Back in another lifetime—by which I mean January—I was giving shout-outs to all the leadership, sales and marketing conferences I thought you shouldn’t miss in 2020. And then came Covid-19.
Suddenly, keynote speeches in rooms holding thousands lost their appeal. Events large and small moved online, and as with so many transitions the pandemic has forced on us, some of these attempts have worked better than others.
One lesson we’ve learned is that you can’t expect to simply replicate an in-person event in virtual fashion. Bringing offline activities online involves a translation process: You need to account for shorter attention spans, hurdles to human connection and the perception of an abridged experience.
Holding a successful virtual event requires organizers to find new ways to create engagement. The good news is, this is both a challenge and an opportunity for the events industry. Here are a few tools leading the way.
If you’re a virtual presenter, the moment will arrive when you need to share your screen. You shrink to the size of a thumbnail—and so does your rapport with viewers.
Prezi Video allows you to remain front and center, engaging with your graphics on screen and maintaining a face-to-face connection with your audience. This is one of the advantages of going digital: At in-person conferences, you couldn’t have your graphics floating above your head or custom chyrons positioned in front of you.
Prezi Video can be used to create high-quality keynotes, panels and fireside chats via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Webex, Google Meet and Slack, among others. Best of all, the tool doesn’t require any post-production or fancy design skills, which explains why everyone from small business owners to marketing keynoter Jay Baer uses it to make their presentations sing. And if a scheduling conflict crops up, speakers can pre-record their talks instead of presenting live—a much more engaging option than a standalone presentation deck.
We all know about the thousand words a picture is worth, and nowhere are eye-catching visuals more critical than in a virtual event. If your team lacks a designer, don’t fret: Visme has you covered. Visme combines easy-to-use design tools with powerful presentation features to enable users with any level of graphic design skill to craft amazing interactive presentations in minutes.
With Visme, there’s no need to start from scratch. You can edit the thousands of designer-made templates and slides, then spice up your presentation with animation, voice-overs, music and more. When you’re ready to share with your audience, Visme gives you a bevy of options—including good old PowerPoint.
The children are squabbling. The dishwasher needs emptying. The dryer buzzer is beckoning. Many virtual events can lose the attention of their attendees due to distractions at home.
To maintain attendee engagement, it’s important to creatively fill your event breaks. Slido is a tool that lets event organizers engage online participants with live polls, Q&A sessions and quizzes during virtual events or webinars.
Whether you hold them during scheduled breaks or during a speaker’s presentation, Slido’s real-time polls make viewers part of the live event. They also make it easy to jump in—attendees don’t even need to create a Slido account to participate. The platform is compatible with popular live-streaming platforms like Zoom, or you can embed Slido in your event page right next to the video stream.
Remote teams have a more difficult time establishing the emotional connections that in-person teams are able to make IRL. Not only do those make work more fun, but they facilitate collaboration on projects, strategic planning and other activities. This becomes even more challenging when planning a virtual event: With so many moving pieces, it’s easy for tasks to fall through the cracks.
Luckily, there’s a collaborative whiteboarding platform called Miro that will help your event planning teams stay organized and on task, ensuring that your virtual event is a success. The platform features multiple kinds of collaboration tools, perfect for brainstorming, task management and general planning.
For example, Miro’s digital event planning template lets team members tag other contributors if they need help, providing a real-time feedback loop. Tagging simplifies everything from status updates to brainstorming sessions.
The marquee events we conference junkies are missing feature hundreds of sessions and thousands of attendees. If you’re thinking big but don’t have the technical chops to follow Collision’s lead—the annual tech megaconference built its own platform when it took this year’s 32,000-attendee gathering online—you’re going to need a video conferencing solution that can handle crowds. Zoom Video Webinars is one.
Naturally, the platform features the dependability and ease of use that have made basic Zoom a mainstay. What’s more, Zoom Video Webinars can also scale to 100 video participants and as many as 50,000 viewers.
Still not enough? Conference organizers can use YouTube, Facebook Live or custom live streaming to broadcast their event to an unlimited audience. And if you’re worried about Zoombombing, the platform addresses that risk with passwords, virtual waiting rooms and AES-256 encryption.
Something else we conference fans crave is the spontaneous human interactions that in-person events offer. Whether it’s asking your business idol a question after her talk, striking up a conversation with a prospective client in the buffet line or running into a former colleague at the hotel bar, we miss those opportunities to connect.
Enter Brella, an AI-powered platform for event networking. While Brella was originally developed to facilitate face-to-face networking at live events, it, too, has had to pivot with the global spread of the coronavirus. Virtual event attendees can select their interests and conference goals, and Brella will suggest people they should meet. Even if your virtual attendees can’t chat over an Old Fashioned, they can easily schedule meetings with like-minded event participants and hold video calls within the platform.
Since Covid-19 struck, virtual events are up 1,000%—and some of that increase is almost certain to be permanent. With thoughtful planning and these tools, you can ensure that your virtual events succeed on their own merits.