Top Tips for Hosting Virtual Events

Jasmine Smith (S’11) is a freelance Event Producer at SmithCo

The world has changed significantly since March forcing us to live, work, and communicate mostly through technology. We order food, meet for happy hour, go to concerts, join meetings for work, and attend church all courtesy of the internet. Everything is happening online and honestly, I kind of like it. I have attended more webinars, workshops, conferences, and happy hours via my 10-year-old Macbook in the last three months than I have participated in the last three years. Some days my calendar felt a little overwhelming, but each event meant that I would learn something that would contribute towards personal or professional development. As a former wedding planner with a newly launched a new event production business, professional development quickly became a priority. I needed to learn and understand how to pivot from producing in-person events to good virtual events. I signed up and attended any event that seemed even just a little interesting. And I still attend 2-3 events per week.

As an event producer, it is sometimes hard to enjoy the event as a guest because I’m always analyzing the complete experience: the event website, the email I was sent telling me how to access the event, the platform used, the moderator and, the event content and takeaways.  Admittedly, I go to learn, but I also go pick up tips to host and produce the best virtual experience possible. Here are a few things I noticed by events done well:

  1. The event host understands the virtual event environment

Knowing what a virtual event is will help shape your event and your attendee experience.

  1. The event host is clear on the type of experience they want for everyone involved

A good virtual event will take into consideration the needs of their attendees, speakers, and their own team. These needs are addressed during planning and are projected during the event.

  1. The event host hired a professional to plan and produce the event

Planning an event on or offline requires skill and experience that many people do not have or do not have the desire to learn. Working with professionals is one way to really ensure the event is planned and managed effectively.

  1. The event host makes it easy for people to attend and access the event

Providing a link in the ticket confirmation is great but sending a quick email directly to attendees one day before or on the day of the event makes it easy for people.

  1. The event host has an agenda or program available at the start of the event

Ideally, this is shared on the event page or embedded within the event itself. People like to pop in and out of events or may be joining to hear from a specific person. An agenda lets them know what to expect and when.

  1. The event host is prepared and so are the speakers

Preparation is important and will help influence the flow and cohesiveness of the event. If you haven’t prepared your speakers, attendees will know. If your team is not prepared, attendees will know.

  1. The event host selected a host or emcee with experience

An event host or emcee sets the tone of the event and their energy and enthusiasm are felt by attendees through their level of engagement. Host with experience, understand this and are comfortable navigating when something is not going along as planned during the event.

  1. The event host included breaks and transitions

Both are extremely important during longer events. People need coffee and bathroom breaks during in-person events and so they are also needed when tuning in from home. Breaks actually help keep people engaged and can include musical entertainment or a hard stop with a designated return time. Transitions help with the flow of the event.

  1. The event host incorporates attendee engagement into their program

The level of engagement should vary depending on the type and length of event but, there are ways to engage with attendees even during speaker only events. Engaging attendees is a value-add to any event and keeps attendees focused during the event. 

  1. The event host stays on schedule

Even during a pandemic with nowhere to go, people are still busy. Some people may be attending an event during their lunch hour, a speaker may have another event or work. Starting and ending on time is a way to honor everyone’s time and keeps people from missing out on good information should they have to leave the event early.

If you are considering hosting a virtual event, these are just some tips to consider. Before you begin planning, attend virtual events and take notes on what went well and not so much. Remember, don’t just think not just about your role as a host; consider the speaker and guest experience from start to finish as well.

WORK WITH A PROFESSIONAL TO ENSURE A HIGH QUALITY EXPERIENCE MAKE IT EASY FOR PEOPLE TO ATTEND AND ACCESS THE EXPERIENCE.

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