Getting the most from virtual events

Gareth Spencer

UK Field Marketing Manager at Cornerstone

For the past few months, everything has been online. Conferences, meetings, training and even concerts and theatre performances. While we are close to returning to some sense of normality, it will be a while before in person events make their return. Some are suggesting we may not have in person events until at least 2021. So, many are deciding to either try their hand at their first virtual event or even moving their annual events online.

With so many happening, how do you get the most out of these events and make yours stand out?

For attendees

Many of us have been attending online events, especially during the peak of lockdown. But sometimes it’s far too easy to put the event on in the background and carry on with your day and by doing this, you aren’t going to get the most out of the experience. Treating a virtual event like an in-person one can really help – and this means both preparing before the day and finding ways to engage during.

Before the event, you want to ensure that you aren’t going to be disturbed on the day, so you should let your colleagues know you are unavailable. You could even set up an out of office or change your settings to ‘do not disturb’. Following this, you can download the agenda and find any pre-event content, so you are fully prepared for the day ahead. And of course, remember to charge all your devices if you’re tuning in outside of your home office!

Attending an event virtually can also help ease pressure. For example, there is no obligation to wear uncomfortable shoes or clothing and there is no worry of feeling exhausted after a long day of walking around. Virtual events also eliminate the need for travel, saving both time and expense.

Not everyone has the luxury of working alone at home, so for those with children, needy pets or other priorities, online events will often have pre-recorded content, which will allow you to step away to tend to other matters if needed, or even just grab a coffee! You can do this without fear of missing anything.

During the event, try to make the most of the tools provided, and where possible, try to use a webcam – this will help the experience feel more real. Most importantly, make sure that you are interacting with the talks and content, networking in breakout rooms and socialising, exactly as you would if you were attending a “physical” event in person.

For hosts

Hosting these events can be really difficult with so many factors to consider. When it comes to making the most of the situation as a host, your main goal here is to ensure that the event stands out and is remembered. Whether this is with a live music guest performance, interactive games or even trophies for your attendees to collect, it’s important to make sure that you are doing something different to the rest.

Your audience is key, so making the experience personalised and relevant is the first step. This can be done by sending personalised gifts such as vouchers, swag or hampers to your attendees - in person events will always offer free things, so doing this can help to make it feel more “real”. You can also find ways to involve the audience - perhaps through social media hashtags, prizes or even exit polls. And you can use the data from the polls elsewhere too!

For speakers

Being a speaker at a virtual event, whether pre-recorded or live, can be nerve wracking, but it can also be a great opportunity to improve your skill. I recommend a live Q&A with a pre-recorded session. Being able to interact with the audience in real-time means they will get the most out of the talk and allow for a super engaging and ‘normal’ experience. With pre-recorded talks, the pressure of technical issues is removed, meaning if you have small children around wanting to crash the party, or just an unstable internet connection on that day, your speaking slot remains uninterrupted. This also allows for more flexibility and engagement. For example, you have the option to interweave other content such as videos and infographics to help illustrate your points better. And if your session was pre-recorded, you can be active in the comments section to answer any questions from the audience directly!

Beyond delivering a great talk, it is what you do after that really counts. For example, if you run out of time for everyone’s questions, take them into a breakout room to get them answered or respond via email – this will not only help you come across as a more approachable speaker, but will also improve the audience’s experience. Similarly, if you can, try to gather feedback - for example by asking attendees to submit a star rating and a comment. Doing this will really help guarantee that as a speaker you get the most out of the event and can improve before your next virtual event appearance!

It seems that virtual events are here to stay for the foreseeable future, and with these tips, you can hopefully make the most of any events you are attending, hosting or speaking at. And to really put these tips to the test, make sure you keep September 16th and 17th free as our annual Cornerstone Convergence is going virtual! At Convergence Unbound, you’ll be able to create a more personalised experience by building your own agenda from a whole host of sessions. We have a range of breakouts covering subjects like product strategy and bold thinking, with guest speakers from Nestle, IKEA, Electrolux and many more. And because we are online, there is room for everyone to join. You can register for free here.

And, who knows, you could win a prize!

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