There are a hundred platforms and a hundred video streaming services. Your organization can go live on Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, YouTube, and LinkedIn. There are no shortage of options to reach your members and attendees but that may not be what is keeping you from success. The key to having an amazing virtual experience is the actual experience. Are you delivering the best possible product and are you engaging with your members in the best possible way.
When our clients are looking to get started with virtual or hybrid events, these are some of the tips we share so that they can create an environment and program that attendees will love, speakers will enjoy, and sponsors will appreciate. Pleasing all of the stakeholders is tough but it can be done if you have a good plan and a great team!
Delivering a Better Virtual Event
Examine your agenda
One of the hardest things for any organization to do is look at their abilities and bandwidth before plunging headlong into something that may be bigger than they or their attendees can handle. This is especially true the first time out of the virtual gate. Done right, a smaller, more concise program that delivers real value will be much more rewarding for your attendees. Always remember, the more moving parts, the greater chance of failure.
Rethink your formats
Just because keynotes, workshops, and multiple breakouts are amazing when you are at your live event, they may not be the best format for your virtual conference. Interactive panel discussions, open forum and “ask me anything” sessions have a far more positive attendee reaction than a talk-at-me speaker and slide session.
Shorter sessions are better
Attention spans were bad. Covid-19 has made them horrible. The kids are home, the partner is working at the dining room table, the roommate has an unnatural appreciation for 70s punk rock, and your poor attendee in the middle of it is trying to give 100%. Let them know you care by having some sessions that are quick and to the point.
Speaking of short, if your annual conference is pivoting to virtual, considering doing some quick bites in the weeks leading up the event. These short sessions can give your attendees an idea of what they are going to experience and will give you a chance to practice on your new platform. You can also use these sessions as a marketing tool to get those fence-sitters to register.
Know your technology
Nothing is going to go well if the first time you are using your platform is the first day of the event. Practice, practice, practice. Here at i3, we will generally schedule three half day dry runs for a multi-day online conference. Everyone gets a chance to try it out and make mistakes including staff, speakers, and sponsors. Knowing what you are doing will make the process seamless for the attendees and eliminate many headaches that could have been avoided.
Train your speakers
I don’t care if your speakers are old pros who have been delivering online content since the old days of 2008. If they want to speak, they have to at least login for a dry run so that your team is familiar with them and how they operate. For clients, we customize an event specific speaker cheat sheet but you can swipe this generic version. Speakers who are new to virtual presenting will appreciate that you know some cool tidbits about presenting in the age of the living room stage.
Attendees might have horrible WiFi
Sometimes WiFi sucks. Sometimes the internet won’t work. Sometimes it happens on the day of your event. Unfortunately, even if it isn’t your fault, it is going to be your problem. That is the nature of game and now that everyone including Aunt Becky and Cousin Bobby are home watching Netflix 24 hours a day, it is only going to get worse so you need to have a plan for those attendees. A dial in number is good but having your sessions available on-demand at a later date is even better.
Not everyone is tech savvy
Always think about the nontechnical people among us. They are here and they need help. Don’t fight it, embrace it. For any program, we have technical support ready to go. At one recent virtual event, our staff fielded 157 text requests for support through a website chat-bot and 22 phone calls. All were resolved and the attendees were left with a positive experience, not a frustrating one.
Studies show gamification works
There are a million ways to Gamify your event. Points for visiting exhibitors virtual booths, points for watching sessions, points for interacting with other attendees…. It may sound silly but the studies back up the notion that games keep people engaged, they will watch more, and they will learn more when there is a challenge. How much more? That is still open to debate but every little bit helps.
Last but certainly not least….
Done is better than perfect.
One of the most disappointing things to see is an organization that loses an opportunity because they were spending all their time trying to make their event perfect letting a competitor launch first or causing attendees to move on. Remember, doing your best is great, being perfect is impossible so let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work and launch the best virtual program possible!