We have all participated in meetings via Zoom and have seen people’s pets, bedrooms, and loved ones appearing on screen. We have had to remind each to mute and unmute, to share their screens, and to turn on their cameras. Thinking a Zoom call is the same as a virtual event is misleading. Our first instinct is to believe that virtual events are just a Zoom call with more people. Zoom calls, like all other meetings, can either be productive or a waste of time. It’s up to you to make your event engaging.

Virtual Events Are More Than a Zoom Call

This is the opportunity to make your events more interactive and energetic. The virtual platforms are getting more sophisticated. So has the production value, which requires:

  • Tech checks
  • Pre-recording
  • Green rooms
  • Bumpering
  • Closed captioning
  • Graphics to name just a few

In fact, experts say that technology has advanced ten years in six months. This is good news and long overdue.

Virtual Event Speaker
Virtual Event Breakout Room

What’s the Difference

When planning an event in person, the number of speakers in a breakout session does not significantly affect the host or planning team’s time commitment. The room is set, AV is in place, and adding a microphone & chair can be done at the last minute. Every speaker needs to be personally managed in virtual events, which is very different from in-person events. For example, from the beginning right through to the end of the event, all speakers have final checks in green rooms before moving into the main event.

“Speaker support is a lot more complex and time-consuming. For our F2F events, speaker preparation is a few rounds of emails, and onsite support is a warm greeting and directions to their session room. For our recent virtual conference, we wrote a detailed speaker guide, organized individual calls to check equipment, rehearsed the keynote segments, sent custom calendar invitations for each speaker slot… and we still had speakers who needed more help than that.” Anne Jacko, Eclipse Foundation

Staffing for a Virtual Event

While you may think the staffing requirements would be much lower for virtual events, they are higher. Consider that your planning team is most likely the AV team now as well. Production and technical engineering is now a requirement for all virtual events. This is usually the biggest surprise for our clients. When they switched to a virtual platform, their expectation was similar to that of a Zoom call. You just send out an invite, everyone logs on, and off you go. After going through the virtual planning experience, it becomes clear how much time and effort are required.

“We misjudged the complexity of producing a virtual event at the beginning of the process, but now the event is complete, we have a greater understanding and appreciation of the requirements for a successful virtual event.” – Anne Jacko, Eclipse Foundation

Even though you may not be handing out name badges as you would when meeting face-to-face you are handling many other tasks.

For example:

  • Registering attendees
  • Uploading attendees into the platform
  • Assisting attendees with access to the program

In addition, you also support the effort when registrants want to view the sessions on demand.

Virtual Event Management
Virtual Event Management Production Team

High-Security Events

Additional measures must be put in place by the team for events with high-security requirements. An example of this is where the audience must remain anonymous, or the threat of visually “bombing” the audience with obstructive actions can happen. Careful precautions are taken each step of the way to ensure safety measures are in place. The silver lining of safely convening these groups is there often is increased intimacy over a face-to-face event.

“Your professionalism and expertise allowed us to safely deliver an intimate and moving program. We felt that you were on our team and so willing to help us get to where we wanted.” Anonymous Event Host

Good to Remember

Remember, virtual events are not just picking up aspects of your in-person event and squishing them into a virtual Zoom call. Think again!

It takes:

  • Time
  • Energy
  • Staffing
  • Engineering

By taking all of these components into consideration you will engage your stakeholders. It is well worth the undertaking and allows for fresh thinking, creativity, and a new way of doing business.