Creating Epic Online Experiences: Best Practices for Virtual Events
Chances are, if you are reading this blog, and have an internet connection you’ve probably heard of virtual events. Maybe you hadn’t six months ago, but as soon as COVID hit, all anyone could talk about was taking to the virtual stage.
Virtual events aren’t a new concept. Although they have become the latest trend and probably most lasting trend in the event planning industry.
With any new trend comes scrutiny and virtual events are no different. We’ve all heard the claims: “Virtual events are outperforming live events!” Well, they are, but not without reason and certainly not without strategy. Switching to an online platform will not automatically make your event more successful.
Similarly, negative press gets thrown around about virtual events as well. “They’re boring!
They’re not engaging!”, or my favorite - “People have Zoom fatigue!” (I assure you, Zoom
fatigue has never been clinically diagnosed).
In order to sift through the noise and make sure your virtual event fulfills only the most positive expectations, here are some best practices for virtual events.
Don’t Just Have a Plan- Have a Strategy
Event strategy is an underutilized service, but for something as varied as the “virtual event”, it’s completely necessary. Understanding what makes an event successful, why audiences engage and how to build an experience is crucial. It’s about more than just what time things are happening or what speakers you've booked. Creating a complete strategy behind your messaging, marketing, agenda and entire experience that aligns with your mission will be the guiding force for your event plan.
Ditch The Brady Bunch
The problem with most zoom presenters is that they are only showing their heads in a zoom box. This is why people say they have Zoom fatigue. No one wants to look at a floating head in a box- AND, it goes even deeper than that.
At a live event, whether it takes place virtually or in-person, we expect to connect. When we just see faces on a screen, we can’t absorb their body language and our brain is constantly working in the background to try to read the on-camera person’s physiology.
As humans, our amygdala is always keeping us safe by reading situations and your neuro
chemicals. This is how it knows if we are in danger or not. The problem with heads in boxes is that we can’t see the persons body language and so our amygdala is always on alert, making sure the person on screen isn’t a danger to us.
This one is easy to fix. Position yourself, and encourage your audience to do the same, so your shoulders are visible and at least the top portion of your chest in the frame. Instruct your speakers to present standing, or to have as much of their body showing as possible.
Bring in the Right People
A huge part of creating a successful and engaging virtual experience is having the right team on your side. There are people who study event strategy, know how to engage your audience, facilitate powerful conversations, and have the connections to find the support you need and the systems in place to ensure everything gets completed on time, and on budget.
So, if you plan one or two events a year, is it the best use of your time to try to learn what
they know on your own? The answer is NO. When you bring in the right people to support you, you end up with a team of people who are as passionate about the success of your event as you are.