Our agency team often acts as organizer, partner, curator, presenter, moderator of online and hybrid events. We are sure that if you apply these tips, you will be even more successful in organizing online events.
The pandemic has not only accelerated the pace of technology development, but also shaped the services available, the skills needed to cope with the situation and daily life in general. We are no longer talking about the “future way of working”, we are living in it. Whether digital events will be part of our future lives – only time will tell, but they will certainly be an alternative in every moment we need them. That’s why we won’t compare digital events with live ones, but we’ll tell you what small details make the biggest difference in a good online event.
Our experience in organizing, preparing and hosting over 100 events shows that the biggest role in the smooth running of an event, whether it is online or live, lies in the preparation beforehand. As in a professional kitchen (mise en place), advance preparation is a prerequisite for success, minimizing blunders and saving time.
Instructions to speakers/moderators
Sending the instructions to the speakers and moderators is a step that should not be missed. In addition to tips for the perfect look and clothing guidelines (fine stripes and short skirts are not recommended), a studio address and a script for the event. It is very important to provide an easy process when preparing for events that include outside guest speakers. We encourage you to use a tool like Calendly, which can help you easily organize the entire path of reserving meeting times and event organization, especially if you have speakers in different time zones – mistakes happen. 🙂
This is how the table and the “hacks” of Zhoro Malchev, managing partner at Xplora and moderator of more than 25 panels in the field of business, marketing and commerce, look like. You will see that:
- each participant knows when what will happen;
- Participants may propose a short intro of their own to complete, with an emphasis on relevance to the panel;
- everyone can mark if there will be visual elements like graphics, website or slides;
- general questions are available and anyone can indicate which topic they would like to be involved in and with what advice or example. That way the panelist can prepare and pitch their idea, rather than each panelist wondering when and what he will get the chance to speak;
- there is always an option for a question that any panelist can offer to be asked if time permits;
- Joro also highly recommends a brief online meeting of the panelists beforehand to get a group dynamic going – this is very much felt by the audience. And for each participant to be inspired by the examples of the other participants. As Joro says – test and you will never miss with this table and such group dynamics meeting again.
All contacts in one place
Anyone who hasn’t organized events is the only one who doesn’t know that speakers get distracted and don’t show up 20 minutes before the start of the lecture or panel – physical or online. Then comes the table, which we are sure each of you has prepared. It can contain each speaker’s name, phone number and email, listed in order of presentation with time of presentation and time to be on line and waiting for their turn. If someone doesn’t show up, you can always:
- contact the next speaker
- to run a promotional video / hat
- start a discussion, Q&A session
- run a pre-prepared poll/questionnaire (sli.do or kahoot)
Rehearsals are very important even for people who “this is not the first time I will be a speaker in an online event”. Blunders happen – lecturers decide at the last moment to change the device from which they are presenting, and it turns out that they can’t get the lecture through the tablet. Either they bought a new microphone that for whatever reason they decided to hook up right before their slot and the technique or the lifts don’t work. At the rehearsal, besides the technical testing of presentation, sound and picture, the script and sequence of the event are often discussed.
In addition to being well prepared, it is important to have a plan of action in case something unforeseen occurs. What can happen… the scenarios are endless, but at least you can prepare for the ones you can think of and even write them out.
Internet, streaming and recording
There’s a renovation in the neighborhood and a backhoe rips up your main ISP’s fiber optic cable, but you’re not worried because you’ve thought about having a second, additional line (tailored to withstand the upload that’s recommended if you’re streaming), and sometimes a hotspot would do the trick, but not always. You’ve prepared yourself with two streaming platforms – YouTube and Facebook, because something with the embedding codes broke, YouTube crashed on that particular day, etc.
Be careful about playing music on both platforms because you risk having the stream stopped if the music is copyrighted.
