Any event can be hosted virtually. I mean it, ANY EVENT. Even a purely networking event. All it takes is the right tool and of course, careful planning. You can’t deliver your content the same way you would in person. Virtual and live events are very different, but you don’t need to totally reinvent the wheel. With just a few tweaks you can get your would be live-event, digital ready. Here I will share how to optimize your content for virtual platforms and create the environment for a successful virtual event.
Keep content to 75% or less of your total scheduled time.
Your content shouldn’t be more than 50-75% of the total allotted time for your event. That other 25-50% of the scheduled time should be used for generous breaks, networking breakouts, and housekeeping announcements.
Keep blocks of content to 45-60 minutes.
You can run an event all-day long or all-day over multiple days. But make sure that you aren’t scheduling people for chunks longer than 60 minutes. Build in breaks at 45-60 minute intervals for at least 15 minutes but in some cases even 30-60 minutes. Breaks mid-session should be 15 minutes but try to give at least 30 minutes between sessions. If you use a virtual event tool, those longer breaks can also provide additional networking opportunities for your attendees.
Create opportunities for true 2-way communication with your attendees. Carve out significant time for Q&A at the end of every session. It is often during these Q&A sections that magic really happens and the groundwork laid for continuing offline conversations.
Provide a takeaway.
Give your attendees a worksheet, one-pager, summary of slides, download for a tool, or a link to schedule a meeting with the speaker or expert on their team. This will keep the session and the knowledge you just provided top of mind.
Must use video.
Speakers, MCs, and facilitators should always use video when speaking and presenting. Video makes it feel like your attendees are really connecting with a human and keeps them engaged.
Stage your background.
Create a warm, inviting, creative feel with your background. If possible, add a real life background! You might want to avoid artificial backgrounds unless you have a proper green screen to make sure it doesn’t glitch. Optics are important!
Upgrade your internet.
Anyone presenting or speaking should upgrade their internet to at least 600mbps. You might want to consider even higher speeds if you have a full house of people streaming and working. Again, you want to limit the opportunity for any hiccups or mishaps.
See above, keep blocks of content 45-60 minutes long at a stretch. Don’t try to stuff too much content in. You have to be fierce about your prioritization. Don’t forget generous breaks between sessions and shorter breaks in the middle of longer sessions. Your attendees will thank you and be more engaged as a result.
Conduct a dry run.
In addition to practicing your session to nail down timing, you should also conduct a dry run with all your stakeholders. The dry run is meant to familiarize you and your team with the technology and what to expect on game day. Make sure you include your speakers, facilitators, and support staff for the day of. Practice using the functionality of your platform so everyone knows what to expect.
Format Best Practices
Talks and Keynotes
Keep to 40 minutes total. 20 minutes of content + 20 minutes of Q&A.
Keep content 45-60 minutes total. The moderated panel discussion should be kept to 30-45 minutes with the last 15 minutes saved for Q&A. This goes without saying, make sure you utilize an engaging moderator who is knowledgeable on the subject.
Keep content to 3-5 sections or takeaways at most. Include polls, worksheets, and handouts. Again, if your workshop is longer than an hour, give 5-10 minute breaks at 45-60 minute intervals.
Keep to 30-60 minutes total and put some structure around it. Some platforms allow you to create breakout rooms. If you have that capability, provide each group with a prompt for discussion. You can even swap groups a few times so people get to meet more people. Some virtual event platforms have sophisticated networking and meeting functions. Make sure your attendees are aware of the functionality and know how to use it.
Have you deployed any of these strategies for optimizing your content? What worked best for you? Or are you setting out to upgrade your current virtual programming? Which of these tips will you look to incorporate?