Even though day-to-day business is beginning to go back to some semblance of normalcy as vaccines have become widely available, we are likely to see some permanent changes in the way we live and work in a post-pandemic world.
Industry experts predict that virtual meetings and events are here to stay. Meetings are still expected to be virtual or at least smaller through 2022, and it will probably be 2023 before large-scale events are back to pre-pandemic levels. And going forward, even most in-person events will now be expected to include a virtual component.
Although most anyone who works in any type of office setting has become pretty familiar with online conferencing software over the past couple of years, virtual meetings can still offer challenges.
One the one hand, virtual meeting software is accessible enough that almost anyone can set up an online meeting without much technical know-how. However, even though these programs are relatively simple to use, that doesn’t mean there can’t be glitches or issues caused by user error, as hilariously illustrated by the lawyer who dialed into a virtual court hearing with the face of a cat because he didn’t know how to remove the filter.
Even if you are having a relatively small meeting, it is best to assign someone whose job it is to simply handle the technical aspects. This should not be the same person who is leading the meeting. The technical coordinator should be available with a cell phone to assist anyone who may be having connection issues, manage screen sharing, organize breakout rooms and so on.
Getting the Most Out of Hybrid Events
Since most events going forward will be hybrid, i.e. include in-person and virtual components, take advantage of the benefits these types of events afford your organization and members. If your professional association is like most, almost 75% of your revenue may come from your annual convention. By offering a virtual component, you can attract members who would otherwise not be able to attend due to cost or logistics.
- Rehearse! Ensure that everyone involved in planning and running the event understands the schedule and how sessions will transition from one to another. Recruit a few staff members to act as attendees and report any issues they encounter and relate their overall experience.
- Ensure that you have a chat feature set up so that virtual attendees can ask questions and be sure to include some of those questions during a question and answer period.
- Pointing a static camera at your speaker is not engaging. If most of your speakers have visual aids, a camera set at a distance to encompass both the speaker and the screen will likely not show the graphics well. Ideally you want to be able to switch the focus from the speaker, to a direct screen share of the graphics and back as needed. Or at the very least, show a feed of the graphics with the speaker visible in a box in a corner of the viewer’s screen.
- Consider making your “virtual conference” separate from your in-person trade show by scheduling them at different times. You can reduce the stress and logistics of trying to do both at once, while also offering packages for those that want to experience both.
- Get creative with break times. Virtual attendees are at a disadvantage when those breaks between sessions occur. In-person attendees can use the time to network and visit booths of interest. What can you offer your virtual attendees for these down times? Could you have someone with a camera moving around the hall showing what’s going on and talking to people? Could you show an informative or educational video? What if you introduced a chat topic or played a game? Get creative and keep those viewers engaged!