Coronavirus has given us more challenges in the space of a few months than we ever thought we’d have to face. Getting through this time as an event organiser has forced us to think outside the box to figure out how to keep revenue coming in at a time when ‘normal’ is totally out the window. Which is where the online event has come into play. Whether you’ve switched to hosting events on Zoom or you're putting yourself out there on Facebook live, one thing’s for sure – it’s a totally different ball game making an event run smoothly in a virtual setting.
So, with the help of our of friends at The Event Creators Collective, we’ve rounded up some top tips to ensure your online event goes off without a hitch:
// 1 // Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
Yes, it’s an old adage you probably got bored of your dad barking at you when you were younger, but it’s one you should absolutely stick on a post-it note above your desk. Our first tip: practice. Before you hit go on the real thing, always run a demo session with a pal or two. This will allow you to test, amongst other things:
Your sound quality
Your video quality
How your lighting looks (more on this below)
How your background looks (more on this below)
That you are familiar with how the tool works – planning on screen-sharing? Make sure you know where that button is and what happens to your video
How features such as chat or Q+As work if you are planning on interacting with your audience
That you can keep to the set timings of the event
// 2 // Set up your environment for an audience
We may not be able to see your legs, but we can see that pile of washing behind you. Before you put your camera live and beam yourself out to the world, ensure you’ve tidied up whatever is in view. Test it by logging onto your event solo (or with a friend with a beady eye) to see what’s captured by your camera’s lens. While you’re there, take a look at the lighting too. Is your face illuminated enough? You may need a light behind your laptop to ensure everyone can see your full face and you don’t look like something from a horror film.
// 3 // Always have a back-up plan
You’re just getting into the swing of things, your audience is in the palm of your hand and then, bam, your internet goes down. That’s the online equivalent of a power out in a venue. Any decent venue would have a back-up generator – your friend in this situation is going to be your phone’s personal hotspot (providing the data connection is strong). Make sure you know how to turn this on in a flash.
// 4 // Plant someone in the audience you know
The next worst thing after a total loss of internet is a flakey connection, which can result in pixelated visuals and robotic or choppy audio. To make sure you know when something’s gone awry so you’re not just blabbering away to yourself, get a friend to join the online event and arrange a system for them to message you if your connection gets bad. Then you can make the call to maybe switch to audio-only to save bandwidth, or you might want to have a slide deck or video on standby that you can share as an alternative.
// 5 // Managing the human connection
We’re deprived of socialising – your housemates and/or dog may be great but we’re all craving interaction with new faces. An online event is a great way for people to find that human connection but it’s not without challenges: talking over one another, choppy connections, awkward silences. It can be a minefield. So, before you go live, make sure you’ve got a plan for how you’re going to manage this. Whether it’s having a round robin system for talking, or using ‘raise hand’ features or Q+A tools, plan ahead how you're going to let your audience engage in an orderly fashion.