Virtual Event Landscape: Four Tips for Planning – Grand Forks Herald


The world of corporate event planning is and will always be changing. But nothing beats the changes we’ve seen as a result of COVID-19. Fully virtual events not only represented a HUGE transition for attendees and presenters, but planning was a different challenge overall. Even though we’ve seen the world return to normal, the tracks of events have changed forever: there’s no escaping the virtual landscape. When I started my first role planning corporate events, it was at the height of the pandemic and I was also a student at NDSU. Luckily for me, virtual events have always been part of my event knowledge base. Although this column focuses on a fully virtual event, all of these tips can be translated into a hybrid layout as well. Here are four things I keep in mind when planning a virtual event.

Consider the journey your virtual attendees will take

Try to put yourself in their shoes. You want it to be as clear and simple as possible. Unlike an in-person event, at any point during your virtual event (especially the beginning) your attendees can easily leave if they get frustrated with just closing the window. So think about what obstacles or confusion they might have and think about how to fix them early.

Warning against unpopular opinion!

How many virtual bells and whistles do you need to impress your attendees? In the last three years we’ve seen an explosion of new virtual event platforms being carved out of the wood. Many offer attendees fancy features like avatars, virtual lounges, interactive VR experiences, and more. I understand and appreciate the desire to engage your virtual audience with a more interactive experience. However, from my experience, I get frustrated and give up when I try to use the bells and whistles. My goal is to learn and consume the content in sessions, not create an avatar. I’m not saying that these frills have no place in the events world; However, I would argue that in the corporate landscape, a simple chat or question window will suffice. In the end, consider your target audience, industry and investment when making your decision.

Prepare, prepare, prepare.

Every time I host a virtual event, the stress of technical glitches, network bandwidth, and moderator confusion come first. Whether you’re hosting an hour-long webinar or a full-day event, preparation and testing are key. Start early and make sure you are comfortable with the platform you are using to host. If you use an outside provider, meet with them to get a tour of the program and ask questions. Next, make an appointment with each of your moderators for a technical check. If you use an outside vendor to host your event, ask if you can run the technical checks on their platform so everyone can see how the event will go. I recommend scheduling a time slot about 10 days in advance for the total time of their presentation window, plus 10-15 minutes to ask questions.

For example, if their presentation is 45 minutes long, I would schedule a 60 minute meeting. For a day-long event, this can be a significant block of time to invest. However, I strongly recommend making it a priority for many reasons. First, this gives each presenter time to rehearse their entire presentation in front of a small audience, while also giving them ample time to make changes until the day of the event. Secondly, they have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the platform from the moderator’s point of view: how their sideshow will progress and show their notes, how they can see questions from the participants, whether they can use a virtual background or not, etc. Last but not least Last but not least, you can thank the moderators for all their time and hard work

get involved in the event. We event planners can’t do it without people willing to take the stage! Use this time to sincerely thank them. I am a firm believer that rehearsing throughout the event builds a sense of well-being and confidence.

Learn from others.

Now more than ever, we can get online and see how others are hosting virtual events. Sign up for events related to your industry or even one outside of it. If you find one to attend, make note of your experience. How did you like the trip? were you confused Have you been frustrated and need a support ticket for help? Were other participants using the bells and whistles available? Overall, see which pieces go well with your next event and which don’t.

At the end of the day, we want all of our participants to have the best possible experience. This starts with the preparation and the considerations of the planners.

I hope these four things help make your next event a huge success! Have fun planning!

McGinness is Marketing Manager at Network Center Inc.

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