8 Tips and Tricks for Running a Successful Virtual Event
September 12, 2020 | 1110 Views
“When you can’t bring the team to the test kitchen, you bring the test kitchen to the team.”
This was the start of my LinkedIn post after running a training, which had been consistently hands-on and in-person, through Zoom. The behind-the-scene pictures of this event were my most viewed and liked post of this year. The reason? So many of us are in the same boat of turning in-person, instructor-led training into talking to a screen of talking heads.
While many would think this is an easier route to take (I mean, you can dress business on the top and party on the bottom), I quickly learned that this took more preparation and diligence than my typical routine to plan the training live and in-person. Like many of you, I had to quickly adapt years of my own training on participant management and presentation effectiveness to pull off the same level of effectiveness – all while asking attendees to stare at their screen for FOUR HOURS.
Here are a few tips I learned from the event, and others I took away from other brilliant trainers out there (some specific to Zoom):
- Set expectations of start time and breaks: Attendees feel more comfortable when they know if they have time to grab that extra cup of coffee before you begin presenting. Create a countdown clock with your event’s branding that counts down to start time or break end. Add some music to make it more fun! The key to this is to start right when the clock is up, so attendees feel confident in your preparation.
- Use breakout rooms (Zoom): Just like in-person training, breaking attendees in smaller groups allows for better discussion, comfort of asking questions, and for voices to be heard that may not want to speak in front of the large group. It also mixes up and provides variety to the session. Use breakout rooms for either small group discussions, or even rotations that make the group smaller during certain segments.
- Set expectations in the meeting invitations: Throughout quarantine, we all had those days we just did not want to turn on our cameras. If you plan to have an interactive session, set the tone in the meeting invitation so participants come prepared. As trainers, we now have it harder as we cannot see if participants are reading their email, texting, etc. Let attendees know the highlights of the session to get them excited and ask them to close their email and stay focused for the allotted time. It’s best to prepare them with the “ask” versus waiting until the session to set expectations.
- Give instructions for Q&A: Invite attendees to ask questions, and tell them how. Based on the number of people attending, determine the best solution. Do they use the chat function or unmute themselves to ask a question? Will there be Q&A time, or do you want questions throughout? With larger groups, we have had success with asking attendees to put a question mark in the chat when they have a question. This balances the ability to let the participant speak to the presenter (causing less chance for incorrect interpretation of the question) with the speaker having the ability to control when the question is asked (causing less interruption).
- Remember the personalization: During live sessions, an important aspect of allowing attendees to feel comfortable is the socialization prior to the session starting and the introductions. If the group is small enough and it makes sense, don’t forget to make time for introductions. If the group is large, ask the attendees to ensure their Zoom window is labeled properly with their name, or even make it fun and have them change the name to something that goes along with your topic or as a fun icebreaker.
- Use camera angles and the spotlight (Zoom): If you have multiple presenters or are demonstrating any items, have multiple angles set up to add “texture” to the event. During in-person training, we have the ability to use body language and movement to mix it up – much harder on Zoom. In a recent event, we connected some cameras to our laptops to have different angles during a cooking segment. We then had a “director” who managed the spotlight feature to control which computer the attendees were looking at while in speaker view.
- Use the white board for brainstorming (Zoom): If you are having a session that involves brainstorming, the whiteboard feature allows for all attendees to type right on the same page. The annotate feature also allows your attendees to mark up a document you are showing on the screen. This is a fun way to vote on items if you need to narrow down a list or plan a fun icebreaker.
- Create a “run of show document” for larger virtual events: If you have multiple speakers, multiple transitions of computers presenting, or transitions of slides or media, make sure you have all of your moves mapped out. I found that putting a plan on paper for each speaker with topics, which computer is controlling slides, and who is responsible to transition to breaks keeps everyone involved organized. This can also save the day if something happens on your end from a technology standpoint. Then your co-presenter can help pick up where you left off. On that note, try to have a trusted buddy who you assign as an alternative host. Give them a backup of your presentation just in case the battery dies, you have an IT malfunction, or a zombie apocalypse happens.
For trainers, online learning and virtual sessions are not new, however with a focus on blended learning, we are always looking at what is the best format for what we are trying to achieve. While we have had to adapt trainings and collaborative sessions that we would always choose to do in-person versus an online format, the nature of trainers is that we are agile and make it happen!
Want more tips and tricks on how to successfully run a virtual event? Make sure to check out CHART’s Hospitality Training LIVE learning series taking place on September 16, 23, and 30 from 1:00pm-3:30pm EST. Each session is full of keynotes, breakout sessions and chances to network and learn with the best of hospitality training. Some sessions specific to virtual training are:
- Mike Ganino, keynote on Captivate on Camera: How to Create Virtual Trainings + Presentations that Engage + Educate
- Curt Steinhorst, keynote on Building the Focused and Connected Team of the Future (in the Age of Zoom)
- Todd Horchner of Legacy Event Productions, breakout on Zoom and Beyond: Technology for Virtual Presentations
- Matthew Brown of Schoox and Kelly McCutcheon of Hopdoddy Burger Bar, breakout on How to Power up Your Presentation
Hope to see you there!
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This is great, Thank you! Looking forward to the live event!