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Virtual events are powerful. We just need to do them better

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There is a strong place for virtual in the events universe. Unfortunately, when you talk about “virtual events”, what comes to mind for many people is either their latest boring Teams meeting or something that is more like the broadcasting of an event. Both of these images are less than inspiring.

Virtual can be so much more. To bring virtual to life, the delegates MUST be involved. We need to employ the Ikea Effect (it’s a real thing!) and have the delegates help create the event or create the key moments. This means they have to be able to react and respond to the speakers in real time.

Here are a couple of ways to lift your next virtual event (and yes, over Teams or Zoom is good enough):

Have your presenters look down the barrel of the camera

If you have a professional studio, this is relatively easy. If your speaker or presenter is on their computer, often they are looking at the screen and not the camera. A simple sticky note with an arrow pointing to the camera and the words “look here” make a big difference.

Involve the audience

Ensure that your speakers and moderators get input from the audience. At the very least some Q&A. Preferably using simple tools like word clouds, polls, or even the chat box to share their perspectives and opinions.

Meetings not webinars

Meetings are far more engaging. You can see your audience and then play with them. Acknowledge their reactions, get them doing things and make them part of the event. Webinars are far too much of a “knowledge dump” to be engaging.

Use audio

With a few tweaks and a little know-how, it’s fairly simple to use some sound effects and music. It’s amazing the difference this makes to your delegates. It is not common, and it really connects with delegates with a different learning style.

Use names

Most online event systems will show the names of the people online with you. Use their names. A person’s name is the number one word they are trained to hear. They will respond and connect far better.

Be inclusive

With great tools like captions, language translation and the ease of accessibility of virtual events, it is far easier to be inclusive. Take advantage of the benefits it offers to those on your team who want or need it.

Have a great host

A great host for your online event makes all the difference (as it does with your face-to-face events). Having someone with the skill to engage, play to and energise your virtual audience will amplify the impact of your event. Naturally I would recommend myself for the job, but at the very least have someone with a solid track record of lifting the audience.

Post highlights

You WILL ALWAYS have some highlights. It is worth sharing those highlights with the attendees and across your network (either internally or externally as appropriate). This shares the fun of the session and helps promote your next one and remind those who were there how good it was.

In countries like Australia where geography has such an impact on our events, virtual events are a great way to minimise the impact and increase inclusivity. Make sure you are making your virtual events awesome.

Warwick Merry is a global award-winning event host and event evangelist. For over 20 years he has been hosting and producing online, hybrid and in-person events. He is the host of the Making Events Awesome livestream and Making Events Awesome group.

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