Company meetings and events are taking place online more than ever. And why not? They’re a smart way to rally the troops when face-to-face meetings aren’t an option. Whether it’s a small group or a super symposium with 800+ attendees, you need a plan if you want to get your message across and understood. Using my experience hosting virtual events around the world, here are my top six tips for hosting an online meeting that puts butts in the seats and eyes on the prize.
Think-through the tenor and tone. First and foremost, strategize how to get attendees engaged with the event. How are you going to keep their attention? What’s the theme? How can you make it interactive? And, even if it’s a serious topic, how can you use a little humor or personality? It doesn’t have to be overly clever, but it needs to make a connection with your audience and give them not just a reason to attend, but a reason to WANT to attend.
Create an invite communication plan. Nothing too fancy, but it needs to be done. One invitation is not enough. A “Save-the-Date” is the perfect opportunity to set the tone and pique interest; and then send a second invitation that contains more meeting info and what’s in it for them and why they should care. Then, plan on a date for the final reminder (I like to use virtual hosts, film clips or animation because they are fun and can have personality). Sending a “day-of-the-meeting” missive is also a good idea.
Let your host do the most. The presenter needs to be onscreen at all times in some way—even if it’s in the corner of screen. If you are serious about getting a message across, it’s the best way to keep your audience engaged and all eyes on screen—and away from buzzing smartphone emails and alerts. Also consider using that “virtual host” for introductions and segues from speaker to speaker or topic to topic. It might sound weird, but it works. Using things like iPhone’s Siri or text-to-speech software to augment your presentation and cue specific “chapters” can really help.
Know thy virtual event technology platform. The quickest way to send a virtual event south in a hurry is technical difficulties right off the bat. Prep a little. Talk to your online event host to see which file formats work best and won’t interfere with pace or continuity. Do a dry run. Understand and overcome technical difficulties before they happen.
Don’t let them walk away without an action in mind. You need to think how you want the event to affect attendees IMMEDIATELY and what actionable idea they should leave with. What should they do or how should they think differently when they log out of the meeting and “get back to their desk”? What’s their role in making the vision you’ve presented come to life?
Follow up. Conduct a quick survey for immediate feedback. Then post video of the event and send an email to tell attendees where to find it. Keep polishing your presentation protocol and keep the communication going. You’ll be a pro in no time. And keep the momentum going!
Molly Rice is the co-founder and CEO of Minneapolis-based brand consulting firm Spyglass Creative. Rice and the Spyglass team work with companies who need to redefine, reposition or relaunch themselves in the marketplace. The agency’s proven process allows it to assess, develop and deliver a brand strategy and full complement of brand-building tools quickly, effectively and affordably.