15 Things I Learnt From Running An Online EventAugust 6, 2020
With COVID-19 transforming how the general public interact with events companies need to find creative ways to engage with their audience. One way of ensuring safety whilst delivering seminars, training sessions, and conferences is running an online event. At Damson Cloud, we have run numerous, successful online events from live to pre-recorded. Our most recent Google Suite Customer Journey Summit had over 400 in attendance from across the globe. Here are 15 tips and tricks we have learned from running these events that will help you deliver a professional event from anywhere in the world. With most people remote working there are lots of different things to think about to deliver a world-class event from the comfort of your home. Fintan Murphy discusses his experience of running online events.
1. Decide the Format: What sort of Event Are You Running?
The most important question to ask yourself is what is the format of your event? There are many ways an event can be run. Is it going to be a single person talking to the camera or is going to be styled like an interview? Interviews can be done remotely as well with software like Zoom or Google Meet, so there are plenty of options when you’ve decided on the format you want to follow. Another format that is popular at events is a panel. Panels attract audiences who enjoy hearing expertise and debate which opens to our next question: will there be audience participation? Will it be live or pre-recorded and what form will your audience engagement take.
Understanding the format is incredibly important as this helps you decide on what software to use to deliver your event. Figuring this out can save a lot of time and money as, if you’re running a training session, technology like Zoom or Google Meet can suffice. If there are only twenty to thirty people participating that only require to join a call then these types of software are adequate. This is why finalising your format is so important: it helps you pick software and run your event with structure.
2. Recorded or Live?
Another question to consider is will your event be live or recorded? With modern technology, you also have the ability to do both. One company that runs a lot of their events pre-recorded is Google. This is a great option as, due to remote working, homes sometimes are subject to broadband issues. This provides an element of security by running events pre-recorded. If you decide to run your event solely pre-recorded, there are some elements of live sessions that you will lose out on. Activities like Q and As or surveys are popular additions to most events and this will be impossible if your event is pre-recorded.
As mentioned previously, some software offers you the opportunity to do both. You can pre-record an event and run it as a presentation, while offering Q and As and/or surveys as a live element to your event. This is something that Damson Cloud has done successfully. At our recent event, our opening section was a live stream where we introduced ourselves, had a survey, answered some questions, then played the presentation. The presentation looked very professional as we had multiple camera angles at play and were able to record different shots. This is a bonus to having a pre-recorded event as you will have more control over the video content in general. While camera angles are very important, we were also able to answer questions during the presentation as it was being delivered by the software.
Another positive aspect to consider with this type of model is internet breakdowns. If your broadband connection drops off, it will not impact your presentation as the pre-recorded element will continue. It also gives plenty of time for you to engage and interact with your audience and answer questions as they arise. This increases your engagement despite it being a ‘live event’. If this type of event is the format that you want to run, then there is technology to help with that.
3. Technology - Webinar Software
There are a plethora of webinar and live event tools that you can use to deliver events that are live or pre-recorded. Deciding on the format of your event is integral to the technology that you plan to use. If you are doing a training session, you won’t need complex tools. If you deliver a workshop of ten to fifteen people, you won’t need anything other than video software. Video software, like Google Meets and Zoom, has developed to allow you record them, so they are a good package to pick if you need simple and effective solutions. Due to the multi-layered nature of our events, we chose to use Big Marker which we found to be a very effective but complex tool to use. Another piece of technology that was useful for our summit was Hey Summit. This is particularly good for an event that is bigger than a single webinar. If you are unsure about what you need, most of this software offers trial runs, so you will be able to find something to suit your requirements.
4. Prepare and Practise
Running an online event isn’t different from most things - prepare and practise. Preparation is key to ensuring your event runs smoothly. If you aren’t pre-recording then ensure that you have done a ‘dry run’ to find any issues with your presentation. Even if you are pre-recording, going over the plan to the event is something that can help you deliver the content you want to convey in a professional and polished manner. If you have a panel or have other presenters, make sure they’ve practised the types of questions they may receive and practise until they feel comfortable with the setup. Preparation is key for your technology too. Make sure you have tested everything and that you are confident with how to use everything. This is even more important if you are doing a live event as broadband has an unreliable nature, at times.
5. Always have Two Hosts
Having two hosts is an important part of any online event. During the early stages of webinars at Damson Cloud, my computer crashed and, due to the software not being cloud based, I had to start the whole event again. Having a co-host means that, even if your connection drops out, the event or the webinar will still continue on. Having someone else aid you during the Q and A ensures that the event continues to run smoothly even if one of the hosts is having connection issues. It is important that your co-host is fully briefed with the agenda and the running of the events as well. This ensures the flow of the event is continued and you can drop off without interrupting the proceedings or leaving a confused audience behind.
