Virtual Events: How to adapt your skills to the new face of events

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There’s no doubt that the last few months have been a learning curve for everyone in the events industry. As we’ve added virtual and hybrid events alongside our in-person event offering, we’ve learnt a lot. So, here are some top tips, tricks and learnings from our Senior Event Manager, Sheridan Roberts.  

As COVID-19 has changed the world around us, we have all had to adapt to new ways of working, and for some of us, our job roles have changed too.

As Event Managers, we have always had to be agile, but no more so than now. In this “new normal” we are also now expected to be producers, show callers and technical support for technologies we may not be so familiar with. Whilst this may not be a role we wanted or feel comfortable with, this transition into Virtual Events has provided us with new skill sets and opened our minds to capabilities we never knew we had in us. 

We’ve learnt so much in our industry over the past few months; mainly that events we thought couldn’t be done online, actually can be, and they can be done well. 

Here I talk about some of my key learnings and share tips and advice from my journey into the virtual world of Events.

Strategic Planning

The days of shuffling people into a boardroom are for now, on hold, whilst we communicate with our colleagues and our clients through online conferencing software. For many of us, these online meetings take up the majority of our working day and “Zoom Fatigue” is now a recognised form of mental exhaustion. 

For this reason, I encourage my clients to adopt ‘The Rule of the Third’ when planning their virtual events. What I mean by this, is breaking the agenda down to a third of what it would be had the event been happening in person. A virtual conference for example, should last no longer than 2-2.5 hours, with bite size presentations and engaging panel discussions. 

The format of your event also needs to be taken into consideration. A session that may work perfectly in person, will inevitably need to be adapted to fit the mould of the technology you are using.

For example, panel discussions work much better in the virtual space than roundtables do as they don’t rely on the audience being on camera and visible to their peers. Perfect for those that have just finished a 5k run and dived into their laptop all sweaty with a minute to spare before the event begins. Roundtables with no visible guests can make for a very deflated host and immediately that session has lost momentum. Instead, give your host guaranteed company and spark discussion through live chats, polls and Q&A.

The sign of a great event is one that hits all five senses, and you may think this isn’t possible online, oh but it is. 

Use different mediums to support different sessions; add in pre-recorded videos with uplifting soundtracks; add in a team activity that allows your guests to interact with their touch screen phones or use props and finally think about sending hampers full of delicious goodies to your guests’ doors to enjoy whilst the event is happening. This is a lovely touch, if like me, you don’t excel in the kitchen!

One thing we’re all missing about in-person events is the food and drink, so that doesn’t always have to change. All these different elements, when pulled together, keep your audience interested and engaged throughout the duration of your event.

Virtual Event Technologies

Next comes the tricky bit, our inboxes are bombarded with emails from LinkedIn Premium members telling us we couldn’t possibly do our jobs without their latest virtual technology offerings, but which one do you choose? There are a variety of softwares available to us, many of which would do the job, many, which would enhance the experience, but none that are ‘perfect’ for every single event you need to host. 

This is why I use two platforms, and depending on the event brief, I’ll choose one over the other, the first is a conference-calling platform that many people are over familiar with, and another which is more suited to navigating around different areas of an event, with the ability to include sponsors, exhibitors and AI-powered networking.

It’s important when choosing your preferred software that you choose something that has a simple set up process and doesn’t cause you to have panic attacks every time your stakeholder asks you to make a “very small change” at the eleventh hour . You also need a platform that has a very user friendly interface so if and when you are troubleshooting with guests you don’t feel like you’re explaining to your grandparents how to use “that there What’s Up” (WhatsApp to you and me).

A vital part of the planning process for virtual events is rehearsals. We’ve all been taught that practice makes perfect and I can’t emphasise enough the importance of rehearsals with your speakers.. Not only does this ensure the technology is set up correctly, but also enables your speakers to have a practice run, as they may not feel entirely comfortable presenting to an audience they can’t actually see. It is within these rehearsals that you’re likely to find something that doesn’t quite work the way you want it to and so you have the time to make amendments to the format of your sessions should you need to.

It’s important to remember that this way of running and attending events is new to everyone, and your guests will be much more forgiving if something doesn’t quite go to plan, and, if you would like further support in planning your virtual events, get in touch, we’ll work it out together!

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