5 Lessons Any Business Can Learn From Our First Ever Virtual Event

by | Jul 24, 2020

Are we done pivoting yet?

I am, of course, joking. But honestly, I don’t think anyone expected to be making changes to their business on a monthly basis. Here in Arizona, we thought we had things under control. The next thing we knew, we were rivaling New York in the number of COVID cases.

Bottom line…pivoting is the “new normal”. At least for now.

In light of that, I wanted to share an experience we had recently. One that changed my perception, if I’m being truthful. Because (and I almost feel guilty saying this), we learned some incredible, valuable things by hosting our first ever virtual event.

This was our first, because prior to March, we believed that our program was a hands-on program. That it required the physical presence of our customers to get the full benefits.

Well…we’d still probably prefer to do live events. But virtual works. And it works well! And today I want to share 5 lessons we learned that can be applied to your virtual events, virtual employee training and meetings, personal coaching, and any other typically in-person activities.

So here goes:

1) Your Host and Co-host play huge roles in the success of your event.

Prior to the event, we assumed that having a solid, entertaining, and focused host or co-host was important. But we didn’t realize how much value they would bring to the overall experience for our attendees. We chose to have the co-hosts sit together and they were able to bring the energy, recap speakers succinctly and keep the movement in our virtual event.

Keeping energy high and maintaining engagement is tricky in a virtual world, but with awesome co-hosts, it is both valuable and doable. For any events you plan (even if it’s one-on-one interaction), consider adding an extra member to your team. Someone who can spot opportunities you (as the host) will be too focused to identify.

Also, if you plan to allow your attendees to communicate through chat, having an extra body on hand to manage chat comments is beneficial as well.

2) Develop a healthy respect for your technology.

Obviously audio and visual technology is a big part of a virtual event. We looked at many platforms that we could use but settled on Zoom. Practice the features you will utilize and schedule time to run through the full set up.

We had wonderful lighting and a great visual because we had access to a nice camera. But we lacked the right audio equipment for the co-hosts. Having a good mic for them will definitely be on our list for the next event.

Nothing kills the tone of an event or meeting faster than tech troubles. And we’re all going to have them. Prepare yourself for that inevitability now. But with a good run through, you’ll have a better idea of what to be on the lookout for and can troubleshoot quickly.

3) Seriously…goodie boxes for the WIN.

During an in-person event, we provide snacks, meals, workbooks, and swag. This is a fun part of the event and we didn’t want our participants to miss out on this aspect. So we sent each attendee a goodie box with snacks, swag, and a t-shirt to wear at the event. This also served as a way to connect physically with a virtual event.

Our favorite thing in the box was pom poms. We used these pom poms as a way to bring energy visually into the virtual meeting. Everyone waved their pom poms to welcome a speaker, or to thank them at the end of their presentation – since all the participants were muted and we couldn’t hear the cheers and applause. When we all waved the pom poms on camera, it lit the screen up in colors. It was awesome!

4) Speakers bring the gold, but don’t skip on polishing them up before the event.

We designed our program so that each speaker spoke for 20-30 minutes. That is not a lot of time. Especially if the speaker takes 5-8 minutes to talk about themselves, introduce their topic or tell us why we should listen to them.

Lesson learned: spend a little more time on the front end to coordinate and prep speakers and refine their message for our audience. (And the time they are allotted.)

5) Make appropriate accommodations for international attendees.

We had attendees from all over the world. This presents a challenge when scheduling as our international clients were up all night to attend the live virtual sessions.

Also, our goodie box did not arrive on time to the international clients – which was disappointing. We’ll be more mindful of the international attendees with our next virtual event.

Overall, the event was a huge success. And we learned that pivoting isn’t as painful as it appears at first. We’ve already got plans in the works for our next event.

But what about you? What’s in the works virtually for you?

Are you connecting with your employees while they work from home? Have you switched to more webinars and less in-person meetings? Do you have plans to launch online events to compensate for the changes we’ve all been forced to adapt to?

Here would be my ultimate advice to you…give it your all. Put some serious energy into your plans and help your clients and/or employees feel how much you care about them and their success. We’re all a little bit down right now. But with the right set up, even basic company meetings can inject hope and motivation into the people you connect with. And you can make it a good experience for everyone.

If “virtual” is the “new normal”, then make sure it counts. Good luck with your next meeting or event!


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