How to… take your events online
These are unsettling times. Working from home, distanced from our usual habits and networks. Not so unusual for the Luma team, but we are definitely feeling the lack of the usual way of doing things.
This has changed how we share knowledge and bring people together. So we thought we would help you adapt too.
As with everything else in your business, most of your marketing has gone digital. But what about events? How can you put together a good quality virtual event that is more than a talking head? Good events are far more than a one-way communication. They involve conversation, interaction, networking – all the things that keep us switched on and connected with our market.
Here are our top tips for putting together a top notch virtual event.
Think about what you want to achieve.
Are you looking for brand visibility? New business enquiries? Expert advisor positioning? Fun and connection? Or to engage your audience in a new idea?
Understanding why you want people to interrupt their day and spend time with you will help you to create the right kind of event on the right platform.
Be clear about your parameters
How many attendees can you accommodate? Is it a public event (livestream) or a private one? Is it free or paid? Who is it for?
Importantly, be very clear whether you’re delivering something for people to learn from, be inspired by, find connection in or simply have fun. Your audience will be deeply displeased if they sign up for a panel discussion and instead they receive a sales pitch.
Content, content, content.
Every event needs content. Whether it’s a pub quiz or an engaging discussion, put some time into thinking about it. Give it structure, nuance, flow. Walk your contributors through the agenda – the usual non-verbal signals that indicate interest or reaction will be missing. Leave space for unexpected (or planned) contributions from the audience. Court emotion – humour, indignation, sadness, empathy.
The set up
Yes, even a virtual event has a real environment to consider.
Put some effort into your backdrop. Have an honest look at what’s around you as the audience will be looking at it in detail – humans are uncomfortable looking at a person’s face for too long and their eyes will wander. What is sticking up out of your head? Can the audience see into your neighbour’s bathroom? Where is the light coming from?
A neutral background is best and an angled wall is better than a flat one. Our recent piece on making good video has some good tips.
If you’re going to be delivering virtual events regularly (quiz master!) we recommend investing in some proper kit. Microphone, HD webcam, lighting.
Ask your speakers to be wired in where possible: internet through a cable, headphones and microphone plugged in, a proper webcam. Wifi can drop out, which never looks good.
Use the technology
Zoom, Teams, Facebook, IGTV… whatever platform you choose, make the most of the functionality. This is where a virtual event can really fly. Real time polls, vote-able questions, live streaming can all increase audience engagement. At the end, you can redirect participants to an instant feedback survey or content summary or online networking event. And these metrics are one of the ways you can prove value (RoI). How many people dialled in and stayed until the end? How was the chat and Q&A interaction? Which bits of the event went well and which could be improved?
And make sure you practice – no-one wants 400 people to be watching them the first time they do something.
The virtual world is not the same
There are some key differences to a virtual event compared to a gathering in the real world.
The first is audience engagement. People are less committed and more distracted. There will be more drop off – a real world panel event has a drop off of 15% – 25% whereas up to half of virtual event RSVPs won’t show.
The second is pace. You have to move things along more quickly. Talk faster than you usually would (but not so fast that you’re stumbling over your words) with a shorter, punchier agenda.
The third is privacy. People are dialling in from their homes. They may not want their personal space to be plastered all over the internet (the virtual backgrounds are improving). If a child appears, stop that speaker’s video for a moment or two.
Connect the virtual world with the real world
In the olden days (before Covid) events were about connection as much as they were about content. The secret for a brilliant virtual event is to bring it into the real world too; something that creates a sense of connection.
Send your attendees something, whether it’s a Deliveroo voucher or a bottle of wine, that they can all enjoy together.
Encourage participants to use the networking functionality of your app or LinkedIn or the chat box to create connections of their own.
“The virtual element of events won’t be a passing phase.” said Kirsty Butcher, Product Director at Place North West. “In the long-term, I see this manifesting not in fewer physical events but in more choice in how people participate. People are starting to see how smooth and easy the online experience can be. With new possibilities for interaction and networking, I think on occasion people will opt for staying at their desks and enjoying an event online.”
Talk directly to your audience, one-on-one. Address them personally and use the real names of people who submitted a question.
The best events – real world or virtual – leave people feeling uplifted.
Bring in an expert
Sometimes, it really does pay to employ a professional.
To brief the participants, steer the conversation, encourage interaction, manage any technical hitches and keep it all on track. From promotions and delegate engagement to managing the detail on the day and ensuring that the follow-up happens promptly, there’s a surprising amount to think about.
Online is here to stay – it’s an and not an or.
Kirsty sums it up perfectly.
“We can’t wait to be able to hold in-person events again, but we don’t see the digital side of events disappearing once social distancing rules are eased. Some people may attend an event in person, while others may join the livestream. In this way, events will be able to draw even more people together.”
This is the last in the DIY Marketing series. It’s time to get back to work, folks.
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