by EMMA COLEMAN | Published on June 11, 2020

Over the last few weeks, I have attended MANY virtual events. They have been a great chance for me to learn new things and gain valuable insight into how other companies are using platforms and managing their COVID response.

I must be honest though; I had a secondary purpose for attending all these events. I wanted to ascertain what made a good virtual event, what were the best platforms to advocate and what were some of the improvements that could be made.

It led me to some key learnings:

1.      The theme of your event and your pre-promotion efforts are so important. I have lost count as to how many webinars I have joined expecting to learn one thing, and coming out having listened to 45 minutes of something completely different! This can get a tad annoying, so be clear on what you are offering and what your audience will learn – it will mean everyone has a far better experience.

2.      Timing is really important. It obviously depends on your audience, but on average, you can expect to hold attention for a maximum of 90 minutes (and I wouldn’t advocate using all of this unless your content is something completely new, you have multiple individuals partaking in the subject or, there are polls or Q&A’s to keep up the momentum– you will inevitably lose attention as children wander into the room or your audience suddenly remember to water their plants or feed the dog). You can expect to engage early talent for a little longer however, as they are keen and eager to make an impression and gain as much insight from you as they can.  Referring back to point one, this reiterates the importance of making sure your topic is right for your audience!

3.      Tech issues will be inevitable. Luckily, we are all resigned to the fact that these are now commonplace, and we are all far more forgiving. But it is still important to think about how prepared your presenters are when the Wi-Fi goes down. How they remain calm under fire. You can never do enough prep in advance. It is always worth sharing documents amongst teams before-hand and having a backup at the ready. Train, support and follow up with your presenters. It’s quite a different scenario to be talking to your laptop whilst sitting at your kitchen table.

4.      Find the right platform for you. There are some good cost-effective, robust platforms out there that allow you to share presentations, upload resources for sharing and make use of poll and Q&A functionality with just the aid of Wi-Fi and a laptop. But wow, when you get one that’s fully immersive – it’s a pretty amazing experience. From live feeds and interactive quizzes to multiple rooms you can choose to go into at leisure to meet teams via rich media, or elements you can adapt and share on your own social feeds such as augmented reality, really help bring experiences to life in the comfort of your own home.

5.      The unsung heroes. I was always aware that there was some unsung hero in the background of each of these events, moving people from room to room or filtering questions, and kudos to these individuals – – they really step into the fray when tech does falter, or to ensure the presenters feel calm and prepared.

6.      Whichever way you look at it, webinars and virtual events – whether they are internal or external communications, e-learning, panels, open days or careers fairs – are an incredibly cost-effective way to reach a large audience very quickly and reduce the traditional limitations of travel, whilst still providing that social aspect we are all craving and the ability to share stories and experiences. And if you hold it at the right time, you can even have attendees from all over the globe attending one large event at the same time.  

7.      Finally, by attending all these events I have doubled the size of my inbox! This is probably a challenge for my IT, but I totally love it. Why? Because it shows me that the organisers behind these events have listened to what I am interested in and are following up on that interest. Instead of a token handshake (not permitted anymore of course) and the empty promise of a connection on LinkedIn, they are engaging with me, and I have had some brilliant suggestions and connections with likeminded individuals because of it. So networking is not dead after all.

It’s made me realise that we have all pivoted really well with all things considered. And as the worst thing we can do is to stop communicating clearly – we need to make use of all of these tools that enable us to communicate effectively – whether that be internally, or by continuing to support clients and tell their stories to the world in a way that can still be engaging, insightful and positive.

If you would like our support or an agnostic view on platforms, please get in touch, as Havas People would love to be the team behind your successful event and campaign.