Live events and courses were already long days and a lot of work. As the business community has adapted our model to a virtual audience, we’ve learned what teachers have been saying since last spring, “virtual is so much harder.” Here are five major differences with virtual events and how you can prepare for them.
1. You have to schedule down to the minute.
Yes, our live events are often scheduled down to the minute but we all know how those timelines “evolve” as each speaker runs a few minutes long. Or what about when the person who’s supposed to be on stage is in the bathroom and you have to stall? Virtual events just don’t allow us to “wing it” the way live events do.
2. Record as much as you can in advance.
The normal parade of sponsors and dignitaries offering introductions is very difficult to coordinate virtually. It’s a good guideline to ask anyone speaking less than 30 minutes who has no Q&A portion to pre-record and submit a video. It avoids any internet connection or audio issues that tend to occur in livestreams. If your event has a large enough budget, consider engaging a production vendor to facilitate the recordings.
3. You need to have a dress rehearsal.
Every event speaker should participate in a dress rehearsal or tech check before the event. It’s important for all parties to feel comfortable with the technology and understand what is expected of them during the event. In addition, it allows technical staff to ensure each speaker has a sufficient broadband connection to support high quality audio and video. A rehearsal also allows you to make sure your speakers have professional and appropriate backgrounds.
4. Simultaneous breakout sessions become infinitely more complicated.
There is no more simply sending attendees to their breakout sessions. Each session will, at minimum, require a coordinator to introduce the speaker/panel, launch the session, monitor for technical difficulties and facilitate a Q&A. Consider a longer event or several shorter events to streamline staffing resources.
5. Double your previous planning timelines.
Things just take longer to coordinate with virtual events. There are more steps and no room for improvising. You are no longer emailing your sponsors to ask them to come on stage at a specific time during an event they’re already attending. Instead, you’re asking them to either record and submit a video or log into streaming video technology they may find intimidating. Either way, you’re looking at lots of questions and lots of hand-holding.
It’s normal to feel intimidated by this new virtual event format. The best way to get comfortable is to practice. Consider doing small virtual sessions with your team using the same technology in the weeks leading up to the event!