Teleconference has become a widespread digital tool during the pandemic. It is used in every aspect of our lives including business, school, and leisure settings. Almost everybody has hosted or participated in a virtual meeting, but making your online meeting interesting and engaging will take some effort and planning. Our guest blogger Anh Nguyen will walk you through her tested and proven 5 tips on how to host a successful virtual conference!
Not Your Average Teleconference: 5 Things We Learned Planning BEx Exchange!
Each year, we host the Business Execution (BEx) Summit at the breathtaking Pomeroy Kananaskis Lodge in Alberta. This annual keystone event brings together over 300 senior leaders, CEOs, and business owners for two and a half days of learning, growth, and collaboration.
Like all things in 2020, this year we had to rethink and reimagine what BEx would look like as the impacts of Covid-19 continue to make large, in-person gatherings impossible. How would we create a successful virtual event with all the impact attendees typically get at BEx, all online?
With the goal of creating a forum for our community of business leaders to come together to share experiences and learn from a world-class thought leader, we created BEx Exchange in partnership with Sarah Noll Wilson.
From the initial idea to the last person logging off from the event, the journey of creating BEx Exchange was one filled with experimentation and learning. Virtual events are not just simply a digital re-creation of an in-person event, rather they require a different mindset and a different set of skills.
Passion for learning is one of our core values, and with that, comes a passion for sharing what we’ve learned when we try new things. Here are our 5 top tips for hosting a successful virtual event:
1. Create Strategic Partnerships
At Results, we know that collaboration is key. Bringing together the right team and drawing on multiple perspectives helps see the problem from many different angles. When we created BEx Exchange, we sought out an industry thought leader who shared our values, and we were incredibly fortunate to partner with Sarah Noll Wilson. Sarah is wildly passionate about helping leaders unleash their own potential and that of their teams. Her expertise and energy elevated the quality of the event.
Sarah was not just the hired speaker, she also partnered with us on creating content, the program design, and event marketing. It was a full partnership that allowed us to learn from Sarah’s experience.
2. Prepare High-Quality Content
Producing BEx Exchange was more like producing a 3-hour movie than it was producing an event. Last-minute room setup, registration, and menu details were replaced with video production, technical tests, graphic design and practicing transitions and cues. To create a high quality, professional virtual event, we realized that much more time had to be invested in graphics and video. During a virtual event, you can only stimulate 2 of the 5 senses, so you need to ensure your audio and visuals make an impact.
We partnered with a local production company and made use of an empty theatre to record opening introductions. We knew we could not start the event the same way we start every other Zoom meeting, so differentiating the production quality of the event from the opening moment was key!
3. Create Engaging Content
Early on, we realized that holding someone’s attention for 3 hours online would be the most difficult part of BEx Exchange. The program was designed so that no segment was longer than 10-12 minutes before a change in pace, tone, voices, or medium was introduced. We used polls, pre-recorded videos, interviews, slides, music and the chat function to introduce variety and stimulation.
We spent time curating content that was meaningful and relevant to our audience, which included interviewing two local CEOs who helped create an emotional connection with the audience. The interviews with Robyn Woods from The Uncomplicated Family and Iggy Domagalski from Tundra Solutions ensured the content was relatable and engaging to our community of business leaders.
4. Managing Q&A and Chat
The BEx Exchange chat and Q&A were out of this world! Sarah expertly navigated speaking while watching the chat to ensure attendee comments were being read out and heard. She encouraged attendees to introduce themselves right from the start, asked them questions and monitored the chat to ensure that it felt integrated into the event. We designated team members to help moderate the chat, answer questions, and keep people engaged. We even invented the Zoom Chat standing ovation!
In their post-event feedback, attendees commented on the fact that they expected to feel alone during a virtual event. In fact, the opposite occurred. Technology can help connect attendees with far more people from the audience than they would in a traditional face-to-face event.
During large virtual events, the chat and Q&A function are the only channels you have for receiving feedback from the audience and the only way for the audience to engage with one another. Ensure you have someone encouraging and monitoring the chat and Q&A throughout your event. Answer the questions, refer to people by their names, respond to comments, and recognize when people are engaged in the chat.
One of our guiding principles during the pandemic has been to embrace experimentation. This entire event was an experiment for us from start to finish as we brainstormed ideas, tested them, refined them and learned from the results.
We tried several marketing campaigns for promoting this event including social media giveaways, various upgrade offers, different pricing models and a post-event marketing strategy. By not being afraid to test out new ideas, we were able to get our message out to new audiences and had over 500 people register for the event. We recorded the event for further idea generation and collected post-event feedback from participants. Our team took the time to debrief with our partners and recorded a lessons-learned and absolute must-do-again list for future events.
As the events industry and organizations continue to navigate the uncertain future of conferences, teleconferences, meetings, and events, we need to recognize that we are in the early stages of an evolution that will forever change the way events are planned and delivered. As we continue to experiment, we will only continue to improve and grow, and without a doubt, the future of virtual events is exciting and bright.
If you want to check out other virtual events that we are producing, tune in to one of our weekly Unleashed episodes and check out how we are continuing to deliver engaging and relevant experiences online.