COVID-19 has made a dramatic impact on conferences and in-person
events being cancelled to protect people and "flatten the
curve" of this virus, which is the right thing to do.
As we adapt our workplace and how we interact with each other, the
need for virtual events has increased. In time there may be the option
for blended events that mix face to face elements with virtual participation.
But in the meantime, we want to share our simple tips to help you
embrace virtual events for your groups.
Over the last months, we have spoken to a number of group
facilitators across Knowledge Hub to offer our advice on how to adopt
virtual events, what technology is available to you, and how you can
deliver an experience and engagement to your participants that are
reminiscent of in-person events. Here is some advice to get you started:
You don’t need to compromise on quality
While an online event can only be possible with a laptop, tablet or
mobile phone, in many ways, virtual events and live events have a lot
in common with the same kind of preparation, planning, and after
production required. You will still have to prepare the content and
book the speakers. You will still have to promote the event, invite
participants, build the excitement around it, share the information
and follow up with members. The only thing that will probably change
is the size of the room you will need to host the event. But it does
not mean the number of people will have to be smaller. In some
instances, it will be bigger.
Less is more
Since a virtual event is typically much shorter than a live event, it
is best practice to stick to less than one hour for your event. If you
want the event to last a bit longer, be sure to plan different
sessions, breakout groups and talks that are well defined and timed
into your agenda. Make sure you add in breaks for attendees to stretch
their legs and grab a tea or coffee.
Choose your video conference supplier
With a variety of options including Zoom, MS Teams, Google Meet etc.
Your organisation is likely to have its own preferences. Chat with
your members about which services they can access and what works best
for them. Depending on what system you pick, it may determine the type
of sessions and levels of interactivity you run.
Define the event format
Is it going to be live, recorded or recorded but with live
interaction? There are pros and cons to all options.
Live events can be more engaging, with questions, polls and breakout
groups, but also need more detailed planning. A support group to help
run the session and a back up if there are any connection issues are
worth considering to help the event run smoothly.
Recorded sessions can be done at any time by the presenters and can
allow you to bring in presenters from different time zones. You can
make them interactive if the presenter can be available to answer
questions. You will need to test the recording to make sure it works
when presenting and the audio is clean.
Promote the event
Any event you run you will need to be promoted well in advance.
Virtual events do allow you to reduce the lead time in gathering the
presenters and attendees as you are not constrained by a physical
venue and travel arrangements. Look to promote the event in your
group, via social media, newsletters or via a landing page if you are
using a booking system. Generate enthusiasm and momentum and explore
the possibility of any pre-event activities that can add value.
Be a good host and get support
With any event, you need someone to introduce the presenters and keep
everything on time and to help the presenter and the participant feel
comfortable in the session. Have a range of questions ready to ask the
presenters. You will also want to try to avoid any disruptions during
the session such as people waiting to join, or notifications appearing
in the middle of the screen when attendees are joining. If you can,
ask a colleague to co-host and help with any access and technical
issues members have.
Practice and work out any technical kinks
We have all been on a call where something goes wrong and technology
decides to play up And that’s okay, but practising it first it will
minimise the chance of any technical glitches and allow you to resolve
them quickly. Do a quick run through with your presenters. Make sure
you check the system you are using in case there has been any updates
or upgrades. Check your microphone and camera are working properly and
adjust the settings if needed, and check your internet connection
speed. If you have experienced slowness before, you might wish to
restart your internet router an hour before you start.
This is just the start
When the event has finished, this is where the hard work starts -
bringing all the content together, the recording, the chat etc. and
then sharing it back with the group. This allows you to keep the
conversation going, follow up on any questions, comments and
conversation during the event, that lead into further discussions and
activities. It also allows those that we're unable to take part in the
event to catch up and ask further questions and be part of the longer
What tips do you have for hosting virtual events with your online
group? We would love to hear what works well for you and your members.