips for creating an engaging virtual event that stakeholders will want to participate in:
ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
When creating a virtual event, standard event planning rules still apply. Start with developing an event strategy and goals – then let the planning begin. To ensure all your bases are covered, answer the following questions:
- What kind of experience do you want to deliver?
- What is the best platform for the event?
- Will the event be live, recorded or both?
- Will the event require registration?
- Where will the presentation live after the event?
- How will you measure success?
CHECK YOUR TECH
No matter how thorough your planning, last minute issues frequently arise before any event. It’s crucial to have a tech team on standby to troubleshoot any potential problems. Prior to the event, test your internet connection, cameras, microphones and run through your presentation – basically, do a dress rehearsal. A full run-through will allow you and your team to identify and work out any kinks.
Be prepared for some participants to have issues with the technology. At the start of any event, be sure you’ve providing attendees with information on what to do if they run into a problem, such as FAQs page, a hotline to call or a designated person to message.
CHOOSE THE BEST PLATFORM FOR YOUR EVENT
The right venue is key for events. In the virtual world, the same can be said for video platforms. Choosing a platform that is user-friendly and meets the criteria for your event is crucial when you want to deliver a seamless event. To ensure a carefree experience, I recommend choosing a platform that does not require attendees to download software in order to attend the event and make sure the platform is available on any device (computer, tablet, phone, etc.).
SECURE THE RIGHT EMCEE
It’s a challenge to keep the energy and interest up during a long conference or presentation. A good MC knows how to get people engaged, how to pace the ceremony and how get the audience to come back after breaks. Having a good MC also alleviates pressure from the project team, allowing them to focus on executing a seamless event and not worry about entertaining the audience.
Just like a live event, you need to build interest. Determine what makes your event unique and incorporate that unique selling point into your promotional strategy. You should engage with your potential audience well in advance of the event. You can talk about the logistics, what attendees can expect, information on keynote speakers and presentation assets.
Whenever possible, encourage attendees to submit questions, vote for topics that most interest them or create a survey. Gathering this information allows you to customize your event based on participant feedback and establishes communication between host and participant.
With in-person meetings, there are ample opportunities for organic conversations and building connections. It’s much harder to establish a networking environment during a virtual event. Fun, lighthearted icebreakers are a great way to connect remote attendees while also creating an informal atmosphere. Keep your icebreaker universally relatable and focus on neutral topics like cat or dog, favorite vacation, favorite food, etc.
USE INTERACTIVE FEATURES
Encouraging active participation can be a challenge. Fortunately, there are interactive tools like polls, Q&A sessions and chatrooms that allow participants to engage with the host and one another. During your event, break up your presentation content by incorporating video, infographics and photos. Post event, you can encourage participants to share photos using a custom hashtag.
Feedback is a critical part of improving your long-term event strategy. Ask attendees what they enjoyed most, what they didn’t like and what they would like to see at your next event. This feedback allows you to continue improving your event so you can better engage your audience, increate attendance and establish connections.
It’s also important to consider internal team feedback. After the event ends, host a debriefing meeting where the team can discuss what went well, what can be improved and techniques to try at the next event.
Engagement doesn’t end with the event. Engagement can continue as long as your audience is engaged and active. Continue to promote the event by publishing the event recording on your website and link it to your social media channels. Offer merchandise and encourage those who attend the conference or bought merchandise to share photos using a custom hashtag.