BEST PRACTICES FOR VIRTUAL EVENTS
May 22, 2020 | By Hala Bissada, CFRE
As we navigate through this unfamiliar territory, it is critical we understand the importance of human connection. We must find ways to continue to have a dialogue with our key stakeholders—the well-being of our businesses or charitable organizations depend on it.
Virtual events can give you the power to connect with your audiences in a unique way and can be tailored to meet your business and philanthropic objectives.
While we know that virtual events do not hold the same power of face to face interactions, a virtual or hybrid event has many benefits which include providing you with a contingency strategy in the case of extraordinary circumstances that may jeopardize your event.
Are you ready to get digital? Here is what you need to know!
What is a Virtual Event?
A virtual event is any organized meet-up that takes place on-line rather than in a physical location.
They can be as simple as a Coffee Break, Fire Side Chat, Lunch and Learn, Workshop or as elaborate as Conference, Product Launch, Trade Show, Gala or Cultivation Event.
DIRECT BENEFITS TO CREATING AN ON-LINE EVENT
- Create unique and custom experiences for your key stakeholders
- Increase your audience reach
- Prolong your event with on-demand content
- Significantly reduce CO2 emissions
- Save on costs like venue, food & beverage, décor, travel etc.
- Leverage social tools and chats to keep the conversation going
Tips for Hosting a Virtual Event
CREATE A GAME PLAN
- What kind of experience do you want to deliver and what will the elements be?
- Will your event be live, on-demand or both? Which segments will be pre-taped vs. live?
- What software platform is best suited for your needs? Are you going to create a virtual world where guests can create their own avatars and visit various venue spaces, or will you deliver your event as a show or conference with live and pre-taped segments/sessions? Do you need to create a set(s) for pre-taped segments?
- What kind of sponsorship opportunities can you develop?
- Will access be gated or free?
- When is the best date and time to hold your event? Will it be one day or multi-day?
- How will you promote the event? Do you have advertising partners?
- What on-line resources are you going to provide?
- What other AV support will you need?
- What kind of other software integration do you need? i.e. auction, registration, audience response etc.
- What type of analytics are you and your sponsors interested in tracking? What type of reporting will you require? Will you conduct a survey?
- Prepare your critical path
MAKE IT ENGAGING AND INTERACTIVE
- Ensure you have a variety of content. This could include sessions on various topics, Ted-Talk style segments, Q & A’s, Entertainment like a live musical guest, or stand-up comedian, Demonstrations, Behind the Scene Tours, Workshops, Wellness segments e.g. Group Meditation, Video content etc.
- Encourage social sharing—provide hashtags, provide photo opp suggestions etc. and ensure your software is integrated with social media platforms
- Incorporate video-chat break-out rooms/Host virtual roundtable discussions
- Prepare your speakers—presenting to camera vs a live audience is much different
- Utilize audience response software for live polling and Q & A
- Incorporate games i.e. gamification–trivia, escape rooms, scavenger hunts
- For charitable events, include a way to give i.e. Fund-A-Need, On-line Auction and find innovative ways to showcase your work e.g. live tour of an operating suite by a doctor, guided live tour of your work out in the field
OTHER IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS
- Work with Event Planning, AV and Web-Streaming Professionals
- Test the complete AV set-up and software in advance—do a dry run
- Provide your presenters/moderators/entertainers etc. with extensive software instructions and conduct a rehearsal
- Provide guidelines for presentations
- Ensure that content is accessible for the visually challenged and hearing impaired
- Be mindful of length of segments—sitting in front of a computer is a much different way to participate compared to a live event