In today’s current climate, companies are choosing to take their events online until it’s possible to gather physically.
While virtual events will never rival the real deal, there are a variety of ways to make these types of online gatherings as engaging as possible.
With improved video conferencing technology and some solid planning, you can organize a virtual event for your company that feels exciting and different. Just take a page from a recent humanitarian music concert, which attracted more than 20 million people who tuned in to watch a large roster of international musicians performing from the comfort of their own homes.
Learn how to host a virtual event successfully with this guide..
From engaging and informational interviews to entertaining music shows, the possibilities are endless when it comes to the types of virtual events you can host online. Here are a few ideas for your next online gathering.
Keep your managers engaged and encouraged with an online leadership workshop. Host a panel with prominent managers that discusses best leadership practices or set up interactive management exercises that everyone can participate in from home.
Schedule a special discussion with a successful leader, CEO, or groundbreaker in your industry. Start the interview off with predetermined questions and then open up a Q&A session for the rest of the participants to engage with the discussion as well.
The benefits of meditation and exercise are indisputable. Offer a nice mental and physical break and invite attendees to an online yoga or meditation class, where they’ll stretch, practice their breathing techniques, and work on reducing stress and anxiety.
Take a page from Apple and create an exciting virtual event for the unveiling of a new initiative or product. There’s no better way to make everyone feel like they’re part of the team than by hosting a virtual event that everyone can attend—no matter which corner of the world they may find themselves in.
Host a Town Hall session, where everyone can engage in a question and answer session about the company. These types of events are immensely valuable because they can provide important feedback for companies, and also help motivate and promote collaboration within the workplace.
Keep your staff entertained by hosting an online cooking class, wine tasting, or live music show. These leisurely events are easy ways to help bring your attendees together while encouraging well-being and happiness that will ultimately serve the health of your company.
If you’re planning how to host a virtual event, one of the most important aspects to consider is the platform you’ll use. From a meeting with five participants to one with 500, there are a variety of tools and platforms that can be used to gather everyone together online.
Most social media platforms have a live video component that allows users to watch a livestream video. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube are just some of the social media platforms where you’ll be able to host a livestream event.
Video conference and webinar platforms allow a large number of users to attend a virtual event and offer many other features such as private meetings, the ability to share screens or presentations, integration with Facebook and YouTube platforms, virtual hand-raising, and a live chat where attendees can leave questions and comments.
A few video conferencing platforms to consider are Zoom, Cisco Webex Meetings, Google Hangouts, Skype, and Jisti.
Timing is everything, especially when planning a virtual event. If you have attendees based all around the country or internationally, it’s important to consider time zones when picking the schedule for your event.
Post or send out a video of the event for those who weren’t able to join because of timing constraints.
Another great idea is to ask your event’s attendees to vote on the best time to hold the virtual event via a social media or email poll. By allowing everyone to weigh in, you’ll get a good sense of what time will work best to ensure maximum attendance.
A schedule with detailed times on topics, interviews, activities, and Q&A sessions is key to maintaining order and structure during a live event. By providing a detailed plan of the virtual event, all attendees will have a clear idea of the overall length of the virtual event and segments, and it will help speakers stay within their allotted time.
Email a detailed schedule of events along with some background information on each presenter, links to additional reading or activities, or a copy of the presentation materials.
This might seem obvious, but it’s easy to forget to maintain eye contact when hosting a virtual event. While speaking, look straight into the computer’s camera in order to create the same effect as if you were looking your attendees in the eye during your virtual event.
As with most meetings and events, it’s important to give attendees adequate breaks in between sessions. These pauses allow event attendees a chance to stretch their legs, take a mental break, and better absorb all of the information they learned earlier.
Throughout your virtual event, send out a series of polls to keep your audience interested and engaged. For example: If you’re going to host a virtual wellness retreat, ask attendees if they prefer to end the day with a breath work or meditation session. Or if there’s a compelling speaker on the agenda, send out a poll on which topics the speaker should cover before starting his or her session.
One of the easiest ways of keeping your audience engaged is by having them participate and allowing them to ask questions and interact with presenters. You can either open up a virtual event for a Q&A session at the end, have them type their questions through a live chat feed, or ask them to leave questions in the comments and have a moderator choose which ones to address.
As events and meetings increasingly take place online, new guidelines on what’s appropriate and what isn’t during virtual gatherings continue to emerge. For those who are unclear of the new etiquette rules of virtual events, below are some essential do’s and don’ts you should follow.
It’s easy to forget to introduce participants during a virtual event since they’re not in the same room. However, it’s important to properly introduce all parties and relevant participants in a virtual event so that your audience is on the same page.
