A few weeks ago, I was a virtual attendee (due to a family full of sick people) at my first tweet-up. I was quite excited, there was streaming video and chat, which meant a dedicated computer at the event for the purpose of streaming online. However, within 5 minutes, I knew this virtual event was not what I was hoping. It was like we weren’t even there.
I have been attending virtual conferences and events since the 90s. In 1997 I went to a Windows 98 virtual launch party at a movie theater. Needless to say, they are nothing new. However, the advent of the internet, the saturation of broadband connections, and mobile devices with internet access has made the ways audience members can be engaged and expect to be engaged, change a lot since the theater days. As time has gone on, I have had to attend numerous virtual events for work, and have chosen to attend some for fun as well. Here are 10 tips from those that have been the most successful.
1. Don’t forget to include your virtual audience when planning your event.
You choose your venue, court sponsors, take time to choose speakers, activities, etc., don’t forget to plan for the online portion with the same dedication, always thinking “what would I want if I could only attend this virtually? What would keep me engaged?”
2. Use a chat service that allows users to create a screen name instead of using an assigned screen name.
Assigned screen names help virtual attendees engage in conversation with each other, and when the virtual world meets the actual world, it is better to say “Online attendee Jade” rather than “Online user 277834″. It adds a touch of humanity.
3. Have a dedicated person to monitor the online activity and engage in conversation in group chat.
Nothing is worse than attending a virtual event or conference you are enthusiastic about and then feeling like you are talking in to a black hole because there is no one on the floor to acknowledge you or answer questions or engage with. If people went to virtual events just to engage with random people who have no connection to the actual event taking place, there wouldn’t be a point.
4. If there is video, pay attention to where you camera is pointing
There is nothing worse than watching a white wall or a leg during a 10 minute presentation when you could be seeing the person talk or the screen. Cameras move and so do people, so make sure there is someone monitoring what is happening on the video equipment and feed at all times.
5. Share links or other useful tidbits that a person with a computer will be able to , or consider screen sharing for slide heavy presentations.
If there are presentations happening that discuss websites, chances are the audio won’t always come through clearly. Also, watching through a computer screen doesn’t have the same effect as having a big projector going through everything.
6. Share questions/comments from the virtual audience during question/answer portions of presentations.
If there is a question/answer or comments section, make sure to always take a few questions from the virtual audience as well so they feel that they are being engaged and know that they aren’t forgotten. Afterall, they are active participants in the event, even if they aren’t there to ask things face to face.
7. For meet and greet, allow actual attendees to engage with virtual attendees by encouraging them to step over and chat for a bit.
It really is no fun to watch a video feed with a buzz from all the conversations happening and a bunch of people walking by, but no one stopping to say hello or acknowledge the existence of those who are there in spirit. Encouraging people to engage with the virtual audience is something fun to do, and also gives people walking around a chance to relax for a bit.
8. The host of the event should acknowledge the virtual attendees, even if it just means stopping by to say hello to those in chat for a minute.
If people have taken time out to come to your event, you should say thank you, it is a common courtesy.
9. Make a tentative schedule for the event that the online audience can follow in case they have limited time so that they don’t miss the part that is important to them.
There are various reasons people can’t make it to virtual events. Having an online schedule is good to have ahead of time to attract people to the event, but also for people who have to connect from work, or their mobile device. That way they can minimize the time they take away from their primary focus.
10. Record the actual event and virtual event
This creates a good play by play. I promise, things that are going on in both places are just as interesting. Also, letting online participants know that they are being recorded helps keep the conversations a bit more focused. This is also good for people who couldn’t make the event. If you do screen sharing etc, your video of the event to place online for later will also be better.Category: Conferences, Digital Media, Events, web 2.0