Your Guide to Hosting Great Virtual Events
2020 has proven to be a year of new possibilities as the COVID-19 pandemic pushes event planners, speakers, and entertainers to recreate their usual events in a virtual world.
As a Speakers Bureau that also provides Speaker Coaching services, Talk Boutique quickly evolved with the times and developed the “Virtual Speakers Series”. We created two formats; the “Changemaker20” (a 20-minute, moderated Ask Me Anything), and our new “Sense Making Conversations” (a 45-mintue, virtual lunch-and-learn experience.)
The results have been very promising, and we have learned a ton! However, we recently realized that many are still struggling to make the transition, so we compiled this useful little guide to help you bring your live events online.
Considering all the options now, it can be challenging to choose the perfect platform. However, our friends at Imperative Impact put together a great overview of different VEP options in a simple one-page summary that evaluates the broad range of options, ranging from Zoom to VirBELA. Take a look to find the best platform for you!
How to choose a platform:
- Opt for ease of access
Attendees want your technology to be intuitive and easy to navigate. Therefore, we use Zoom Webinar for its ubiquity. After all, your attendees don’t want another hassle, they want a smooth experience.
- Consider interactive tool for interactive events
Recently, we’ve considered curating an interactive experience within a closed event and have been reviewing VirBELA’s potential. As an avatar-driven experience that lets you move around a virtual campus, it’s fun and engaging. However, organizers need to create the virtual experience itself, which can be time consuming and costly.
- Adapt to the situation’s needs
While Zoom allows for easy screen shares, it shrinks presenters to a tiny window in the corner, despite the importance of body language in any effective presentation. If your event has a lot of presentation decks, look for solutions that allows your presenters to be at least as large as presentation deck.
- Manage your registration
Review the registration options available, such as automatically emailing, updating, and integrating with calendar applications. Some can even integrate with other marketing and automation tools for tracking purposes!
- Test, test, test
Regardless of your choices, put the platform through rigorous testing before your first event. What are the bandwidth restrictions? What are the drains? In an early event, we made all participants visible and quickly overwhelmed the bandwidth. We were also surprised to discover that some people weren’t, shall we say, “camera-ready” …
Technology shapes the boundaries, but your choices shape the experience.
Our Talk Boutique events are meant to be a “Virtual Lunch & Learn,” so we keep them fun and easy. There’s one speaker, a clear talk, and simple Q&A formats. The focus is on our guests and their experience.
Map the experience
No matter the event, you should always evaluate the audience’s journey. Create an experience map detailing every touchpoint and look for opportunities to create engagement. It’s no different from a live event. You’re simply looking at the software as the venue.
Explore new potential
Could your attendees benefit from virtual white boards, separate breakout rooms, simple polls, or interactive games? They’re all possible in a virtual event and should be encouraged. Take some time to research the grand potential of this new landscape.
Organize a trial session
You’re in charge of the stage experience. Except, now, the “stage” is every presenter’s home office, so consider the look and feel that you want. Arrange a pre-production session with your speakers and have them ready with their stage. If you have several presenters, do it with the entire group, so you can get the guest’s perspective in advance.
Pre-production Session Focus
- Create standards for a consistent guest experience. (Common background, dress code, preventions for background noise and distractions.)
- Let the presenters know if they should stand or sit. (Formal vs intimate.)
- Plan for the hand-off between speaker, host, and speaker again. Ensure that the host knows to create a through-line across the event
- Assign control of the event’s technology. (Who will have a backup of all the visuals? Be controlling the screen-share? Recording the event?)
Your speakers, presenters, and entertainers (a.k.a the Talent) are the spice that makes your events worthwhile. Talent will make or break an event, so it’s important to empower them as much as possible.
Choose Talent that understands how to transpose a stage presentation into the virtual arena. Ask for example videos or to see them present virtually for a few minutes. Provide them with insight into your audience’s preferences and ensure they have everything they need to be successful.
Keep them visible
Explore creative ways to move between the presenter and their visuals, to avoid losing audience interest. It’s important for attendees to see the facial features and body language of the presenter, as a large part of all human communication is rooted in visual cues.
Drive engagement between the presenter and their audience, by encouraging them to use the chat, Q&A, and breakout rooms. There are lots of opportunities to spark engagement. However, the presenter must possess both the knowledge and with authentic desire.
Don’t skimp on talent
The experience of your event is important and your talent is the primary magnet that attracts attendees. Establishing the best possible outcome for your event, means securing great Talent. These are individuals who are presenting their life’s work. Giving a virtual presentation takes the same amount of knowledge, preparation, and skill. Only the travel/out-of-office time is different. Therefore, you should expect to pay 75% of their typical fee.
Looking to organize an unforgettable virtual event? Get in touch with us to discover how easy it can be!
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Very informative and enlightening! This has actually prompted me.