Online events and awards ceremonies are the ‘in’ thing this year… mainly due to the fact that we’re all inside socially distancing instead of sipping prosecco and schmoozing. Digital events are hardly a hardship, however – they give opportunities to connect with peers you won’t have seen since March (or longer) and are easy to attend, as long as you have a reliable internet connection.
If you haven’t had a go at your own online event yet and are considering it as an option, here are eight tips to help you, AKA: lessons we learned this year while planning, preparing and presenting our own Online Influence Awards fully online for the first time ever (it went very well – catch up on pics from the big night here).
1) Decide on your purpose
Is your event educational, celebratory or a much-anticipated industry flagship type shindig? Your format will come together quite naturally when you’ve figured out this first part. For example, we wanted the Online Influence Awards 2020 to be a celebration and a ‘coming together’ for people in the influencer space, so made sure each winner would have acceptance speech time to talk about their year with the audience. Does your purpose require lots of different speakers? Or graphics? Does it need to be formal, or more relaxed? Your purpose can inform the format.
2) Do you need special guests?
You might want expert voices from the industry chipping in during the night, or a little glamour from an affordable celebrity speaker who’s willing to introduce segments or award categories – there are various ways you can book a speaker or celeb to either join you as a host or supply a short congratulations video.
3) Decide on the right hosting platform
For the OIs, we used Zoom, but there are many other platforms – some you might have already used for digital family dinners over the weekend, or long-distance drinks with friends. With Zoom, there’s the option to host it as a giant call – but it comes with the risk of having to remind people to mute every few minutes (which might make your special event feel like a regular work meeting). Some other options are Airmeet (which was used by both COVIDComms and CommsHero this year) and Hopin – try things out and see what works for you.
4) Get an A-Team together
For your digital event to work, you’re going to need a team. If you have a problem while introducing a guest, if no one else is around to help, and if you can’t find the right button to switch to the next slide… you won’t be able to do it all yourself (and the A-Team is not available for hire). Make use of the colleagues/associates in your network who’ll have the skills you need and give everyone an assigned job. You’ll need someone on social media, another answering questions on the night, somebody to deal with behind-the-scenes technical issues, maybe a script writer and at least one person who isn’t too shy in front of a camera.
5) Put your assets in place
With your team in place, you’ll also need assets – an outline with timings, maybe a detailed script, clear imagery, a deck of slides, plans for things potentially going wrong. Assets might also include the right clothes, makeup and hair for the big night – top half: definitely. Lower half: completely optional.
6) Keep to virtual meeting rules…
Depending on the workings of the platform you’re using, you’ll need to set down ground rules for the team presenting and pulling it together, as well as guests and the audience, too. Does everyone need to be muted at certain times, or off video? Will there be children or pets that need to be bribed with treats/Disney+ to stay quiet for a few hours? For these issues, do the same as with a work video call, or one with friends that don’t have a lot of patience for loud background noise/participants walking away from the camera to let the cat out mid-convo.
7) … but also remember that people are forgiving
Unlike a glitzy or super-serious industry do at a classy venue, digital doesn’t have to be completely polished. The audience will be accepting of technical issues, because everyone has mistakenly been on mute when it was their time to speak, or have maybe left something embarrassing in view during a video call. For a digital event, you’ll be in the audience’s homes; it’s much more informal because of this, even if everyone is wearing tiaras.
8) Interact with your audience and have fun!
Just because everyone is connected from afar, it doesn’t mean the event has to be a simple presenters talk/viewers listen interaction – encourage engagement on social media with competitions and Q&As before, during and after the event. Relax and have a good time with people you might be missing right now… and make the most of being able to hold up your cat to the camera if there’s time, because when else will you get the opportunity to have that kind of fun at an industry event?