A blog for Meet Bristol by Rob Eveleigh, Managing Director of Brightelm.

At the moment one of the greatest challenges is how to keep communities together without breaking social-distancing rules. 

Lots of people are jumping on the “virtual event” bandwagon in lieu of being able to run live events. However, this medium is new to a lot of people and some considerable learning has to be done in order to really deliver events in this, for many, new medium effectively.  

Running a live event is very different to running an online event; the latter is a much less forgiving format. There are so many options that the number of choices available to you can be intimidating.  

This blog will explore some of the ways in which you can make sure your virtual events are engaging.

Keep your audience at the heart of what you do

Think about what question do your audience need answered, or what problem they have, and keep this central to your plans. Humans generally have short attention spans, on average around 15 minutes, so planning a 2 hour online event probably is not going to be engaging.  Bear in mind that you will be competing with other online and live distractions: children, deliveries, mobiles, email and the greatest procrastination tool of all, Solitaire!

Keep it simple

Keep the format simple, particularly when you are starting off running events in this format and you are not very experienced. 30 minutes is long enough to get most messages over, and keep it to one, or maximum two speakers.  There’s lots to look after during a webinar and it’s best to get used to the format first before trying to be all singing and dancing.

Plan, plan, plan!

Create a minute by minute agenda for the event and share it with your co-organisers and speakers.  Emphasise how important it is to run on time, and to give plenty of time for questions (if you are taking them) at the end.  

Planning virtual event

Brief your speakers

Ensure your speakers are fully briefed, understand the audience, and the role they need to play. Ensure they are clear on the length of time they have to speak, as typically this will be shorter than they are used to. Make sure if they are using slides that they submit them to you in advance and limit the number of slides to a maximum of one per minute that they are speaking. 

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

Practice makes perfect. Run a rehearsal 24-hours in advance of the event with your speakers and ensure they attend on time. If you can, invite some colleagues to be a “dummy” audience so that you can practice with Q&A functionality.  

Rehearse virtual event

Use appropriate platforms

Your choice of platform should come at the end of your initial planning process. There are lots of options in the market and not all will be suitable. At the beginning, avoid buying an annual license and just buy one-off licenses so that you can try and test them.  In the early days avoid complex platforms with lots of options.  

If you don’t need to provide Q&A or polling functionality then don’t.  Disable chat functionality if you can as it’s not always required.

Use an appropriate environment

Speakers should present from an appropriate, quiet location with no background noise, and a professional background.  It should be well-lit. Preferably do not to use a headset, but it’s optional. Encourage business dress if it’s appropriate to do so.

Plan breaks in your content

If you are planning a longer session, an hour or more, plan in breaks and encourage delegates to stretch legs/grab a tea/coffee. This will help keep your attendance high throughout the entire event.

To charge or not to charge?

The rule of thumb is if it’s for marketing or it’s your responsibility to run the event, do not charge.  If it has valuable content (i.e you would usually deliver a conference/seminar on the topic), then do charge.  

Tell people about it 

Ensure you give enough notice of your forthcoming event, a minimum 1 week.  This will help prioritiseit in people’s diaries and give it appropriate professional credence.  Avoid last minute promotion unless the subject matter is time-sensitive.

Market your virtual event

About the Author

Brightelm delivers event services for membership organisations and government. This includes project management, sponsorship, marketing, content, delegate services, logistics and exhibitions and they also have a webinar management service.

To find out how they might be able to help you contact them

Read more:

>>> Virtual events in and around Bristol

>>> Virtual Attractions and Tours in Bristol

>>> Bristol from Home