Our Top Tips for Running an Online Event
We recently held an online discussion with a handful of our clients to share experiences and challenges that businesses and individuals were facing when moving events online. Attendees ranged from multinational conferencing businesses and festival brands to those who use networking events as a new business driver. Although the call was a closed session to allow open conversations, there were some tools mentioned and recommendations that we thought could be helpful to others. We’ve included these below.
Tools and articles:
Here’s a selection of useful tools that were suggested by the group to help with aspects of hosting an online event:
- Glisser – a presentation software, integrated audience response system and event analytics platform
- Brella – AI-powered networking software for online events and conferences
- Grip Events – AI-powered networking tool
- Global Meet – audio, web and video conferencing software
- Agency Hackers: Organising a Roundtable – this is a great guide for getting started with small scale events – from attracting attendees to the practicalities of the event itself
- Judy Rees: Preparation That Drives Participation – Judy produces some really interesting content around engaging attendees and facilitating emotional connections through online events – worth a read for sure
Think about how you can make your online events more ownable and brandable – this could be something subtle like hanging your logo on the wall somewhere in the background of your call, or you could try using the personalised background feature with Zoom. Some of the tools mentioned above have options to be white labelled so you can brand the platform your own, although this depends on the level of investment you’re looking to make in the platform.
Planning and preparation
It’s always good to be prepared, and this is especially true when hosting both online and offline events. If you ensure everything (and everyone) is clear before you start, you’ll be onto a winner.
- Know your software – as we’re all learning how various video conferencing works, there are bound to be a few technical issues. As a host, ensure you are well-versed in how the software works, and hold a practice run with your co-hosts so everybody is confident and the live experience is smooth.
- Have a structure in place for the event beforehand – treat your session like a live broadcast. One of our attendees suggested creating a storyboard of the session so you can visualise and plan the experience step-by-step. Some of the tools mentioned above allow you to recreate the registration process online, from how your guests are greeted to how you interact with them during the event.
- You can’t just cut and paste the structure of a face-to-face event agenda to an online event – you need to consider the content and the flow, how you’ll create engagement and interaction in an online format.
One of the benefits of attending an event face-to-face is the networking opportunities that are on offer. There is understandable concern around how this can be replicated online, but there are few easy ways to continue to offer this same networking value virtually:
- There are some quick fixes such as the ‘breakout room’ feature on Zoom, which allows hosts to assign attendees to ‘private’ Zoom chats for smaller and more intimate discussions. Many of the other online event tools also allow for this approach, where the host can check in on those breakout rooms to support as needed
- If your event is reasonably small, ensure you use gallery view and encourage attendees to ask each other questions and see each other’s faces.
- If people are comfortable with it, you can also facilitate email introductions between attendees post-event if you feel they could be mutually beneficial to each other. This can also be done through some of the online event platforms which allow participants to ‘match’ – much like a well-known dating app!
- This can actually be a great time to build more personal connections with clients or attendees, given the levelling effect of the Covid-19 crisis in our personal and professional lives – use this opportunity to reach out to attendees afterwards and check-in on anything they may have mentioned during the event which you feel you could help with, or just to say hello and thanks for attending.
- Some businesses are actually seeing an uptake in attendee numbers now they have moved their events online – you’re no longer constrained by attendee limits due to room size, and you could actually expand your audience reach and networking opportunities on a global scale due to how easy it is to access video conferencing software, no matter where you are in the world.
Clear value propositions
When you’re deciding how much to charge for an online event, don’t be shy. It’s good to offer free admission for some types of events, but don’t be afraid to charge for something you believe is offering true value to your customers.
- Many businesses have initially started offering tickets to their online events at a massively reduced cost (or no cost at all) – this is understandable at the beginning, but don’t feel obliged to offer something for free if in person you would’ve charged a significant amount for. Remember, if you’re offering valuable content, and can still facilitate networking and other important features of a traditional event, then don’t feel bad for charging money for that – people are still happy to pay if the value is there. Work hard on nailing a clear and concise value proposition.
- Always look at how you can add value for attendees, and also how you can leverage (as you would in a face to face event) VIP guests or hosts to encourage others to attend or speak at your event.
Winning new business and discovering leads is also an important function of many events. Online events can still offer many opportunities for this, you may just have to be a little creative.
- Try to take all the best parts of in-person discussions and repurpose for online – one example is 1-to-1 intimate discussions, perhaps where you’d usually be taking a client or prospect out for dinner/drinks – instead, try holding a private meeting with them, and maybe even let them know that a glass wine is allowed (or mandatory!) on the call.
- One idea that was floated during our discussion, was sending clients/attendees a hamper of wine and cheese, and then joining them online to chat whilst enjoying the hamper – who could say no to that?
There are loads of video conferencing, calling tools and software out there. At Nalla, we always used to use Google Hangouts, but switched to Zoom soon after we started working from home in March. After attending a few meetings and scanning Google for reviews, it seems like Zoom is the software of choice for many. The following points are a little Zoom-specific, but can be applied to most other tools should you choose to use them instead.
- Remember, many participants and hosts are relatively new to this – people will be forgiving if you accidentally mute yourself whilst talking, or your child decides to show you their new mud pie in the middle of a call. But further down the line, brands will expect professionalism and your ability to smoothly host a video call.
- There are two core types of Zoom video calls – seems most people are happier with the results from the ‘meeting’ version, but if your events have more than 50 people you may be wise to stick to a webinar to avoid over-complication.
- Zoom webinar – broadcast and presenting – you can also add polling and Q&A. Can be harder for panellists or hosts, because they can’t see anyone’s faces or reactions.
- Zoom meetings – you can have break out rooms and use gallery view, and generally works better with smaller, intimate events
- Muting attendees is optional – some prefer everyone to be unmuted, but this can be slightly distracting if people have background noise whilst others are speaking. We found it easiest for everyone to be on mute as default, and unmute once they spoke.
One thing we all agreed on was that, in all likelihood, video conferences, events and meetings are going to stay popular, even once travel restrictions have eased. We’ve all got to prepare to carry on hosting online events well into the future – so now’s a great time to get good at it.