Organizing virtual events: All you need to know

The coronavirus has forced many of us to cancel meetups and events. That’s why it’s an opportunity to organize remote, multi-participant events to continue the ongoing activity in your community, organization, or networking. Zoom (and other virtual platforms) make attendance much more approachable and accessible… no more excuses for not being able to attend a meeting.

I’d like to share my tips gathered from personal experience of organizing various online events — with people that know each other, those who don’t, those who live in different countries, and more. I am working mainly with Zoom, but there are many others, such as Go To Meeting, Crowdcast, and Join.me. Some are designed for virtual events and some combine additional features that allow participants to work together.

Update: since the beginning of COVID-19, existing and new platforms emerged and improved, such as Hopin and Run The World.

I’m an enthusiastic supporter of using technology to create remote virtual events, especially if your audience is geographically distanced. I hope it will be an opportunity for you to see how you can expand the variety of events that you have in your community or workspace, or to target more audiences to your business.

Online event
Before organizing your virtual event, ask yourself, what is the event type and what do I want it to look like? | Photo: Chris Montgomery

11 tips for organizing online events

1

Organizing virtual events is similar to organizing offline ones, but the details that should be taken into account in the real world are perceived differently in the online world. You should consider that when you organize your event.

2

Before organizing your virtual event, ask yourself, what is the event type and what do I want it to look like? It will help you choose a platform and understand the necessary budget and preparations. If your plan is so that only the moderator and speaker will be seen, a webinar is a good option, as it also enables Q&A. Maybe you want all the attendees to be able to talk to each other? In that case, you should consider a platform with a conversation room option.

3

Prepare the attendees prior to the virtual event: Make sure to deliver the agenda. If it’s a small event, it’s worth dedicating its beginning to introducing all the participants. If the event goal is to create a discourse among the participants, explain to them how it should be done. If the participants are just viewers explain to them how they can react or ask questions in real time.

4

Make sure to prepare those who deliver the event ahead of time: Review with them how to use the platform, understand how to join the event, how to communicate with the participants and panelists, and every other detail that is important for a seamless event.

5

If the format is more of an informal, open-discussion between all participants, make sure the audience knows who the moderator is. An interesting option that works well for small groups, is to randomly assign the moderators when creating the event. Just don’t forget to notify them in advance.

Instructions
Make sure to send in advance special instructions to your participants | Photo: Kaitlyn Baker

6

Setting the event date: Think about your participants. What time will be best for them to join? Are they from different countries and you should organize the event accordingly? If the answer is yes, some of the platforms enable you to send a personalized calendar invitation for the participant time zone.

7

Marketing the event: In addition to standard marketing, I recommend publishing special instructions, if needed. For example, if you would like to engage the participants more, invite them to do that prior to the event, switch their sound and video mode to ON, and prepare the questions. Additionally, it’s important to clearly explain the technical steps in order to join. That way, the participants will be able to prepare in advance.

8

Technical details: In a virtual event, the technical details are similar to the offline events. The microphone is replaced by the speaker button, the cable that connects the computer and the screen switches to the share screen button, and the Q&A replaces the chat. Make sure that you and the moderators are in a quiet environment and your internet connection is strong and won’t be interrupted. Test the equipment prior to the event to make sure you won’t have any unexpected issues.

9

During the event: While in a physical event there is the registration team, the team member that delivers the opening notes, the technical staff etc., virtual events include all of those as well, especially the bigger ones. Make sure that someone will check in the community/marketing platforms (i.e. Facebook groups, WhatsApp) that the participants don’t have technical problems to join the events, and make sure that someone goes over the chat questions and answers them. In some of the platforms, participants can send personal and general messages to the event attendees, so you and the other organizers can privately warn of an error or get the attention of whoever is needed.

10

More during the event: The participants’ attention is easily distracted, it’s a short way to lose them to their phone, computer, or other interruptions. That’s why all the preparations you have made during the previous steps will help you create a successful, smooth and valuable event for your attendees.

11

Following the event: Most of the platforms offer the option to record the event, which gives those who couldn’t join the opportunity to watch it later at their convenience. You could also use the recordings for marketing activity.

There is much more to write about organizing virtual events, and I’m also delivering lectures and workshops that are updated according to the new platforms and tools in the field. Please feel free to use these tips for organizing a variety of events, and not just in times of crisis.

Do you want help with organizing virtual events from A to Z or hear about how to effectively lead such events? Let’s talk.

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