10 Tips for Managing Your Online Events

March 30, 2020

Karen Hartline

With over 16 years of event experience, Karen Hartline, CMP, knows what it takes to produce an event that appeals to everyone. She currently works at Home Point Financial as senior director of events and can be found in Las Vegas enjoying the sunshine

With the recent influx of events moving to an online format, especially conferences, I wanted to share some tips on how to best manage your online event. Just like an in-person event, there should be great consideration given to the flow of the event and how the experience will be for your attendees.

Here are some of my tips for producing a great online event. Have your own tips to share? Please drop them in the comments!

Roles for the event - moving an event online may seem easy, but you still need lots of hands to ensure the event goes smoothly...probably more than you may think. Consider having these roles filled for your online event:

  • Host or emcee - you need someone who can introduce the speakers, engage with the audience, and be ready to wrap a speaker up if they’re going over on time. This should be someone who can follow a script but also be ready to be entertaining on the fly. Your host shouldn’t be moderating panels or conversations if at all possible.
  • Stage manager - your stage manager is vital to the production and should be someone who’s been in a similar role in a live event. This person will keep an eye on the clock, communicate to the host as to how many minutes are left in a session, check with the speaker manager for the next speakers and get them on deck and ready to go live. The biggest piece the stage manager will contribute is to offer suggestions if a speaker no-shows or if time is going long or short, which can also happen! 
  • Speaker manager - you’ll want someone keeping an eye on who is logging on to the virtual platform and making sure they are online and ready 15-min before they are set to present. If the speaker isn’t online, the speaker manager should be calling, texting, and/or emailing to make sure they are coming. Once the speaker is on, they will need to private chat with the speakers any last-minute tips or updates that are happening since the event kicked off. 
  • Help desk manager - just because your event is live and online doesn’t mean it will go smoothly. Have someone, or multiple people, dedicated to a help desk email or phone number or event a separate video chat link. This way if any attendees are having issues, you have someone dedicated to helping them just as you would in-person.
  • Community manager - the big response I’m seeing around online event platforms is that the chatbox and Q&A section allow people to engage. Depending on how big your online event is, you’ll want at least one person monitoring the chat section the entire time. And depending on how long the event is, this person may need some relief throughout the day so plan to have a backup as well. 
  • Social manager - if you’re continuing to use a hashtag around your event, you may want to consider having someone dedicated to keeping an eye on social mentions. This person can also share quotes from the speakers from the event on social networks. 
  • Tech manager - this is a big one and a lot of platforms offer to have someone available (for a price, of course) to help manage any tech issues. This may be helpful if you anticipate people who aren’t familiar with the platform you’re using or if you have some less techy attendees. 

Networking - One of the top 2 reasons people attend events is to network (the other is for content). I encourage everyone to be cognizant about this and to think about ways people can network around your event. I don’t think the chat box is a way for people to network. It allows for interaction, not engagement, but that’s my opinion. Maybe this is as easy as setting up a private LinkedIn or Facebook group for attendees and using it to engage with people leading up to the event.

You may want to take networking online during your event as a big checkbox as you’re looking at platforms. I’ve been really impressed with remo.co that allows people to join others at a table where they can video chat and whiteboard with each other. Once the main stage starts back up, all tables go quiet. Love that! Zoom also has meeting rooms that allow the organizer to assign people or they can randomly be assigned to rooms with others.

The larger your event is, the harder networking in that chat box is going to be. I was on a zoom with 2200 people and I couldn’t keep up with the chatbox. Think about this and keep it top of mind as you design your online event experience.

Swag - Who doesn’t love getting swag at an event?! There are lots of ways you can do swag like sending something to everyone before or after the event (make sure to ask for shipping addresses on your registration form), or you can go with a virtual swag store where people can select the swag. Or step it up a notch and let each person select a charity for you to make a donation to on their behalf. Get creative and do something fun for your event! Some inexpensive ideas include custom lapel pins or bespoke event posters that can easily be mailed out.

Post-event - Even at in-person events, the post-event plan often gets forgotten about. Because you’re doing this online, it’s just as important to create your post-event plan BEFORE the event. Plan to send a survey to get feedback on the experience and content. How fast can you have some of the sessions posted online to share via email after the event?

Want to really up the game? After each session, ask people to share a takeaway they have from the session. Capture that and share it in a recap blog post, email, and on social. How cool will it be to see everyone’s takeaways in one place?!

Speaker prep - While a lot of people are familiar with doing video meetings, it can be different when you’re speaking or presenting. It’s best to test the platform with your speakers before the event to ensure they understand how to log on, turn on their cameras and mics, and where the chat box is so you can communicate with them once they’re online. 

Run of Show - Every event has a Run of Show which lists all sessions and speakers line by line and minute by minute. This includes time for your host/emcee to introduce and thank each presentation. It should also call out if there are any presentations to be shared on screen.

Q&A time - Just like at in-person events, Q&A time usually is not great. It’s the last 3 minutes of a time slot and MAYBE there’s one question that gets asked and barely answered. Have your host, speakers, and community manager who’s managing the chat area to remind people to send questions they have throughout the session. Your community manager can help select the best questions to be asked but make sure there’s time to ask those questions and get good answers!

If you think you can manage it, why not let those individuals with the selected questions ask the speaker live on camera and/or mic. Your tech manager or community manager can help with making sure their mic and camera are turned on/off at the right time. This will take some management but there’s power in allowing your attendees to be heard...literally. 

Slide decks - You will want to create a slide deck to be used for the online event. This would include housekeeping notes and slides to introduce the next speakers. If you have a panel, you may want to keep the slide with the panelist's pictures, names, companies, titles, and Twitter handles visible during the discussion. One other tip is to include your hashtag on all slides too!

Entertainment - Just because you’re online doesn’t mean you can’t have entertainment for your event. Create a playlist to have running as people are joining the event before you start. You can also play music if you have breaks in the schedule so people know you’re still live but on a short break. I love the idea of having a visual notetaker joining the sessions and having their own video screen. I’ve also produced events where we’ve had a live band play between sessions which they can easily do online with you as well. Get creative and keep it entertaining.

Location - I highly encourage you to consider the location your host or company is joining from. If it’s at their homes, encourage them to find a space with good lighting and even better aesthetics. If you’re able to rent a space (like on Breather or LiquidSpace) that you can dress up a bit with your company branding, do that. Make sure it looks good on camera!

I hope this helps you navigate the production side of online events. I'm very excited to see how people use different platforms and ideas to create engaging experiences for everyone!

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn, and was republished with the author's permission.


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