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8 Tips for Virtual Events

I miss people.

If you are like me, you really want to get together with people, but you aren’t sure when that is going to be and when others are going to be comfortable getting together.

Yes. I miss people, but I am also not chomping at the bit to be at an event with 200 people either.

Did you put off an event from 2020?

Do you have an audience that isn’t comfortable meeting yet?

Are you just not sure when you will be able to be in person?

Then this blog is for you.

Virtual events are not easy, and I definitely don’t believe they are easier than in-person events.

They are much more orchestrated and not nearly as flexible as in-person events.

Here are a few things to think about for your virtual events:

  1. Define the event’s purpose and goals.
  2. Select your technology based on your goals.
  3. Create an agenda and stick to it.
  4. Pre-record 75-85% of the event.
  5. Promote your event.
  6. Prepare or educate your attendees on how to participate.
  7. Engage your attendees.
  8. Evaluate and plan again.

Define your event’s purpose and goals.

Yes. It sounds obvious and easy, but this is a step that is regularly overlooked.

Are you planning a fundraiser to raise money and awareness?

Are you planning a corporate event with a goal of education or connection?

The purpose of your event and your goals for the event can dictate a lot of things from the technology you use to your agenda and your promotion of the event.

Here are a few questions you can answer to help establish your purpose and goals:

  • Who is your audience? Is it employees, customers, prospects, donors, volunteers, members?
  • What do you want them to do following or during the event? Do you need them to take a specific action to support you or do you want them to apply things later?
  • What measurable results are you looking to achieve that will help determine if the event is a success?

Once you have your purpose and goals, then you need to work on your technology.

Selecting the right technology.

This is super easy, right?

Wrong.

There are a million options out there for technology.

Depending on your event goal and who you want to reach, that can greatly change your technology requirements.

I use Streamyard a lot for live virtual events that are shared with the public. It’s a great tool that allows me to live stream to Facebook and YouTube and a landing page all at the same time. (Interested in learning more? Check out my product review of Streamyard here.)

It’s a great tool if you have a public audience and you want it to be easy for them to tune into your event. Most people know how to visit a website or click on a YouTube link and even watch a Facebook Live video.

However, it isn’t necessarily a good solution if you are going to cover confidential information, if you are looking to have breakout groups, need to track attendance or if you are going to charge a fee for people to attend your meeting.

I have used Zoom, Zoom Webinar, Bizzabo, and others to manage different events with different goals.

Again, it is all about your goals.

I have two upcoming virtual events that I am working on and they will be using two different systems for their events.

  1. Zoom- they need breakout groups and have the system already.
  2. Zoom Webinar- they want to charge for attendance and want to leverage a platform their attendees are comfortable with.

Yes. Zoom and Zoom Webinar are different.

If you want to see one of my webinars in Zoom, please jump over to the Events tab on the website and sign up for my February 18, 2021 webinar. Starting in March, I will be migrating to Demio, which is a really neat webinar tool that will allow for more interaction. Be sure to check out the Events tab and see what webinars are coming up, so that you can see how that system works.

Anyway, determine your goals and then look for the technology to meet your goals.

Remember your technology is now your venue so you may have to make an investment and depending on the features and benefits you want to have, it could be significant.

Create an agenda.

Yes, you need an agenda. I refer to my event agendas as a “run of show.”

The run of show for a virtual event is very detailed and will have a ton of pieces that go together with timing.

Whether you consider your attendees to be participants or spectators (determined by your goals and technology) you need to engage them and keep them watching.

Each segment should be 1-5 minutes. Most segments I create are 2-3 minutes for a one-hour fundraiser and that means that we have 20 or so segments in a 1 hour show.

Yes. It is stressful and your adrenaline will be flowing once you are done moving all the pieces around.

You can have longer segments depending on your goals, but remember when there is a presentation your attendees are watching, they are watching TV and TV shows move fast through a story. Also, the key to that isn’t how fast but the story piece.

Tell a story.

Even if you are creating a corporate event, you can still tell a story to keep people engaged. I love TED talks and watch them regularly. They are short, about 12-15 minutes in length, but the way they tell the stories, they draw you in. Nancy Duarte talks about how to structure a great presentation in this TED video.

This tells you that you can have a person talk for more than 1-5 minutes, but they have to do it well and if you listen to Nancy speak, she covers multiple topics and tells you a story. It keeps moving.

It keeps you engaged.

A lot of people ask me how long a video should be when they are recording it. And yes, many virtual events are either one long video with lots of little pieces or short videos over a few days with breakout rooms and other engagements.

So, how long should your videos or segments be?

How long or short (depending on the presenter it is a different question) do you need to be to cover the information?

A lot of people assume it is less than 2 minutes.

That’s a good rule, but on Facebook, videos that are longer than 3.5 minutes get more engagement.

