By: Debbie McCann
A virtual event is a great opportunity to showcase your nonprofit’s resilience and demonstrate your impact amidst the “new normal.” Just like with any in-person event, good planning is critical to virtual event success. Keep these three tips in mind to ensure that people remember the inspiring speaker, the amazing video, or the thought-provoking panel discussion – not the glitches.
Tip #1: Set Expectations.
Make sure people know what your event is all about, especially if you are doing a virtual event that specifically takes the place of an in-person event.
- In your email blasts and social media posts promoting the event, highlight WHO should attend, WHY they should attend, and WHAT the agenda will be. This is helpful information regardless of whether your event is a fundraiser, educational event, a training, or something else.
- Provide details about exactly what to expect during the event.
- Will guests be watching a presenter?
- Will guests be able to submit questions or chat with other guests?
- Will guests be on camera? (This is really important. NO ONE wants to be surprised about being on camera!)
- If participants need to register ahead of time or download an app, make sure you tell them. Remind them frequently.
Every time you promote the event, provide a direct hyperlink to the next step – either the link to register for the event or the link to participate. Never leave people looking for the information they need to register or attend.
Tip #2: Pick the Right Software Tools.
Most virtual events need some combination of software tools to handle promotion, registration, delivery, and communications. Before picking software for your virtual event, note what tools you already have (and are already paying for!). Avoid duplicating them if you can.
- If you just need to “live broadcast” a speaker, concert, etc., without audience interaction, consider Facebook Live or YouTube Live. Services like Streamyard allow you to stream to multiple platforms simultaneously.
- Learn the difference between Zoom Meetings and Zoom Webinars, and make sure you pick the right one for your event. All Zoom accounts can host Zoom Meetings, and Zoom Webinar is always an add-on to the base account.
- For fundraising events with auctions, consider software like OneCause, Greater Giving, and Accelevents.
- For conference-style events that need registration and complex delivery with concurrent sessions, sponsors, and networking features, consider tools like Pheedloop, Accelevents, and Socio.
Tip #3: Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.
This tip is really the same as it would be for any in-person event. Practice matters – not only to work out the details and transitions, but also to make everyone involved in the process feel comfortable with their role and know what to expect from others.
It’s not possible to eliminate all risk. Sometimes you wake up in the morning and Zoom is having a global outage. But mapping out what to do in case this happens will alleviate a lot of anxiety.
- Well ahead of time, create a “run of show” document that starts from the VERY BEGINNING of the process all the way through to the VERY END. Here’s an example:
|1. Log into Zoom account using username: XXX and password: XXX||6:25 pm||Jason (Host)|
|2. Start the Zoom meeting||6:30 pm (30 min before event start time)||Jason|
|3. Presenters join the Zoom meeting using link in registration confirmation email||6:30 – 7:00 pm||Jason admits presenters based on the list of names she has been provided. Only presenters should be admitted early so that they can communicate “backstage”.
Sandy makes each presenter a co-host in the meeting and unmutes them during this pre-session backstage time.
- Each person should only have one job at a time. For instance, don’t assign the same person to admit people from the Zoom waiting room AND read the incoming chat – those things could be happening at the same time and could become too overwhelming.
- ALWAYS have a backup method for guests to access the join link. Without fail, some people will have deleted the confirmation email, so have the link ready to email, tweet, text, etc.
TIP: Post the link on a hidden page on your website. It’s easy to tell someone “go to our website nonprofit.org/link” and have them access the link from there.
- Set up a Slack channel for all event organizers to communicate internally during the event. If you haven’t used Slack before, it’s free and it serves the same function that walkie-talkies would during a live event. You can use it on a computer or use the mobile app.
- Schedule practice sessions and run through all steps.
Follow these simple steps for a (virtually) stress-free virtual event!