Top Tips on How to be a Virtual Success
In an industry where technology is usually a scary concept for clients to handle, the world of events was thrown into a virtual universe and it happened pretty much overnight. People have adapted well to shifting meetings and catch ups to video calls but are we getting virtual events right? It seems easy enough; set up a call, get some speakers to talk from their home offices, plaster it all over LinkedIn as an “event” and off you go. But if you want a successful, engaging, virtual episode that delivers the returns you are hoping for, then there are some simple points you should consider that could help.
Events have always carried big benefits – engagement, brand awareness, new business opportunities and so on. And as humans, successful physical meets have played to our sensory needs – the smell of pastries on arrival, uplifting music, interactive elements. But now we are welcoming hosted events on the web, we aren’t facing the same barriers, in fact the benefits could be greater:
o Smaller budgets
o Ability to secure speakers for lower fees
o Accessible to attendees across the world
o No travel or accommodation for attendees
o Ability to record and save content without a crew
o Delegates are able to have more engagement
o No venue required
o No capacity limitations
o Potential for better data capture
So what should we be thinking of when planning?
1. Keep it relevant
Sounds too obvious to miss but it happens. Particularly now, the business landscape and restrictions are ever changing so offering tips and advice that viewers are unable to implement is pointless and could affect the credibility around future online webinars you put together. Work to a tighter planning timeline and keep your ear to the ground to ensure the content is applicable to the current climate. Take the time to see what everyone else is talking about and avoid it unless you have something new or valuable to bring to the table. When choosing your speakers consider the format and how they can contribute to your story. Ok, we aren’t writing a novel but as Steve Jobs claimed, “the most powerful person in the world is a storyteller”. Think about who your following is already, this is a captive audience ready to take what you give them so choose your subject matter wisely.
2. Timing is everything
With the new norm now the online way, we are becoming “webinar blind”. In the beginning it was more of a novelty seeing faces in their own homes and communicating through a computer screen, but now they run the risk of being as engaging as the classroom on a sunny day. Keep it short and interesting, if it’s you or a group of speakers, rehearse and be strict with the length of content needed. According to The Guardian, studies have shown that the digital world and its distractions have affected our ability to concentrate on pretty much anything.
Use a virtual host! A compere or host is the best way to keep things to time, their job is primarily is to ensure content runs to time so think of bringing someone in who is engaging and runs a tight ship.
Publish the split of timings so if there are multiple speakers or topics, viewers can join for the snippets they are really interested in. 10% of viewers drop off during webinars, so give them the ability to cut down their view time.
Much like live events think about the time of day and week you plan to host your session. Avoid first early Monday mornings when individuals could be planning their week ahead or joining team planning calls. Don’t host calls during lunch time or late afternoon on Friday where engagement levels are naturally lower.
3. Keep it real
The kitchen cupboards, a pile of ironing or the spare bedroom/dumping ground aren’t desirable backgrounds for an event but importing yourself on the San Francisco bridge isn’t so good for your brand image either. There’s a time and place for green screen - perhaps you have a work happy hour, at a click of a button you’re whisked into an English pub with a pint at your desk *cheers to that*.
It’s ok to be realistic and relatable, the world’s office is now their home so keep it that way. Use a neutral wall or area and make the most of looking smart and presentable for your audience. However, as a professional speaker in the virtual events world, audiences are now at a point where they will expect you to take the time to consider your backdrop and get creative. If you have the time and money consider a quality pull up banner with your brand
or logo on there, that can be reused for further sessions or when live events restart.Why?Events have produced these for a variety of clients looking to keep professional on screen – get in touch to see how we can help you.
4. Choosing the right platform
When considering which platform is right for you, there are plenty of elements that can influence your decision as each of them have different features. Take the time to review features such as the ability to live broadcast and record content. Perhaps you want to create something that emulates live events as much as possible so consider software that can create a virtual walkthrough, exhibition space or breakout rooms – this can carry a hefty price tag! Zoom is a great starter if your event is purely about speakers and content, plus you can enable live Q&A which is an effective way to keep engagement levels high.
5. Lets get technical
This is the seemingly scary bit but it’s actually just a case of preparation. Whether you’re a tech whiz or a novice, a hiccup can happen in the middle of a gig but with a little bit of brain power, it’s easy to hide them from your viewers or deal with them in a savvy way.
So the first BIG one – brief, brief and brief again. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve logged into an online webinar, seminar, round table and one of the speakers is doing things their way or going totally off on a tangent. Think about how you would want this to work in a live environment, how off putting is it for a keynote speaker to use a script or read a presentation word for word? It’s an audience killer and guess what? People can actually walk out of your online event so before you know it, your panellists are the only ones still logged on - embarrassing. Give them a strict time slot and specific content to cover, be really clear about what the focus should be. Remember, the greatest of speakers might not create the same spark via a computer so speaker research and rehearsals are more important than ever before.
Expect technical faults. Be prepared for screen freezes, speaker buffer faces and so on. Have your meeting host have a holding screen on standby should this happen – in an ideal world, your host should be a silent participant on hand to act fast in the case of any mishaps. This will avoid the awkward “wait for restart” moment when two seconds feels like five minutes – you are owning the situation professionally. This also goes back to briefing. If you brief your speakers about what the process is if something goes wrong, it works a lot better. How many times have you had a speaker on stage panic and announce “the clicker is broken” when actually they are hitting it too quickly with nerves?
Rehearse it. On zoom you can set up a waiting room so get your speakers online early and do a final run through just before, so it’s still fresh in their minds. Test the audio, the speakers, their positioning – cover all bases.
Record it! Lets not reinvent the wheel here – you’re producing great content, why not use it as part of a campaign? Chop it up and edit it or make it available to view at a later date. Perhaps your following will need to sign up to do so, that way you can increase viewers and data capture continually.
At the end of the day, we are humans adapting to being fully reliant on tech so don’t panic, react and move on. Your audience will focus on how well you dealt with the problem.