We are all going through SO much change in our world and this industry! But if you’re anything like us, you’re embracing it with all you’ve got, and using the time to get trained up on all things virtual, because the landscape of options is a lot bigger and wider than maybe any of us really knew before now. You’re probably also spending a lot of time in virtual meetings, webinars and virtual events, looking to learn and absorb as much as possible – there’s a TON out there, so much that you’re probably now also needing to prioritize what you spend your time attending.
In the first few weeks of quarantine, there was a lot of grace given to people as they figured out the basics. But as we’ve had to accept our new reality, it’s time to all now accept that the grace period is over. Video fatigue is real, and engagement is getting harder and harder to come by because – let’s be honest – a lot of these meetings and events we’ve been attending are hit or miss.
We would ALL love to meet again in person. And we will. But until then, here are a few tips on how to make virtual meetings and events not be so painful. Bear with us, there’s A LOT here! And for that reason, we have broken this topic into two posts. This first one is about tips and tricks and the second one is about the actual tools available.
If you are planning or are the host of a virtual meeting, here are some things you must keep in mind:
- Before you begin, put the attendees at the forefront of everything and try as best you can to stay relevant. What impression do you want to leave with them? Take the time to think through the experience you want them to have. What does your audience want, other than GREAT CONTENT? Remember, if they don’t feel like they’re getting something in exchange for their valuable time, you’ll break their trust.
- The small stuff matters. The last month and a half has been a huge learning curve for all of us, but with video fatigue becoming very real, there’s less forgiveness, and maybe even tolerance, for inconsiderate details.
- Ex: get set up WELL in advance, so that those joining early don’t have to see everything on your computer screen.
- Ex: do a TRUE TEST RUN, which may mean recruiting some paid attendees. You won’t really know if your setup will work flawlessly until you have some actual people logging in, navigating the poll tool or viewing a slide. And have a backup plan should the primary technology you’ve chosen NOT work.
- Ex: Label speakers so those coming in and out (and they will) know who each speaker is.
- Given the high bar set by the entertainment industry and what we’ve come to expect from streaming services, considerate, quality production is REALLY important, especially when there are multiple components to your meetings. We strongly suggest, if you can, bringing in the professionals to get this done right, even for webinars.
- Make sure your speakers (including yourself!) are engaging and charismatic, but are also authentic. We don’t have to be actors, but we do need to present, lead, guide and speak with conviction and passion.
- Design your ‘frame’ to be appealing, and or at the very least, ensure the following:
- Light is positioned in front of you, not behind you
- You have a neutral and or non-distracting setting behind you (and if you must be in your bedroom, hopefully it goes without saying – make your bed!)
- You look presentable and appropriate. Think about what you might wear if you were in person with your attendees.
- Be creative and if you can take advantage of the virtual background feature, we encourage it for the right audience
- Consider ways for your audience to participate, engage and even network. Can they enter questions into a chat bar? Could there be an interactive quiz/poll that lets everyone get a live reading on certain topics?
- Leverage “breakout room” capabilities for larger meetings – this changes things up and let’s your team experience a different format and dynamic.
Much of the same applies to virtual EVENTS. But here are some suggestions to help these not be painful either.
- Remind your clients why we did live stream BEFORE – was to bring in a remote presenter that couldn’t come to the live event. But now thanks to COVID-19, you should be thinking of livestream as a way to get a bigger audience. Think about it as an opportunity to reach a wider audience.
- Make sure the time and timing are right (aka, why would you schedule a meeting at 6pm for working moms?).
- Be honest with your clients about what it will take to put on a successful and engaging virtual event. You can demonstrate this by asking important probing questions:
- Do you have a registration platform that will need to integrate with the virtual event? Is checking attendance a must-have?
- Are you already leaning towards one platform?
- What is your attendees tech tolerance?
- Where are all your presenters? The more separated they are, the more time you’ll need to budget for to get them ready.
- How many virtual attendees are you expecting? How long is the meeting (this will help the AV team calculate the bandwidth they need to stream it without lagging).
- Will content be live, on-demand or a mix?
- Quick thought: one pro about having an originally really large conference is you can pre-record certain breakouts.
- How many breakout sessions are they anticipating?
- What are their KPIs so you’ll know that the event was a success (i.e., attendance number, sponsor feedback, number of chats, clicks, etc)
- Do you have a need for live interactive polling, surveys, or voting? [WE STRONGLY SUGGEST THIS!]
- Are the recordings available post-live event? (again affects cost because it has to be stored somewhere)
- Asking in advance, what happens should a live speaker lose his/her internet and then having contingency plans.
- Remember there are branding opportunities for virtual events still! Having a title sponsor brings legitimacy to your event and will enable your dollar to stretch further to making the event even better.
- Have you attended a webinar or virtual event that was worthy of your money to participate? We haven’t…yet. Right now it’s not easy to charge money for virtual meetings and events because the perception is that technology should bring the costs way down and make the costs ‘manageable’. That’s anything but true. In order to do so, you will need high production quality, giveaways or incentives (same as you would include for something live) and sponsorships. Work on figuring out what this will take and slowly build up your credibility with practice and by doing all of the above.
Now more than ever, business has to go on. Let’s stay open and let’s figure out how we keep our clients – and each other – engaged while we look forward to live meetings and events again!