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Event organisers have been turning to virtual meetings throughout the Coronavirus pandemic to stay connected with their delegates.
With many people working from home and restrictions still in place for large conferences and events, we are adapting to new routines and ways of working. This should be considered when planning for a virtual event to ensure that delegates have the best possible experience when joining remotely.
Here are a few things to bear in mind when planning the content for a virtual meeting:
Shorter sessions - With face to face meetings, delegates are able to immerse themselves in the event. They have taken the time to travel to a venue, are surrounded by like-minded people and can take part with no distractions. Attention span is less with a virtual session – there are more distractions when joining from home or the office. Delegates are less likely to remain engaged with a programme of long keynote presentations in the same way. Keep sessions short – 30-45 minutes – to hold attention. With this in mind, it may be a good idea to look at the overall length of the event. Splitting the programme up to include 3-4 hours of content per day over a few days may prove to be more effective than one full day of sessions. Regular breaks are important too and will allow delegates to grab a coffee or check their email, helping them to be more focussed during sessions themselves.
Vary the content – Plan a range of different formats across sessions to help keep delegates interested. ‘Death by PowerPoint’ never goes down well during in person events and virtual meetings are no different. Organisers have the added bonus of being able to include pre-recorded material within a virtual event. Think about TV style content such as interview or talking head footage. Using breaks between sessions as advert breaks is also a good way to promote future events, share news or as a platform for sponsors to get involved. Don’t be afraid to get creative, think about how messages can be conveyed in a way delegates will remember.
Delegate engagement – It is important that delegates are still able to engage with a conference when joining in virtually. Make sure that each session has an opportunity for delegates to get involved. This can be done through polls or Q&As within plenary sessions, holding smaller discussion based workshops or simply using message boards to allow delegates to chat and engage with each other. Think about the various different ways delegates would participate in a face to face event and try to include as much of this as possible in a virtual programme. Whether these are ways that they can engage with the subject matter of the event or fun activities for energising or teambuilding such as an ice breaker activity to start the day or post-lunch yoga session. Attendees will benefit more from the event if they are able to feel part of it.
Easy navigation - Once the conference programme has been set – send this to delegates ahead of time, outlining clear learning objectives for each session. Delegates may be more likely to dip in and out of content when participating remotely, so make it easy for them to decide which sessions they want to attend. Just as signage is important within a venue, making it clear where each session is being held, navigation should be as easy as possible for virtual delegates. Include all of the relevant links and any joining passwords in advance to create a user friendly experience for remote attendees. Web links can also be included in holding slides within presentations or as ‘coming up next’ links between sessions.
By taking these things into consideration, delegates are more likely to stay focussed and feel involved throughout. If delegates are able to get the most that they can from attending an event remotely, then this will contribute to its overall success. For more tips on how a virtual element can be incorporated into your next event, read more of our blogs, here.