3 Top Virtual Event Tips

Sue Pelletier, Senior Editor

Using a game-show format to show that webinars don’t have to be deadly dull, panelists at a recent rebroadcast of one of the most popular sessions from the 2020 ASAE Virtual Annual Meeting & Exposition romped through an alphabet’s worth of virtual event tips — 26 in all — in less than an hour. In between buzzers buzzing, canned audience applause, and a lively live chat among audience members, the expert panelists answered questions from A — audiences — to Z, zeitgeist.

While each answer was by necessity short and pithy, the advice was nonetheless well-tailored for today’s times. Among the tips shared by the panelists — Carol McGury, MPS, Executive Vice President, SmithBucklin (moderator); Beth Surmont, CMP, CAE, Director of Experience Design, 360 Live Media; Christine Murphy Peck, Senior Director, Education and Learning Services, SmithBucklin; and Sharon Newport, CAE, Interim Chief Executive Officer, DHI — were these nuggets:

  • Starting at the beginning, the answer to what an event organizer needs to keep top of mind when considering what formats to choose for a specific event was “audience.” Are they technical? Gregarious? Homogenous or diverse? Always put the audience first, the panelists agreed. And don’t forget to set the goals for the event before you start designing it, they emphasized. How does the event fit into the organization’s strategic plan? Knowing your goals up front will enable you to map for the right outcome, they concurred.
  • Likewise, the panelists said that organizers should always design the event first, then find the platform that best meets the design and the effect you want to achieve. “When designing an event, it’s important to understand how all the pieces — what you want to accomplish, who your audience is, your budget, and whether you need to deliver continuing education units for certification — fit together,” said Surmont. “You can’t just take your existing schedule and throw it online via Zoom and just hope that it all works out.”

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  • Content is important, but so is engagement — especially when it comes to virtual events, they said. That means building in easy ways for people to interact, including collaborative sessions where people can come together to solve problems. And don’t forget the “F” factor: fun. Think about how to incorporate engagement tactics, such as music and gamification. One suggestion was to create a game where each player contributes to a specific outcome. For example, instead of having people earn individual points each time they score or visit a booth, the organization might donate a dollar to a charity.

    “Fun means different things to different audiences,” reminded Surmont. “Some groups may respond really well to having a farm animal pop up in the middle of the meeting, or a selfie booth or a talent show. Other groups have fun through just interacting with each other and coming together to solve a problem. Those sessions can be really productive.”

Reach Beth Surmont at beth@360livemedia.com.