Just the Right Stuff: Formula for Successful Online Events
I have been observing the different online events that have been happening and applaud people taking imperfect action vs. no action. However, I also believe that online events could be so much better and successful. I would like to help.
There are more pieces to an online event than most people realize to make it successful. The most common mistake I see happening is not communicating to your prospective attendees in enough advanced time about the event. Think to yourself, how often is your calendar free to add in something last minute that must be at a certain day and time? I know if I hear about an event a day or even a week before, I most likely will not be able to attend. A minimum of two weeks is needed for online event communication with a month recommended.
There are also differences in what to present and how to present it online vs. in-person and that is what this article will focus on. Here is my formula for successful online events.
Short Segments + Great Content + Energy + Interaction + Engagement
In addition to short segments, having the event in a shorter amount of time is recommended. A higher percentage of people are attending from their homes and are spending more time than in the past online. Zoom fatigue is real and happening. It is also not healthy to sit at a computer for long periods of time.
People have more distractions at their home. There are other people in their household with different agendas, i.e. significant other, children. They may be helping children with Virtual School. If it is around mealtimes food may need to be prepared. Pets may bark or need to be taken care of. It will be easier to attend an event if it is kept to shorter timing.
Delivering the content in short segments is highly recommended to work around the distractions better and to help hold your attendee’s interest in the event. In addition to the people and pet distractions there are a variety of other distractions such as our phones, email, social media, work to do….
Keeping the segments to no more than 20 minutes at a time and scheduling a break will help to keep interest in the event and if they have to miss part of the event they will only miss a small segment.
The event needs to share great content. Sharing something of value to the attendees is highly recommended. We all have knowledge that would be helpful to others. A whole event can be built around sharing something of value. This will attract people interested in the content who could be prospective clients, they will want to attend and will block off their calendar to make sure they can and they will most likely pay attention during the event to hear the content. Do not use an event to just sell – you will lose most of your audience in doing this and they will not come to future events. It is fine to make an offer, but this is not what the event should be about.
It is important to bring high energy to the event of yourself and any other presenters. I have attended events where the speaker does not deliver their message with high energy and I truthfully tuned out and did other things while she was talking. Energy is contagious and can be shared over a screen. It helps to keep attendees interested and wanting to hear more at an event.
An online event should include some ways for attendees to interact with one another. Some examples could be informal networking – where people just naturally chat with each other prior or after the event. It could be through encouraging the use of the chat feature where attendees can send messages to everyone or to just one person. Use breakout rooms to put attendees in smaller groups makes it easier to chat with one another and possibly have them come back and share information from the smaller group with the larger group. You could plan into the program several breakout sessions. The feedback from people who have experienced these smaller breakout rooms is incredibly positive.
Planning engagement with the event is vital. This will help keep attendees both interested and involved with the event and retain more information from the event. Some ideas for increased engagement with an online event are to encourage the attendees to use the “reactions” or “virtual filters” in response to a prompt from the presenter. Ask the attendees for information to put in the chat. Poll the attendees and share the results. Include the opportunity to win a prize included in the event where they need to be present to win. Include a shared experience (I will be writing more about experiences in the next article – so stay tuned!). You could have attendees bring to the event or ship to them props to use during the event. Examples of some props include reactions or words on a stick to hold up during the event or pom poms to share enthusiasm.
I encourage you to apply this formula: Short Segments + Great Content + Energy + Interaction + Engagement to your next online event. I am sure that this will bring to you and to your attendees a more successful event.