Have you become one of the millions of ‘Zoombies’ scattered around the world?
Exhausted and fed up with video calls and virtual gatherings, pretending to be interested? Well, you’re not alone.
Over the past years, InsightPact has organized countless virtual and hybrid gatherings (a hybrid event is one that is both online and in-person). Since these events are here to stay, here is a part of our checklist as well as some suggestions accumulated from our learnings on how to successfully and meaningfully run online or hybrid events.
Common problems and mistakes with virtual and hybrid events and why is a checklist important
When it comes to running an online or hybrid event, there are many potential problems or mistakes that can arise. Here are a few of the most common.
Inadequate preparation. Successfully running virtual and hybrid gatherings take a lot more effort and preparation than many people think. It can be solved by hiring a professional organizer and/or having a thorough checklist.
Lack of a support team/inadequate staff. This has to do with human resources and experiences. It’s highly recommended to have a person or a team designated for different tasks to make sure that all the important ones will be taken care of.
Lack of engagement and interaction. One of the most common pieces of feedback from online and hybrid events is that participants feel that they are unengaged and often feel unheard during the event. Not prioritizing comments and Q & A time is often the main cause of this.
At InsightPact, we have learnt that having a checklist to guide our online and hybrid event planning helps ensure a great experience for all involved. Here is a glimpse into our checklist.
Before diving into the technicalities of the event, start with this reflection.
- Who is your target audience? What exactly do you have to offer to them? Why should these people be interested in joining your session?
- Why are we using this particular platform and not others? [Zoom, Hubilo, Howspace etc.]
- What is the budget and how to best manage it? Consider all the costs such as paid platforms, hiring Technical Facilitators, hiring a professional moderator, and for hybrid events, venue costs, food & beverage costs, and camera crews etc.
With all the above factors in mind, mindfully design the program that would be best for your audience.
One of the key elements for a successful event is keeping your audience engaged. Easier said than done. It takes a lot of understanding and preparation in order to make that happen. To start placing the audience at the center, deeply reflect on what would be an appropriate way to engage this particular audience?
- Ideas: virtual gamification, create engaging quizzes, breakout sessions for in-depth discussion
- Tools: Polling, Kahoot, Mentimeter, Slido etc.
- What could be some challenges? : unstable internet, audience not familiar with the technology, takes too much effort, budget etc.
While designing a program, DO NOT forget to set enough time as well as a designated support team to help prioritize the audience's comments and questions. Audience members feeling unengaged and unheard is usually one of the most common complaints that can be prevented beforehand. In order to do this, plan a mechanism that will allow you to prioritize the audience. Think about: who selects the comments and questions from audience, where do the selected comments go, and what to do with those comments and for how long.
Over and above these core elements of our process, also think about the following:
- Set realistic expectations with your client and your team about the event. Be on the same page.
- Create a shared central folder for putting all the most updated files. This prevents people from getting confused by having too many versions of files in email threads.
- Schedule a project launch call via email by sending a Calendly link to the clients/main people involved.
- When looking at your chosen event platform, make sure of the following;
- Input event details
- Build registration forms
- Set up ticketing if needed
- Connect tickets to your registration form
- Input your agenda
- Continuously update the agenda as needed
- Integrate with your chosen video conferencing platform
- Upload bios and headshots of speakers as they come in
- Gather copy, photos, and other materials for the event page creation (if applicable)
- Prepare and send guides/manuals to participants, speakers, and moderators as needed
- Consider: does it make more sense to pre-record some of the presenters/speakers, then have them attend a live Q&A session? Would this help with the timing of the event and streamlining the content? How might it affect the environment/atmosphere depending on the desired feel of the event?
- Schedule dry run(s) of event
- Run the event: Remind organizers/speakers/moderators to join 20-30 minutes in advance, if applicable.
- Have a debrief session with your team after the event. Understand, share, and reflect on the lessons learnt.