Meetings

How to Help Your Meeting Participants Get Comfortable With Virtual Events

By / Mar 19, 2020 (fizkes/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

As more events go virtual, it’s important that you give staff, attendees, speakers, and exhibitors the information and training they need to be confident in the space. A few ideas for getting it done.

As I wrote last week, COVID-19 has led many associations to transform their in-person events to virtual ones. And while it’s great to see organizations make that happen so quickly, doing so often requires different participants in your meeting to get comfortable with new technology and learn how to engage most effectively in a virtual environment. A look at four such groups and how your association can help:

Staff. You may be lucky enough to have someone on your team who is well-versed in planning and executing virtual events. But if that’s not the case, consider how to get staff the knowledge they need. A reliable option is to look to your contacts at the virtual meeting platform you’re using for best practices and training. Another idea: If there’s enough time in the schedule for it, encourage staff to reach out to their industry colleagues for advice. (This has the added bonus of helping them stay connected during a time of social distancing.) Also, consider a dress rehearsal where staff run through the virtual event a few days ahead of time, which will help them address any hiccups before the live event.

Attendees. If this is the first time you’re asking attendees to log onto a virtual platform to learn and network, some training will be necessary. A week or so before your virtual event, consider hosting a webinar where you run down the basics of using the platform and give participants a chance to ask questions. Also, make sure to share a manual that covers things like how to ask a question during a session, how to track their continuing education units, and other FAQs.

Speakers. Speaking in front of a crowd in person is very different from interacting with session attendees in a virtual environment, so it would be wise to host a pre-event webinar with your speakers to help them succeed in the virtual setting. Provide tips on how to create slides, what to wear, and what background to use when speaking at an online-only event. You could even give each of them a three-minute test run. If you’ll be pre-recording speakers, make sure you give them details on the type of files they’ll need to send, as well as some best recording practices.

Exhibitors. If a virtual tradeshow is part of your event, provide exhibitors with a guide as you would at any of your face-to-face events. Also be sure to play up the data they will receive from participating in a virtual tradeshow, including who participated, how long they were in the event, which booths they visited, which documents they downloaded, whether they used social media, and what questions they asked. And don’t forget to remind exhibitors that the more content they can provide in their booths—such as information sheets, videos, or web links—the more attention they will get from attendees.

As your association rolls out more virtual event options, what are you doing to make participants feel more comfortable? Please share in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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