Yes. Longer videos get more engagement.

Probably because they cover the topic more thoroughly than promotional videos that need to be short.

Be interesting.

Add value.

Tell a story (not in addition to your presentation, but as your presentation), and you can be longer than you think.

Your run of show is your bible. You need to stick to it and keep on time.

Depending on how much of it is live, it can change a bit as someone gets a bit long-winded. But you put those time frames there for a reason when you thought through your run of show.

Stick to them.

This is a great transition to our next point on virtual events- pre-record.

Pre-record most of your event.

Yes. Pre-record your event if you have a lot of moving pieces.

Think of a meeting you have been in where someone couldn’t dial in.

Someone else couldn’t turn on their camera.

Someone else had a bunch of noise in the background.

Another person had a dog barking, you could hear a snowplow in the background (all I hear right now is Beeep, beeep, beeep, as it backs up) and their kids yelling about where their backpack was.

Yep.

These are the joys of virtual meetings.

However, your virtual event is not something where you want to have all these technical issues.

I do encourage you to have some level of live elements like an emcee or Q&A.

However, you want to pre-record.

Depending on the size of your budget, you should focus on production quality. It does matter.

I have a backdrop and lighting and microphones for the virtual events I run out of my office. Most of my events are lower budget in the production area so I also use Streamyard at times to record, but it really comes down to what your event goals are and the expectations of your audience.

You can ask people to pre-record their portions and then pay for editing.

Again, it comes down to what you need to do to achieve your goals.

Promote your event.

Throughout 2020 people were able to throw things together last minute and prior to that, you needed to market an event for 6-8 weeks to get attendance.

This is something you need to figure out based on your audience.

If you are planning a weeklong corporate event in October then sending out a save the date in February isn’t a bad idea.

Planning a fundraiser in July?

Go ahead and send a save the date in February too.

Your promotion can go up until the day of or day before the event.

Promotion of the event can include:

  • your website
  • social media
  • email marketing- one of my favorites
  • physical, mailed invitations- one of the most effective! (This is awesome for nonprofits and can bring in a lot of money!)
  • partner organizations- your local chamber
  • Eventbrite- it includes some promotion and people look at it all the time

There are a ton of options to promote your event, but the important piece is to promote it to the audience you want to attend.

Prepare or educate your attendees on how to participate.

Yes, there are people who don’t know how to use Zoom.

They haven’t been in a Zoom breakout.

They don’t know what a virtual event is or is supposed to do.

They don’t know if they need to do their hair. (This is huge for a lot of us women out there.) Yes, I do get that question before some of my meetings.

Moving on.

You can’t over-communicate on how to participate in your event.

I had this issue with a few of my early on virtual events.

I didn’t understand.

How can you not understand that the event will be on YouTube?

You will click a link and watch it.

You could watch it on any device you had (except flip phones.  Yes, there are people that still have flip phones. No judging. Sometimes I wish I had a flip phone, but then I get lost and need directions and get over that feeling pretty fast.)

Anyway, you need to consider sending communications about how to participate, what level of participation you are expecting, and even an overview of the system.

I like to post these as private or unlisted videos on YouTube or Vimeo and then link to them. That way, those who want the extra information can watch them, but those who are good and comfortable with the technology can just keep going.

So, if I could leave you with three things, they would be:

Communicate.

Communicate.

Communicate.

It really does help as people that are unsure may not tune in.

No one wants to feel stupid.

I remember during the pandemic of 2020 that I was hesitant to go to the grocery store- we didn’t know anything back then. There were a bunch of one-way signs that I had heard about. I didn’t go to the grocery store for 8 weeks and was nervous.

I didn’t want to get yelled at like the lady in the meme on Facebook.

Eventually, I went to the store and looked carefully for the arrows and directions and the markers on the floors.

Nowadays I try to follow the arrows, as best as possible but the 40 other people that went the wrong way down the aisle at Kroger weren’t kicked out of the store, so it is a much better environment.

It sounds funny but it is true.

Make your attendees comfortable in advance.

Engage your attendees.

Depending on your goals and the technology you chose, there may be limited options for this, but you can always ask people to sign in and chat and do other activities to let you know they are there and you can engage with them.

Acknowledge them.

Ask questions.

Answer questions.

Encourage them to be part of your program.

They may be checking email or texting too, be sure to engage them on their 2nd and 3rd screens. Social is a good way to get people posting and sharing.

Remember, during the presentations, they are pretty much-watching TV, so engaging them with great content and interactivity options is really important.

Evaluate and plan again.

There is something that went wrong or didn’t turn out like you would have liked or you know there is a better way to have done it.

This is important.

Survey your attendees and figure out how to do it better the next time.

Then, start over and start planning.

Good luck with your next event.

If you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out, we would love to discuss options with you and provide suggestions to improve your next event.