The virtual world we are living in has changed the task list of event professionals in so many ways. The word “platform” is no longer synonymous with “a raised-level surface,” but is now a critical point of content delivery. Concerns regarding parking have turned into conversations about bandwidth. Our checklists have certainly shifted, however, what remains consistent is our dedication to hosting successful, memorable events. It is in this spirit that we share tips, tricks, and considerations for hosting a virtual event. (Please note that while these tips reference Zoom, many of the same rules apply to other virtual meeting and event platforms.
Webinar vs. Meeting
The first decision when planning a virtual event is to determine if the event should be a meeting or a webinar. A Zoom meeting will allow for easier audience interaction and is more effective for a smaller crowd when conversation and dialogue are key. Zoom’s webinar function works well for large groups, events with keynote speakers, and when content is less interactive.
Location, Location, Location
The physical location of the presenter is your key to success. Take the time to discuss with your program participants their location, whether it be a home office, kitchen, or basement, and suggest they set the scene. Some hints to keep in mind when choosing the location for your setup include:
- Keep it simple. Find a quiet room and choose a spot with a simple background. A cluttered background can distract from your message.
- Use the opportunity to brand your meeting. A carefully-placed banner, picture, or coffee mug will keep your audience focused on the purpose of the event.
- Virtual backgrounds can be your friend or foe. When they work, they offer a clean and crisp scene, when they do not, they distract. The degree of clarity is dependent on the individuals’ device.
Audio & Visual
- Make sure your microphone is up as far as it will go so that guests on the other end of the meeting or webinar can hear you clearly.
- Look at the camera, not at the screen, so you have a proper eye level. This will give the impression that you are looking directly at attendees.
- Be sure you fill up the screen, but watch how close you are to the camera. Keep yourself centered on the screen.
- Have a light source, such as a light or window, in front of you. This allows proper illumination of your face. If the lighting source is behind you, the video will be darker and more difficult to see.
Beware of Traffic
Similar to how a traffic jam on the way to your favorite venue can delay the start of your event, so too can heavy traffic on your home Wi-Fi. Advise your presenters to limit the number of devices streaming at one time in their location to avoid delays and dropped service.
Timing is Everything
Shifting to a virtual event offers your guests the gift of time. You no longer need to allow time for guests to arrive, find a seat, and enjoy a meal. Virtual events allow a crisp delivery of your content. A best practice is to keep your program to 40 to 60 minutes. A four-hour gala dinner easily translates to a 45-minute virtual event.
Practice Makes Perfect
Do not assume everyone is a Zoom expert. Even if you have attended more virtual meetings than you care to remember, each one is different and unique. When working with multiple presenters, chances are there will be multiple levels of virtual comfort. Host a meeting-before-the-meeting to run through the program and explain how to use the screen functions. Assume it is the first time for everyone and don’t leave anything to chance. Platforms are constantly evolving; chances are you will learn something new every time you connect.
These are unprecedented times for the events industry. We can be distracted by our inability to gather in person or we can use this time to sharpen our technical skills and enhance the experience of our guests.
For more virtual meeting tips or questions about meeting space on campus, call The University of Scranton Conference & Event Services office at 570-941-6200 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.