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How To Create An Impactful Virtual Event
Everyone knew that virtual events were the way of the future, as evidenced by their increasing popularity over the last few years in particular. It's just that nobody probably realised that "the future" would come along quite as quickly as it did.
At one point during the peak of the Coronavirus pandemic, an estimated 80% of Americans were stuck at home due to lockdown orders in their state. This meant that they were legally prohibited from going just about everywhere - and many in-person events were cancelled because of it.
Fear, uncertainty and doubt will keep public gatherings to a minimum
Even though most states are in the process of opening back up again, the Coronavirus is still out there, and people are still understandably concerned.
It's going to be hard to get a large group of people to go anywhere for the next few months (and possibly longer), which means that virtual events are very much here to stay. While this is unfortunate from a particular perspective, it's also undoubtedly an opportunity from another. Because virtual events do bring with them several unique advantages that can't be ignored - provided that you go about creating yours in precisely the right way, that is.
Hosting the Perfect Virtual Events: Breaking Things Down
By far, one of the most essential best practices to follow when it comes to organising your upcoming virtual events involves getting the entire affair as much structure as possible.
Yes, from a certain perspective, there is a lot "less to do" to prepare for a virtual event as opposed to one that is being held in person. For the latter, you have to think about managing a list of attendees, getting some event space together, creating print materials that will be on display throughout the proceedings, and more.
Manging the list of attendees
Even something as simple as managing a list of attendees is far easier when your event is being held entirely on the Internet, as people can join in a matter of seconds regardless of where they are. So while things will undoubtedly be easier from that perspective, it doesn't mean that you shouldn't still give your event as much structure as possible.
Creating content and digital assets for your event
If you were going to be printing out materials to hand out to attendees if your event were being held in "real life," for example, you should still create similar collateral and make sure it all gets into the inboxes of relevant people before the event begins. You'll want to use the right app and software business solution like Visme (which I founded to help people communicate with one another) that makes it effortless to share this content over the Web.
You still have access to all of the features and tools you'll need to make a positive impression; it's just that you won't be making physical copies of those materials at all.
Even if you're only going to be using Visme as a poster maker, you need to put in enough effort to show people that a significant amount of planning still went into the event in question - even though they're "attending" from the comfort of their computer chairs.
Narrow down topics
Along the same lines, you'll still want to make an effort to nail down what will be discussed (and who will be doing the discussing) well in advance of the event itself. Think about the preparation you're doing as no different than the steps you would follow if you were gathering a few hundred (or thousand) people together in a convention centre somewhere.
Not only is this a great way to keep the pace of the event itself where you need it to be, but by giving people an indication of what will be discussed in advance. You dramatically increase the chances that they'll attend - to say nothing of what you'll do to engagement levels, too. Again - you're trying to create the most active experience that you can as opposed to a passive one, and this is going to be a large part of how you're able to do it.
Research to create an engaging event
Just be sure to use a site like Respona to research relevant topics that your attendees will care about seeing. Don't start with content and try to work your way to the attendees. Instead, start with this core group of people who you want to engage with and ask yourself questions like
- what do they like?
- What do they dislike?
- What are they interested in, and what do they want to hear?
Once you answer those questions, you'll be able to use Respona or any other similar service to build something that people are going to love. It'll also be an event that people are genuinely excited to engage with, which again furthers the experience you're trying to create. If you're able to pull this off properly, it'll also mean big things for your next virtual event, too.
Don't make these critical virtual event mistakes
To return to the topic of structure for a moment, another reason why this element is so important is that it helps you avoid a problem that a lot of virtual events have. Namely, those that are loosely organised tend to fall into chaos when so many attendees aren't exactly sure what they're supposed to be doing so everyone ends up talking at once.
You still need to make it clear to people that if your event includes a guest speaker; for example, there is a dedicated "question and answer" portion during which they can give their input. They should feel the need to speak freely during the presentation itself, even though it's far easier for them to do so using a teleconferencing tool than if they were seated in a conference room somewhere.
Picking the right platform
Along the same lines, you'll not only want to make sure that you've selected the right platform to host your virtual event - you'll want to know the ins and outs of exactly how it works so that you can maintain control over everything that unfolds, too.
Far too many people jump headfirst into a platform like Zoom without really understanding how it works - which is what led to the recent increase in "Zoom bombings" during the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic.
In reality, this was a straightforward problem to avoid - all you had to do was add a password to your event room and only give it out to the people who would be in attendance. It's just that Zoom didn't put a password on rooms by default, and a lot of virtual events paid the price because of it.
Stay organised and stay in control
So regardless of which platform you choose to meet your needs, make sure beyond the shadow of a doubt that you know exactly how to control it. You should be able to mute someone or even kick someone out of a room in a matter of seconds. All of this will be once again necessary for preserving the flow of the virtual event, which itself is critical in terms of creating the type of experience that attendees won't soon forget.
About the authorPayman Taei is the founder of Visme, an easy-to-use online tool to create engaging presentations, infographics, and other forms of visual content. He is also the founder of HindSite Interactive, an award-winning Maryland digital agency specializing in website design, user experience and web app development.
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