With the advent of social distancing, we are all being called upon to communicate virtually. Small internal meetings and strategy sessions are easily converted to video conferences, but large scale employee and customer events present a different challenge. Many of our clients have been able to simply postpone or reschedule their in-person events, but for some groups, a virtual meeting may be the best fit.
If it’s your first time converting a live program to a virtual program, the task can seem daunting. The need to create a real sense of connection with your audience is likely more critical than ever, but you’ll be using a new set of tools to do it.
To help you with the process, we sat down with our event producers, creative designers, and technology gurus to create a shortlist of the top 5 strategies you can use to keep your virtual meetings engaging:
1. Build excitement through a promotional campaign:
In order to encourage people to attend your program in a new virtual format, you need to get them on board and excited about it. Designing a robust, promotional communication plan is critical. What will your audience learn? Why should they still attend? What are the advantages of this new digital format for the participant? Create video teasers with content and speaker previews and launch a countdown campaign as the event draws closer.
2. Digital does not mean impersonal:
Never assume that targeted digital content can replace a personalized touch. This month a few of our agency team members were registered for a creative technology conference that converted to a virtual format. Immediately, an account representative from the host company contacted us to set up a virtual viewing party for the live broadcast portion of the event, complete with uber eats delivered to our individual locations – a thoughtful touch since most of us are presently working from home due to the COVID-19 outbreak. He also offered to build an agenda to help us navigate through the hundreds of available on-demand breakouts according to our interests – a service that is incredibly helpful to us, but that also allows the account representative to get a deep understanding of our needs vis a vis the services and technologies they sell. Now that’s a smart strategy.
3. Rethink the format:
Don’t simply turn lengthy sessions into conference calls in which individual speakers drone on and on. Remember, digital is different. Content should be shorter and punchier. If you are conducting training or hosting a thought leadership event, for example, think about breaking the sessions up into short 20-minute long Ted Talk-style formats with frequent breaks to prevent fatigue.
4. Showcase your team:
Switching up presenters and regularly calling on attendees to provide supporting commentary or anecdotal evidence to support your topic, is a great way to keep things fresh. Just make sure your speakers rehearse thoroughly so the handoffs are clean and they aren’t stepping on each other’s lines.
5. Leverage technology:
A virtual meeting can be executed in a variety of ways – from a simple video conferencing platform like Zoom where a single speaker talks directly into a webcam to a high-end television-style live broadcast that involves more technical support. In either case, make sure to explore all the tools your chosen platform has to offer – and use them!
In a video conferencing scenario, activate your camera so you can connect with your audience, and let your slides play a supporting role, rather than the starring role. Use whiteboard or sketching features when appropriate and don’t be afraid to field questions through Q&A modules. For more robust polling and moderated Q&A you can use a companion app like Slido or Glisser so that viewers can use their phone as a ‘second screen’ to interact with the online presenter.
To push your virtual meeting beyond webinar territory (a format that can automatically feel stale) consider a live broadcast. With a live broadcast, you can amp up the production value – envision a television-style set featuring multiple panelists – and integrate even more interactive tools into the viewing platform.
Finally, make sure to host all your content on a digital portal that is easy to navigate so that participants can access it after the main event. By analyzing views and watch rates, you’ll be able to understand which content was the most compelling to your audience and make smart adjustments for future programs.
We’re here to help
We hope these best practices can serve as useful guideline if you are being called upon to convert your live program to a digital event. Above all, please remember that EGR is here to help. If you have any questions or need further guidance – don’t hesitate to reach out. We know the current environment is challenging, but there are so many creative solutions – for virtual meetings and beyond – that we can employ to bridge the gaps and ensure that your business continues to thrive.