It’s also good to provide a recording of the event in case participants are unable to watch on the day or something has happened to you, and it’s a good opportunity to get feedback after the event. If the event is on record, it’s a good idea to secure a backup for a second recording because everything happens. We can tell you from experience that you will often be grateful that you did. 🙂
Registration and Reminders
A parameter to be monitored continuously is the number of registered participants. As you know, this is unfortunately not the actual number that will turn up on the day.
It’s good to have a plan of action in place: how to attract more participants (e.g. with advertising), and we know best how this magic happens. A schedule with sending an invitation, several intermediate remailers (e.g. to those who opened the invitation but did not click the registration button) should be prepared. Very often people sign up for an event and if they are not reminded the day before, and even a few hours before the event itself, this can be a reason not to show up on the day of the event. A nice integration is also to get the event directly on their calendar.
During the event
Video, sound, lighting, background
Online events have become an integral part of our daily lives and we can even say that the fight for consumers’ attention is fierce. Poor execution can turn off your users right from the start especially if the event is free. Participants often get distracted with all sorts of side activities and participate in an online event on the go – in the car, at the gym or while making dinner, etc.
Poor sound can be a serious reason for users to switch off – therefore the sound quality needs to be crystal clear. Quality microphones make things much more professional and significantly more enjoyable to listen to. For a real experience, of course, a good picture is also important. There are many affordable cameras that can attach to your laptop, or DSLR cameras that can be put on a tripod.
Be sure to look into the camera when you speak to recreate a real encounter, because otherwise your gaze drops below its level and it can seem as if you lack concentration. If you’re using a laptop for the online meeting, you can place it on a couple of thick books to align the camera level with your eyes and make it look natural.
Throughout the set, it’s good to add lighting to make the overall experience complete. The light source should be frontal or to the side of you – this also applies when you are near natural light (window). It’s also a good idea to consider the background behind you – virtual backgrounds are not recommended and look unprofessional, and often your body parts sink into them. When using a professional studio for your virtual event, options range from green screen to branded fabric construction (so there’s no glare).
You’ve done the preliminary preparation, you have a plan of action B, but unfortunately that doesn’t protect you from a potential technical problem – it minimizes it, but it’s always possible that something unforeseen could happen.
If the format and budget of the event allows it, it would be good to provide a host/moderator for the event. In addition to opening and closing the event, announcing breaks, games, and introducing each speaker, he can play a key role in saving a gaffe. If he is experienced enough, it would not be difficult for him to start an intermediate/adhoc discussion or make a slight change in the plan until the lecturer who has been “online many times” manages to connect and his lecture gets going.
When a real technical issue arises that requires time to resolve, it’s nice to have a promotional video or “hat” that can be played so the technical team can resolve the issue without it becoming public knowledge to everyone involved. The hat can also be used as a waiting room – this is where attendees wait before being invited to the event itself, and do not see what is happening backstage. Some platforms have a built-in WAITING ROOM, and in case you are streaming directly to a site, then the hat will also do a great job and give you the opportunity to stream earlier.
Even the best organizers need feedback on how they did. You may have all your speakers on time, you may not have had any technical problems, but it may turn out that there was a big drop in the number of participants and you don’t know what the reason was. It could be the length of the event, or that you chose the wrong day and time for the event (Friday after work), or that there was only one speaker and the audience got bored, or the language was too professional and incomprehensible. There can be many reasons, so it is best to prepare a survey to be sent out a few hours after the event. That way you’ll be even better and more focused next time.
A good reputation is hard to build, but attention to detail and precise execution will inevitably contribute to it. Plan your virtual event in advance, arm yourself with a good team, don’t be wordy, think about how to have high engagement during the event, don’t miss out on promoting it and Voilà.
We know that everyone wants to be successful. 🙂 To have true success, not as we have seen not infrequently at events “Success is what failure will not achieve” – i.e. the “almost nothing blew up” approach is considered success. We’re sure that if you apply these tips, you’ll be even more successful at organizing physical, hybrid and online events.