By Krista Cameron
Out of necessity we’ve learned a lot of lessons about connecting, learning, meeting and celebrating online. Amid the continued advice for public health, workplace health and safety, and personal risk tolerance, organizations are holding in-person, virtual and hybrid events. Even when all pandemic-related public health measures have ended, associations may choose to hold virtual events based on the lessons they learned. The FORUM Editorial Committee revisited this article from 2020 while we were thinking about holiday events for the 2021 season.
When looking for a virtual event partner (VEP) the end goal is a polished and professional event. Be mindful that numerous companies claiming expertise have appeared during this time of demand. Protect your Association by asking each company about their experience in producing virtual events. How long have they being executing virtual events? Do they have any production experience? What Associations have they worked with? Getting these answers is the best way to mitigate your risk.
During your call with a VEP be prepared to communicate these details.
- Your event vision and goals
- Your agenda
- Number of presenters that will be on camera
- Number of attendees expected to view
- Will you require two-way communication? (Do viewers need to communicate with one another?)
- Are multiple languages required?
- Will all streams be live or is pre-recording an option?
- Content types ie. Will you show video? Do you require content to be created?
In addition to the checklist above, depending on the type of event you are organizing, you may be required to share further details. For instance, when planning a virtual AGM, you will likely require scripting so it is best to have a script outline to share with your VEP. A discussion around voting requirements will also be key. Do you just require Yes/No or one word answers? Would a simple raising hand feature suffice? Are multiple levels of questions, registered voting or weighting required? Board meetings are more collaborative and require participants being comfortable with the format. Therefore, a managed webinar would be an appropriate tool to showcase an agenda outlining who is to speak and when along with a plan for actionable items.
Regardless of the type of virtual event, here are some key tips to creating a polished and professional webcast:
- Planning for rehearsal time is critically important to success and should be held at the same time of day to ensure accuracy.
- Onboarding of speakers is vital. Depending on the complexity of your program, your VEP may need multiple touch points with your speakers to discuss lighting, background, quality angles, internet connectivity, sound and protecting from distractions.
- When creating your agenda consider that attention spans are reduced. Shorten your agenda, keep it simple and if possible limit each session to an hour while extending the length of breaks since your viewers have extra roles while working from home.
- Put a sponsorship strategy in place just as you would for a live event. Your strategy should include benefits of sponsorship along with methods to achieve ROI in the virtual space.
- To increase engagement utilize a networking platform that includes chat and gamification features. You can also use polling and Q&A to help to engage your audience. Use an upvoter to elevate which questions your viewers want answered the most.
When live events fully return, virtual will not disappear; hybrid events offering the blend of live and virtual will lead the way.
Krista Cameron, Director of Business Development of Encore Canada
Krista (aka Kristamas) is known to the CSAE Trillium community as a proud Newfoundlander who became a Mainlander in 2019. She is a member of the CSAE Trillium Network Council and and is the Network’s Awards Chair and Holiday Events Chair. She also serves as the President-elect for the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) Canada East Chapter’s Board of Directors and on the Canadian Society of Professional Event Planners’ (CanSPEP) Partner Advisory Council. In 2015, Krista was inducted into Meetings & Incentive Travel’s Hall of Fame as Industry Mentor.