Webinars are here to stay: How to Master Your Online Event
In the past two years, we have seen most, if not all, in-person events getting either cancelled or postponed. This is where online events and webinars hold us together.
Hosting an in-person event has its’ complexities, but hosting an online event is almost twice as hectic and complex. If you are looking to host online events for your audience. We are here to help you!
We have gathered some of the important checklists which are essential to producing a successful online event.
Checklists to Master Your Online Event
Schedule optimum time-zone
In an in-person event, everyone is obviously in the same time zone, but if your virtual attendees and speakers are from many different time zones, it’s important to make sure the scheduled events work for as many people as possible.
Here are three things to consider for scheduling:
- Find times that will work for the majority of your audience:
This may seem obvious, but it means you’ll have to do some work collecting information about the locations of your attendees to determine which time zones have the most representation. You may also need to figure out which attendees are participating in specific breakout groups or sessions. For example, if you have a session where most participants are in time zones that differ from the majority in the main sessions, you might consider re-arranging.
- Put important events in a prime spot on your schedule:
Try to schedule the most important keynotes or sessions for a time with the most time zone overlap. Where you might have normally scheduled a specific speaker for a late afternoon slot, a morning session might be best for all your attendees.
- Include some buffer time and breaks:
Just because your event is digital doesn’t mean you don’t still need transition time between sessions. Remember that people still need time to shift gears, grab refreshments, visit a speaker’s website, or if a speaker goes a bit over time. Make sure to integrate some buffer time into your agenda, and if the presentation is long, schedule in some breaks for people to stretch or use the washroom. No matter what time zone your attendees are tuning in from, they’ll appreciate it.
In any conference, it goes without saying that folks need to know when and where things are happening, but for online events, there’s an added layer of complexity known as “Technology”. Attendees and presenters could be logging in from several different devices or browsers, using any number of different types of audio or video tools, and will come with varying levels of technical savvy.
Consider the following when providing instructions:
- Have links, instructions, and schedules in one place:
Putting everything in a single place and pointing to it every time you communicate with your participants is the easiest way to ensure everyone will know where to look if they get lost or stuck.
- Account for the least tech-savvy attendee:
It may seem tedious but consider the challenges your least tech-savvy attendee might face and write your instructions with a level of detail that would help that person.
- Make it easy for people to find the info they’re looking for:
While it’s good to be detailed, it’s also good to make instructions skimmable for more tech-savvy participants. Add a clear structure to your instructions, like headings and sections, so participants can easily find the part of the instructions they actually need. Doing these things won’t prevent every single issue, but putting together well-structured, detailed instructions will save a lot of headaches and make for a much smoother digital conference.
If you want your event to go even more smoothly, recruit a team of tech support staff to help participants and presenters work through technical issues. Specifically, have designated support staff to provide technical run-throughs with presenters, have some on standby in case of major technical failures, and have some available to get on a chat or call to help attendees who are having issues connecting.
Technical issues can be the biggest threat to a successful online conference. Having some extra support that can put out the technical fires is one of the best ways to ensure everyone has a great experience. We strongly suggest having a third party for the support staff to manage all ups and downs of the event. One such service provider is “Resolve Collaboration Services”
Have an alternative method for recording and distributing presentations. This might mean having your presenters do their own local recording, which means you’ll need to provide instructions and support for that. It could mean that you record the live video remotely with them somehow, or maybe you record both locally and remotely.
- Reschedule group or one-on-one sessions or provide an alternative experience:
If you’re not able to connect folks to special sessions, have a plan for rescheduling or offering some kind of alternative of equal value. Be sure to check with any presenters or facilitators who may need to be available for a rescheduled time, so you don’t end up booking someone who is not available.
- Communicate your backup plans with attendees:
Let attendees know ahead of time what your plan is should you encounter technical failure. Even if everything goes smoothly, your attendees will appreciate your thoughtfulness and it will reflect well on your brand. You may not be able to account for every possible issue but having a backup plan will ensure you’re able to provide value to your attendees, and have more peace of mind, no matter what happens.
Collect Digital Materials
This is likely something you would also do for an in-person event but is especially important for an online event. Make sure you gather any digital materials that might enhance the experience of your participants and make it easier for them to get as much as possible out of the event, especially the following:
- Presentation slides: Make sure all presenters provide a copy of their slide deck. It may also be a good idea to convert slides to a single format but have both the original and converted formats available along with instructions for participants who wish to download and view slides.
- Supporting documents: If your presenter offers a checklist, framework, or guide, see if you can get that from them in a digital format you can make it available for download, or at least a URL where the participant can go to download the digital version.
- Links for more info: Be sure to collect links to websites, social media accounts, and any other resources like videos, podcasts, or articles provided by presenters. You want to make these digital materials as easy to find as possible, so be sure to also put these in one place and organize the content so participants can skim through and locate the specific resources they’re looking for.
Bonus Tip For Perfect Webinars
The above-stated checklists cover many of the crucial items to consider for a successful online event, however, there are still many more, and you must be able to execute all those checklists prior to your event. This can be quite stressful and labour intensive, but if not done properly, can leave your event exposed to unwanted delays or even possibly a complete failure to deliver the event.
You might want to consider engaging the professionals at Resolve Collaboration Services to ensure the delivery of a flawless and stress-free event for you, your presenters and your audience.
We have been helping clients deliver online events and webinars for over 15 years. We offer fully managed events including project management, live support, branding, payment gateways, registration management, presenter training, and on-air facilitation.
We hope that this content was helpful to you and will help you in hosting successful virtual events and webinars in the future.