Virtual events—once uncharted territory—are here to stay. Even as the long-awaited sliver of “normalcy” continues to grow wider with more vaccines rolled out each day, there’s no denying that the fabric of the events space has been altered for good. As with any new frontier, we were bound to make a few missteps along the way. From monotonous webinars to poorly organized online conferences, there’s a good chance you’ve attended at least one cringe-worthy event over the past year that had you walking away, thinking: “ouch, I hope my next event doesn’t go like that!”
So what can you do to ensure that your virtual experiences don’t become sleep-inducers, or worse, objects of ridicule? Here are the five of the most common mistakes we’ve witnessed, plus practical ways to prevent them.
We've all seen them. Hours-long presentations with attendees tuning out. Forced breakouts masquerading as networking "opportunities" where conversation is stiff and connections are merely surface-level. Q&A sessions with no actual questions in sight.
After a rapid scramble to pivot to online events, we now know that the tactics that seemed like no-brainers for producing successful in-person gatherings don’t necessarily work in the virtual arena. The key is delivering the excitement and experiential factor of in-person events, but knowing when to stray from the same old strategy to prevent your event from falling flat.
Why are we here? Are we trying to gain leads, close deals, or educate existing customers? All three, perhaps. Or maybe the goal is to have fun and foster connections within your remote team. There's no wrong answer—it's part of the flexibility of virtual events—but it's important to keep your goal top of mind throughout the entire planning process.
Awkward pauses. Speakers who don’t show up when they’re supposed to. Disarray, everywhere. Just those thoughts alone are enough to get any event producer’s skin crawling. A lot of things can go wrong during live events, but the anxiety is amplified ten-fold in a virtual environment, where you’re at the mercy of the tech working. Preparation is key here. Start planning early and nail down every single detail so there’s no room for confusion or chaos.
“Gatherings crackle and flourish when real thought goes into them, when (often invisible) structure is baked into them.” — Priya Parker, The Art of Gatherings
Your attendees need a guide, and so do your speakers. A great emcee or moderator will act as the glue of your event, transitioning speakers smoothly and confidently while leading the audience from start to finish.
In order to reduce major day-of stress, make sure that your event host, speakers, and behind-the-scenes producers feel comfortable with your event platform and are familiarized with the run-of-show and responsibilities. It's almost a guarantee that someone will have technical issues, a less than ideal background, or misplace their speaker notes. The more you can prepare ahead of time, the better.
Producing a virtual event is no easy feat. Though nearly every event will inevitably come with an unexpected surprise or two, we hope these tips serve as a starting point for producing polished virtual experiences that have attendees raving. Your guests, speakers, and teammates will thank you.