6. Show Your Camera
During an online event, it is really important to show your face to the audience. While the slide deck is naturally important, you want to ensure your audience is engaged by showing your camera so they can see you delivering the event. If you were running an event in a conference, you wouldn’t stand behind the screen where the audience couldn’t see you. An online should be no different. Turn your camera on and let your audience see who you are. This will make them trust you and feel more connected to you and the material you are delivering. If it is a pre-recorded event, do this at the beginning of your presentations. If you are able to deliver your presentation with yourself in the corner, then that is ideal. If that can’t be achieved, then introducing yourself before the presentation is key to good audience engagement.
7. Good Lighting
If your camera is on, good lighting is essential to how you are presented. If you’re using natural light and sitting at a window, ensure you have a clean background and that it looks good. It’s important to think about lighting and the space that you are in when delivering an online event.
If you want to learn more about camera etiquette check out our previous blog post on it.
8. Quiet Place
When organising your webinar, think about the day you are delivering it. Is that bin day? Is there going to be a lot of drilling and banging? Try to pick a time and day that you can attest the noise will be minimal. Ensuring a quiet space is important for the delivery of your online events.
Make sure other members of your household know that you are running a live event and need to stay quiet and preferably off the internet too!
9. Tell Your Neighbours
If you are remotely delivering an online event and doing it at home, tell your neighbours what you are doing. We tell our neighbours when we are doing a big webinar and they are incredibly courteous by minimising the noise impact they deliver. Letting them know in advance is a great way of reducing any external noise issues and keeping them contained if so.
Bonus tip: Thank your neighbours with a bottle of wine afterwards or some sweets for the kids. A little thank you goes a long way.
10. Sound - Microphone and Headphones
Investing in a decent microphone is a great idea for ensuring sound quality. If that is out of your budget, headphones are another surefire way of assisting with sound. They remove feedback from the sound coming out of your computer being picked up by your microphone.
11. Backup Broadband - Hotspot
Broadband can go down and it can be a difficult fix, particularly if you are live. When discussing back up broadband, even something simple like a phone that is equipped for hotspotting is a good solution. If your broadband does go down, you want to be able to quickly switch to that solution so that you can keep the memento going. Hopefully your co host will have taken charge whilst you are getting back online. That is something that happened to us recently and the person was able to get back online promptly without anyone noticing.
12. Guest Speaker
Guest speakers are a great way of garnering interaction with an audience and drawing new viewers in. Make sure that you have gone through the processes with your guest speaker and they are aware of the event’s agenda. You want them to also be thinking about sound, microphones, and lighting too, if they are remotely joining. There have been plenty of webinars where people haven’t prepped their guests accordingly and this is obvious to people who are watching the webinar or live event.
Leading to feedback on microphones, poor lighting or guests being asked I suspect questions. The guest needs to feel as part of the event as you do. So make sure you share your plan and prep with them as well!
13. Make it Interactive
Interaction is key to any online event, so make sure there is a Q and A or survey throughout. We do surveys at the beginning of our presentation and it is a great way to engage your audience. They don’t have to be hard, ask a simple question around the topic and get some information or engagement from people. Sometimes, these can be really informational and helpful to you, other times it's simply posing a question that is interesting to your audience that gets people involved in the event before it starts. Think about how to increase engagement and participation. This is what sets apart a live event, otherwise people would just watch a video.
14. Having Some Questions Lined Up
People won’t always ask questions, and they won’t ask questions about or to your panel equally. So, particularly if you have a panel, have a couple of questions lined up to ask each other in case people are a bit more reserved. A common issue with some webinar software is delays. This can be anything between 15 and 30 seconds of delays, which is a particular issue for live broadcasts. If you have questions lined up and there is a delay, this gives time for the audience to think and build up the courage to ask their own questions. You might not use your questions but it is better to have them and not need them, than to need them and not have them!
15. Make sure you have fun
If you’re having fun, your audience is also having fun. If they are coming to your online event, they want to engage with you and want to see you or your product. People engage with personalities, so don’t stress too much and enjoy yourself! It adds to the experience for them as well as for you.
People love to hear their questions read out and the comments they’ve sent in. All of this is why people attend live events. For that human interaction. Have fun and your audience will too.
Damson Cloud helps organisations move to new ways of working through collaborative tools like Google Workspace (formerly G Suite). We champion the very best practices in remote working and change management, helping companies and their teams collaborate productively from anywhere in the world. To find out more about our services, check out our library of tutorial videos or our blog.