Virtual Event Tips: Navigating the Pitfalls of Virtual Meetings
Due to the massive increase of virtual and hybrid meetings brought on by the global pandemic, corporate event planners are now facing newfound challenges involved with presenting events on a virtual platform. Even people who have merely attended an online meeting can probably tell you some of the common pitfalls one must navigate when hosting a virtual event—like making sure your screaming children aren’t heard in the background of your presentation. That's why we decided to create a list of virtual event tips to help.
The most common errors event planners must avoid in order to have a successful online event.
Poor lighting and audio
When planning a virtual or hybrid event, you must ensure that professional-grade lighting and sound is utilized. Not only do you want quality lighting and audio for people working in-house, but you also need to ensure that your dial-in speakers have that same quality equipment. Additionally, a common error for virtual events is differing volume levels for presenters. One person may be blasting through attendees’ speakers while the other is barely heard—take the time to make sure audio levels are consistent.
Not including breaks
Because holding virtual attendees’ attention is a challenge, including frequent breaks is imperative. No one wants to be staring at their computer screen for hours, fighting to stay awake because you didn’t bother to include a necessary break. This virtual event tip will be one that your guests thank you for later.
Not using a teleprompter
Another common, and obvious, mistake is your presenter staring down at a script sitting in front of them instead of making eye contact with the camera. Having a speaker who is constantly looking down to find what to say next can be extremely distracting to your attendees and can make the presentation less engaging. Plus, it just doesn’t look professional. If your speaker is struggling to remember their presentation, incorporate the use of a teleprompter. This allows them to read what they need to say next without making it obvious to those watching.
Not taking advantage of pre-recording
One of the best parts about hosting a virtual event is the fact that some of your content can be recorded before the event ever occurs, allowing you to make sure it is polished for viewers. While it is important to incorporate live sessions into your event for interactive aspects, such as Q&A, you should take advantage of having a flawless presentation when you can.
Not coaching your presenters
Because content is even more important for a virtual event, delivering it well is hugely important. That’s why coaching your speakers prior to your virtual event is a must. Even skilled, in-person speakers need to be coached for virtual performances because speaking for an online event is very different from speaking live. Presenters need to realize that they aren’t going to be able to hear or see the audience's reaction. But fair warning: make sure that your speaker isn’t over-practiced. You still want the presentation to sound natural—no one wants a robot speaking to them for an hour.
Using only text without voiceover
A virtual event is unique in the fact that you can basically guarantee that every single one of your attendees will be distracted at one point (or several points). When attendees are at home viewing your event, they could have pets, kids, or other work all vying for their attention. So when you incorporate words on the screen, it’s helpful to include a voiceover. This is much more attention-grabbing than reading minutes’ worth of text. Plus, words are often flashed across viewers’ screens quickly, meaning some attendees miss out on content. With this virtual event tip, adding audio can help even those who look away for a moment.
Marketing your event incorrectly
This may sound simple to us meeting professionals, but when you're marketing your program, make sure your attendees know what it is you're promoting. For example, are you hosting a webinar? Panel discussion? Don't settle by calling it a virtual meeting; explain to your attendees what it is you're promoting. Are you hosting a conference? Say so! Additionally, define within your conference what each breakout is: “Virtual Breakout: TITLE HERE with LIVE Q&A from the Executive Panel” or “Show and Tell: Walking through X Technology Webinar.” This helps your attendees grasp what it is they're virtually heading into, rather than not being interested in the content style itself and dropping mid-event. Also, be sure to avoid vague words like "virtual session" or "virtual meeting."
Not preparing for technical difficulties
While technical difficulties are bound to occur at some point during your virtual event, minimizing them is essential. There’s nothing worse than attending a virtual event where you can see that the speaker is talking but can’t hear them. Make sure that you have technical support at the ready to correct any issues that arise. If you’re hosting a hybrid meeting, include on-site technical support to ensure that your virtual guests are getting the same experience as those who are there in person.
Trying too hard to be funny
Just because your speakers no longer have to see their jokes fall flat in person doesn’t give them the right to make everyone else suffer—you can’t force funny. Don’t take this as a sign not to add humor to your event because when done correctly, it is a welcome addition to a virtual meeting. But humor can be a difficult aspect to nail, especially with everyone’s varying senses of humor. So make sure that if your presenter attempts to be funny that the jokes are run by several people.
Messing up transitions
This may seem like an obvious virtual event tip, but it's an important one. Not having seamless transitions between speakers or slides can come off as unprofessional and unprepared. It can be confusing to attendees when you accidentally move one slide ahead or when you play music at the wrong time. Making sure that all transitions and cues are well-practiced is crucial to ensuring your event is polished.
Not specifying the time zone
Last, but certainly not least, is the issue of time zones. Unlike live events, virtual events need to make clear what time zone the event is occurring in. Be sure to make the time difference obvious to attendees. Some virtual platforms even allow attendees the option of showing sessions in the time utilized by their device, eliminating any confusion.