Don’t attend a virtual event or meeting while you’re still in bed, in a messy room, or any other setting or situation that you wouldn’t normally want others in your workplace to see you in. The best type of virtual event set-up is in a quiet room with a clean and minimal background.
If you live in a small place or don’t really have a quiet room to sit in, many video conference platforms offer virtual backgrounds in order to keep distractions at a minimum.
We all have different angles we prefer when being filmed or photographed, but a pretty good rule of thumb during video events and meetings is to make sure your camera is at eye level so every attendee can see your face clearly. You can use books to stack underneath your laptop so that it’s at eye level.
While it’s ok to have a glass of water or cup of coffee nearby, it’s distracting to eat a full meal or chomp on a bag of chips throughout a virtual event. Unless, of course, you’re hosting a cooking class—then by all means, go for it!
If you’re not one of the speakers or if the session hasn’t opened up to questions yet, you should mute your microphone and make sure others are muted as well. Staying on mute when others are speaking is the best way to minimize distracting background noise and will keep the sound quality as crisp as possible for all attendees.
While you don’t have to wear heels or a suit and tie to a virtual event, it’s important to be dressed in a professional manner. Don’t stay in your pajamas, show up in sweatpants, or have your hair wrapped up in a towel. An easy guideline is to dress as how you would to your workplace’s casual Friday—low key but office appropriate.
Just like you silence your phone before walking into a meeting or movie theater, you should do the same when logging on to your virtual event. Make sure you silence all notifications and ringtones from your computer and cellphone that might interrupt or distract your virtual gathering.
Quantity is key when considering how many guests you should invite to your virtual event. While an interview with a thought or industry leader can have hundreds of attendees, an interactive meeting with lots of questions and back and forth works better with a small group of people. For those kinds of virtual events, only invite people who are absolutely necessary.
Icebreakers are one of the best ways to build rapport between team members and create an inviting atmosphere at workplace events. These fun prompts are even more important during virtual events, when all attendees are physically separated from one another, making it even harder to establish a connection.
If you’re in need of some ice breaker inspiration, here are some interesting questions that will allow your staff to get to know each other quickly.
Ask everyone to share a lighthearted but revealing fact about themselves. A few fun ideas: How do you drink your coffee? What is your favorite pizza topping? Who is someone famous you would love to invite over for dinner? What is the one place in the world at the top of your bucket list?
Another amusing prompt to get people to loosen up a bit is to ask them to describe themselves with an adjective that starts with the first letter of their name. Examples: Patient Paul, Fun Franny, Generous George, etc.
What we see and read says a lot about our interests and taste. Ask everyone to share the one book, movie, or TV show they would recommend to everyone and see what kind of fun, passionate conversations come out of it.
A more literary challenge is to have everyone try and sum up their life story into six words. The trick is that it’s all in the details. Some examples: “Secret to life: marry an Italian” or “Born bald. Grew hair. Bald again.”
Think outside of the box and ask everyone to break the ice, not with words but with emojis. Ask them to share their favorite emoji or to share the one that shows up at the top of the most recently used list on their phone.
This one is a tried and true ice breaker at many corporate events and retreats. Ask everyone to share three facts about themselves, two that are true and one that’s a lie. Have the others try and guess which one is the lie.
Inspire your attendees to go on a scavenger hunt in their home and return with an object to share with the group, like a meaningful souvenir, the last thing they ordered online, or their favorite tool from the kitchen.
Go the extra mile and try to make your virtual event seem like a live one. With a little extra planning, you’ll be able to create a special event online that everyone will always remember.
While it’s easy to settle and host a virtual event from the comfort of your home or office, jazz it up a bit and set up a stage with a dynamic background that will keep your viewers engaged and uplifted, such as a lush garden.
Arrange for your event’s attendees to receive a special food treat or snack in advance, like pizza or donut delivery. Or, a day after the event has wrapped up, send everyone a box full of snacks such as branded popcorn, gummy bears, or a gift card that will serve as a memento of your virtual event.
As you learned earlier, it’s important to offer breaks in order for the schedule of events to feel manageable for attendees. Offer everyone the option of joining a guided stretch or meditation break in between sessions.
Finish your virtual event in an exciting way by enlisting the help of a musician, band, or comedian to perform a show online. This performance will be a fun treat and the perfect way to end yet another successful virtual event.
We hope these tips on hosting virtual events will help tide you over until you can hold your next physical gathering. Meanwhile, learn more about corporate event venues at sea on the Celebrity Cruises website. It’s not too early to start preparing for your next unforgettable event.