Best Practices for Running Virtual Events from Gerrit Heijkoop

Martina Cicakova
Photo of Gerrit Heijkoop from LiveOnlineEvents

Are you considering moving your live event online? You’re not alone. The global pandemic has forced many conference organizers to switch to virtual events.

If you are a virtual newbie, there are a few important points to keep in mind.

Here are tips from an expert on hybrid events, Gerrit Heijkoop from LiveOnlineEvents, on how to pull it off successfully.

Four key steps to migrate your event online

When migrating your event into the virtual space, there are four main steps you need to take: technology, online program design, hosting and moderation, and communication support.

Let’s dive into them in more detail.

A. Technology

The first question that comes to mind when you hear ‘virtual event’ is one of technology.

“First, determine whether you will have one physical place from where you stream the event, or whether it will be fully virtual,” Gerrit says.

If you decide to stream it from a physical location, dedicate one room solely to live streaming.

  • Recording infrastructure: Consider using cameras, lights and microphones for a high-quality experience. Any AV company can supply that.
  • Streaming solution: You can use a live-streaming tool, a bespoke content delivery network, or a leverage live-streaming functionality of social media platforms.
  • Virtual platform: Some conferences prefer having their own bespoke solution with a dedicated microsite where they stream the event, collect registrations and payments, and download reports.
  • Audience engagement tools: Online events require special attention to interactivity. Tools like Slido will help you create real-time interaction, collect feedback from your online audience and deliver a virtual Q&A seamlessly. You can integrate it into your microsite, integrate it with Zoom or embed your live stream into Slido.

B. Online program design

Besides technology, you also need to think carefully about your online program design.

“A typical face-to-face conference program isn’t easily transferable online. You need to make adjustments and design a flow that will stick people to their screens,” shares Gerrit.

To help the attendees navigate the event, create a script that involves welcoming and hosting, and an explanation of how the online event will work.

But don’t forget about your speakers. Some of them might be used to presenting online, but for many, it will be a new gig. “Without seeing the nodding heads or smiling faces, the speakers are left in the dark,” Gerrit adds.

To keep the participants’ attention, ask them to add interactivity into their presentations. They can use polls to get quick feedback or check for understanding. Or let them run a fun trivia quiz.

Another important part of your online event agenda is the live Q&A segments. If you use a Q&A tool, start collecting questions as the event kicks off, and leave the Q&A open throughout. Remind people to post questions and upvote the ones they like, if your tool allows this.

C. Online hosting and moderation

The third important aspect of making your virtual event successful is hosting and moderation.

“Find a dedicated moderator who will be responsible for hosting the event on camera, and gluing together all the sessions. You might also need an additional moderator to host the live chat, respond to people on social media, or monitor Slido,” Gerrit advises.

The hosts will need to make up for the fact they are not in the same room and can’t feel the audience’s energy. And let’s be honest, it’s too easy to zone out when you’re watching a screen.

That’s why the moderators have to make a bit more effort to actively re-engage the attendees.

To pull people in at the start, ask them to run a quick icebreaker poll. During the breaks, see how the attendees are getting on with the content. Or add in a bit of competition by setting up an ongoing game of ‘who will post the highest number of questions?’

You should also think about who will take care of the moderation off-camera. If you are using an interactive tool like Slido, find one person to administrate the platform.

If you have a live chat open for the attendees, find another person who will monitor and respond to those conversations.

D. Communication support

Last, but not least, once you have planned your event, you need to spread the word about it. However, you need to keep in mind that hybrid and fully virtual events have a flipped model when it comes to event marketing.

“Compared to live events that have a peak in communication three to six weeks before the event, with online events this is a last-minute call. Most communication is pushed out 48 hours before its start because many viewers will not free up their agenda, but just join in,” says Gerrit.

To put it simply, you have to work with impulsive decisions or sudden dropouts if your attendees get pre-occupied with something else.

To wrap it all up

If done right, virtual events can bring you numerous benefits, including cost-saving and an increased number of sign-ups. Following these expert tips will help you to make your next virtual event a truly interactive and memorable experience.

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