As the founder of an event company and consultancy, and having worked in marketing and events in the corporate world, I have seen the transition from all perspectives as we navigated from in-person panels and networking events to our virtual environment. At first, we scrambled with how to continue to engage with our clients, we feared the unknown and impact of no more face to face time, and the usual events and conferences with elaborate cocktail hours and gifts were no more. For event planners, it was our worst nightmare.
However, now 12 months into the pandemic and our virtual world, we see the opportunities presented to us. Virtual events have allowed for more inclusivity among communities not previously available at in-personal events, it was allowed for guests and speakers from around the world to seamlessly connect, and we learned that we do not need the fancy and expensive bells and whistles to host successful networking events.
In fact, virtual panel discussions and networking can be better without the fancy cocktails and elaborate venues….
Why? Because when you break through the noise and host valuable and authentic conversation that connects professionals from around the world, true connection happens.
The virtual events hosted by my platform, The WOW Series have been hailed by corporate and entrepreneurs alike as, “the best Zoom event I have been too!” “Finally, a Zoom event I actually enjoyed and learned something” and “So inspiring and motivating, but I also received good advice,” and more. So, below we outline the five tips and strategies to host successful virtual events for both corporate companies and small businesses alike.
#1 Establish your goals and action plan.
The first thing to do when planning any event are to establish the key working details: Event topic, date and time. From there, map out your speakers, moderator, event flow, and marketing strategy. There is truth to virtual event and webinar burnout, so try to keep your discussion and learnings within an hour or max hour and a half. Leave the rest for networking, connection, and conversation. We recommend no more than two hour-long events.
#2 Keep it simple!
The power of Zoom can be underrated in our new virtual world. After working with numerous webinars and virtual event software, we have found that nothing executes as seamlessly and easy as Zoom when it comes to connecting both educational content and connection. Remember to keep event execution easy on yourself, the panelists, and the community, and Zoom makes it easy for all the above.
#3 Make time for introductions and utilize the chat function.
Right at the beginning of the event, encourage attendees to introduce themselves on video/mic or in the chat function. Remember, icebreakers are not just for in-person events. The greatest part about virtual events is you have a room full of people from around the country and world, make time for people to share and feel included.
#4 Utilize a moderator and tell a story.
The element of storytelling is what drives the connection and authentic piece in a panel discussion. Yes, even if your contact is rooted in professional education or services, this still applied. If you want your events to stand out among competitors and facilitate both education and learnings but also the authentic connection that keeps your audience engaged, you need to incorporate the storytelling element. A moderator should not only ask questions but incorporate a connection among all answers and weave in an element of humanity. It is not just okay to get personal but encouraged.
#5 Last but not least, stay consistent.
Keeping your community alive and returning is as simple as hosting routine events. It can be once a year, twice a year, monthly or quarterly. Regardless, establish your event calendar in advance so at the closing of each event your audience already knows where to meet you again.
At the end of the day, in a time of such uncertainty and when we can only gather through a screen, incorporating humanity into your virtual events and letting your personal stories shine through, even in corporate settings, will facilitate exceptional events. As managers and leaders step up to speak on your panel, remember there is no time like today to share your story and pave the way for others.