Have you ever attended an online class or virtual event? Nowadays, the likelihood is very high. Have you ever hosted or co-hosted one? These 10 tips will help you make a successful virtual event every time!
For nearly a decade, I have reached out to my international audience via online videos and vlogs here in Venice, Italy. Walking through the city as I speak while teaching a particular subject or interviewing a guest, my videos are like virtual tours of Venice.
This past Spring, the world was almost brought to a complete standstill because of Coronavirus. “What would become of the tourist and entertainment industry?,” I thought. I came up with some ideas and discussed them at a virtual music industry event hosted by Jeff Pulver, the founder of VoIP (voice over the internet).
My main point was that people may not be able to travel right now, but they still want entertainment!
So, why was I at a music industry event?
Because a vibrant music industry fuels growth in so many areas, including a city’s tourism development. And tourism, of course, is Venice’s main industry. Venice has many classic music concerts and is also near the famous Verona Arena, one of the most well-known outdoor music concert venues worldwide.
Since then, I have encouraged organizations around the world, as well as potential participants, to view the virtual space as having potential that is as unlimited as the places one could go online.
Just as for decades people have enjoyed other modes of entertainment from the comfort of their homes, like tv or film, a virtual event can be entertaining, engaging and best of all, interactive and participatory. I will share with you what I realized early on, and some ideas about how to make a virtual event successful.
1. Promoting a Virtual Event
Make a promotional schedule. A good rule of thumb is to begin promotions two to three weeks before the event. Use great graphics and a free program like Canva to make an eye-catching advertisement. Remember to consider the time zones for your target audience and choose accordingly for maximum viewership.
2. Collabs and Merch
Many successful events are collaborations. If you will be selling tickets to attend, many are more inclined to attend when an event is associated with fundraising for an organization, where a portion of the proceeds are donated. Also, pre-selling merchandise at the time of ticket sales or even during the event can contribute to the event’s success. This works especially well for concerts.
I’ve found that proper preparation and system checks make all the difference when working in the virtual space.
30 minutes prior to each event, I sign in and meet the event host for a sound check. We also check the visuals, including camera angles, virtual backgrounds and lighting.
4. Houston, We Don’t Have A Problem
Whichever platform you decide to use, become very familiar with the program controls. For example, Zoom offers an abundance of information on the ins and outs of using the program. There are also plenty of how-to videos available on the internet.
Make a list and double check that you have everything that you will need to make reference to during the event. If you will be showing slides or a video, you will need to have screen sharing capability. Discuss this prior with the host and ensure that the host has given you access to screen sharing before the start of the event, so that everything will flow smoothly.
This will also help you avoid that awkward disruption caused by waiting for the host to figure out how to hand over the controls to you. And in your Zoom settings, in the ‘Screen Share’ section, you can further avoid unexpected computer sounds by checking off: ‘SIlence system notifications when sharing desktop’.
Another Important Point
Have all of your slides and graphics prepared and open on your screen before the event begins. You can either have them open and minimized or leave them up on the screen in the order of how you will be using them, one behind the other.
Eliminating that lag time between finding and opening documents is key to keeping the momentum going during an event. Also, keep a physical copy of your text as a backup. These details will come together easily with a little planning, and will add to the overall success of the event.
Consider the Details
An appropriate background can make all the difference in the presentation, whether natural or a graphic. For a celebratory event, perhaps use a screen shot of balloons with a congratulatory message to give it that party feel. For a professional event, I recommend sending each speaker the same graphic with the organization logo, name of event and the participant’s name. This works especially well for a panel, when multiple speakers are simultaneously on-screen. It gives a very professional look and also reminds viewers who is currently speaking.
Chat It Up
Encourage people to use the chat box. People can message the entire room or they can click on a person’s name to message them individually. This encourages networking and lends a communal feel to the event. It’s also great for Q & A. If possible, have someone besides the host monitor the questions, so the event keeps up a good pace. The chat can also be easily saved and printed by the participants at the end of the event, or anytime they need to leave.
Keep in mind that messages sent to an individual aren’t actually private, rather they are just directed to a particular participant. (I found this out when my husband attended one of my events and messaged me individually in the chat to tell me how proud he was……little heart emojis and all)! Anything written in the chat box is visible to everyone and every message will be printed with the others.
5. A Virtual Room with a Great View
In addition to the main virtual room, Zoom also offers breakout rooms. These are great for networking and meeting people. The host can place specific people in additional separate rooms or the program can choose the participants randomly. You can set the amount of time participants will remain in each breakout room. Guests will see a pop-up notification on the screen letting them know they will soon be transported back to the main room.
6. No Dead Air
There’s nothing worse on a radio show than dead air, which is when there is nothing but silence over the airwaves. The same is true for a virtual event. Be sure to have a confirmed event schedule with a specific timeframe. Each speaker should be emailed a copy of the schedule so they know these three key things: when they will speak, for how long and who they follow. This will help make the program as seamless as possible.
7. Cocktail Hour…..Almost!
Many guests sign in to virtual events early, so it is best to have the guests gather in the waiting room. Guests should not be in the main room during the sound/visual checks and should only be brought into the main room when the event begins. This adds to the professionalism and anticipation of the event.
8. Are You Ready for a Successful Virtual Event?
Be sure to have your phone on silent and to shut off notifcations. Even if notifications are on silent, they can still pop up while you are screen sharing. (Not everyone needs to know that you are out of toilet paper)! You can also put your phone on ‘Do Not Disturb’. If necessary, you can set the ‘Do Not Disturb’ in your phone settings to allow your favorite contacts or repeat calls to come through. This can and should still be on silent mode.
Close the door of the room you are in, check the room temperature and listen for any other sounds that could disturb the event, like a noisy fan or air conditioner. And if you have one, unplug your land line. (What is that?).
9. Get Your Event Off to a Great Start
If you are a guest speaker, supply the host with your introduction information ahead of time. If you are the host, review the information so your guest speaker feels welcomed and appreciated. A proper introduction shows your guest speaker that you value them and the time they put in to prepare for your event. No one wants to sound like they are boasting, so unless it was specifically agreed upon in advance, don’t make the guest introduce himself. The introduction is the time to honor your guest speaker, but perhaps more importantly, the opportunity to get your audience excited about his or her credentials and the topic to be spoken about.
Remember, since the host will speak first, he or she sets the tone of the event. It’s crucial that both the welcome/opening remarks and the guest speaker introduction be pre-planned and said with a smile and energy to get the crowd excited.
10. No Passport Required!
Although nothing can replace being there in person, a virtual event will not only transport you to a destination that isn’t accessible to you today, but opens the world up to places that you may not have ever dreamed of going or may not have the chance to visit.
We are living in very special times where, if we harness the power of the technology available to us, we can accomplish much more than we ever thought possible. And at the same time, make the world a much smaller place.
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If you had a chance to go anywhere in the world virtually, where would you choose? Let me know in the comments below.