This is part 2 in iQ 360’s series of posts about virtual event planning. Read part 1 for an overview of ideas and tips for virtual events, including how to reach new audiences and come up with creative formats for your event.
More and more organizations are turning to virtual events to stay engaged with their audiences during this extended hiatus from in-person gatherings. Some of the largest face-to-face events are transforming into online webinars, concerts, conferences and fundraisers.
While many of the same principles of event planning apply, planning a virtual event has a whole other set of considerations. Perhaps you are already in the middle of planning a digital event and have ideas on how to keep your audience engaged. What’s next?
Read on for a process overview to help you plan your next virtual event.
Create a game plan
Think carefully about what you want to achieve and the experience you want to deliver. Do you want it to be a one-way meeting? Do you want people to be able to weigh in? Will you have videos, photos or a slideshow?
Know your platform’s capabilities and settings
Having a full understanding of your platform’s tools and settings will help you decide the appropriate setup for your meeting. It is important to familiarize yourself with different functions like webinars versus meetings, chat versus Q&A. Also, consider account capabilities. Zoom has different prices and plans based on the number of participants, and can host up to 50,000 attendees in a webinar. Bandwidth is also a major consideration if your audience is joining using one company server.
Think about your participants
Even if your attendees and speakers are digitally savvy, it is best to communicate the basics of the event ahead of time, such as access links or codes, event length, instructions to join, and the format for submitting questions or participating. Also, be sure you are setting expectations in your promotions. For example, don’t call your online gathering a “festival” if it’s actually a webinar.
The Run Through
Designate a producer
A producer keeps everything running smoothly on the day of the event. This person will closely monitor the technical aspects and flow of the program, transition between speakers and keep the event on schedule.
Work with the producer to develop a production schedule that serves as a timeline for the event. It should include information for each speaker — whether they’ll need certain setups during their time, such as a shared screen or presentation — transitions, and timing between each event segment.
Test and re-test
Dry runs are standard practice for any event, whether it occurs online or in the real world. Test the angle of the camera and evaluate the look of the frame. Ensure the area where you are filming is well lit, preferably with natural light. Check to see that your sound is working and that there are no loud ambient noises nearby, like air conditioners or construction. Enlist a few colleagues to help you test the event link or dial-in.
Run through the production schedule with event speakers, just as you would on the day of the event. Make sure every speaker knows when they are going to be presenting and how much time they have. Practice transitioning between speakers to ensure a seamless experience for participants.
Set the tone
What is the first thing people will see or hear when you join the call? Think about the experience you want them to have and the tone you want to set. Will guests be welcomed with chatty attendees, music or silence? Will they be able to see others in a gallery view, or will there be a static screen?
Advise speakers of appropriate attire. If the event is a town hall addressing employees at a large corporation, a suit jacket may be appropriate, whereas a casual dress code would be suitable for a more informal event. In any case, some patterns and colors tend not to work well with computer cameras, so you may want to suggest speakers stay away from pinstripes, small patterns and neon colors.
Showtime: 1–2 hours before the event
Re-check noises and background
Noise and lighting levels can change day by day. Listen again for audio quality and ensure there are no noises or distractions from background TV, radios, pets or children.
On Zoom, enable a practice mode to allow your panelist to get acquainted before the session is opened to the public. Provide them with a short, pre-event checklist they can run through before showtime to test their sound, microphone, background, lighting, attire and other crucial details.
Consider recording your session
A feature on Zoom allows you to directly record your session from the screen, and will even save audio, chat and video features separately. Consider sharing your materials after the event ends for those who were not able to attend.
Taking your in-person event online requires you to consider a multitude of details. Think about the customer journey and make proper technical preparations to ensure your event is a success.
With the right planning, organizations will be able to leverage this essential medium to generate revenue, gain new customers and communicate important information to their audience.
Want more? Check out the rest of our virtual events series for tips and tactics on connecting with an online audience.
Part 1: Virtual events 101 — overview and ideas
Part 3: 8 technical tips for effortless virtual presenting