#Coronacomms: How can you create a successful virtual event?
As the impact of coronavirus seeps deeper, events, company all-hands and business meetings are being cancelled.
Some of these might have been primarily social occasions that can be rescheduled or refunded. But many other events – such as internal strategy sessions or intra-office meetings – are crucial at a time when communication is the key to business success.
We are in a period of ‘unknown unknowns’, but it’s clear that coronavirus spreads quickly and with stealth.
If you have a large-scale – or small-scale – event planned in Europe or the US in March, April and May it’s no doubt at risk as we reach the containment phase of the virus.
Cancel early, and shift to a remote or virtual event as quickly as you can – the more of your attendees you can prime, and inform, the better. Avoid negative “we’ve cancelled” messaging and focus on the positive: “We can still meet but virtually.”
Focus on outcomes
It’s important to go back to basics when you re-think your event – at the core of the experience, what do your attendees want or need to take away from the event?
It may well be that you can focus only on ensuring your keynotes or major sessions are streamed. Or you could decide that you need a full range of speakers and have the bandwidth to schedule a full running order.
Consider re-creating your event without an audience, filming it on site with your speakers if they are able to travel, but streaming to your broad audience.
Re-staging the event as a ‘virtual television experience’ is relatively straightforward and can work for both internal and external audiences.
This will work if you have not been told to isolate completely and can still get your speakers in to your workspace or host location, or if you are broadcasting from your own audiences to a disparate or global workforce.
Pull on your strongest speakers – or your speakers delivering business critical information – and build your running order or schedule around them.
Think hard about the format
Consider compressing a two- or three-day event into 5 or 6 hours. You can include breaks and interstitials for the audience to discuss and ‘virtually break out’; bring in a ‘host’ or primary speaker to pull the event together and ensure that you keep to time and can react to events and interaction from the audience.
Consider breaking your virtual event into segments or chapters. It’s one thing to schedule straight-through sessions when your audience are all seated in an auditorium, it’s quite another when they can tune out at will online.
Don’t forget that if you audience are homeworking too, they may be facing distractions a live audience would never encounter. Breaking the event into chapters will avoid people switching away from your event mid-session.
External event providers such as ours will provide one single video stream that you can share to your intranet, chosen environment or social channels, working with your IT department to ensure this is a smooth experience.
If yours is a small event, you can use streaming technology – such as Skype, Skype TX, WebEx or Zoom meeting app – to deliver your keynotes or presentations, bearing in mind that quality may not be perfect quality for a large screen.
At a time like this the information you are delivering is more important than the ‘look’ of the presentation.
Scheduling and languages
Ideally you will schedule your virtual event to be at an optimal time for all your audiences. But finding a time that suits all time zones can be a challenge. You can always pre-record and share a recording after the event if attendance is not possible.
Don’t forget you can also offer instant translation or subtitling to enable your message to be delivered to as broad an audience as possible.
Consider all outlets to push your event out to your target audiences. Start with your core space – either your business website, YouTube channel or your intranet. Bolt on additional platforms if you need to extend the reach of your event.
Today’s tech solutions will enable you to upload documents, presentations, imagery or videos into your live virtual event.
It’s relatively straightforward with available tech to push concurrent live feeds to platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook. Consider how best to engage your target audience.
It’s crucial that the event is as engaged and lively as an in-person event. Here are some ways to include interactivity:
– If you are using a technology like Skype, WebEx or Zoom, use the chat functionality during keynotes to solicit comments and conversation
– Stream on Twitter and run polls and votes; encourage comments and build thread commentaries
– Build in ‘water cooler moments’ via your meeting technology, where people can discuss issues and points of interest
– If it’s a large event, switch off live comments so the flow of a presentation or keynote is not interrupted
After the event
Solicit feedback to determine where you can make changes and improvements. This is a learning experience for many companies, so don’t expect to get it right the first time.
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About the author: Gay Flashman is the CEO and founder of Formative Content. Last year, she was named in Thrive Global’s Top Female Creatives of 2019 list. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.
Or if you would like to find out more about her recently published book ‘Powerful B2B Content – Using Brand Journalism to Create Compelling and Authentic Storytelling’ click here.
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