How to host brilliant virtual events

virtual events



It goes without saying that 2021 has not got off to the best of starts with another lockdown, and events that may have been postponed from 2020 or were already in the calendar ‘in real life’ for this year, may be moving online.  Virtual events and meetings are the norm now, and you may feel as though you’re quite au fait with them. On the other hand, you may feel as though you need to inject your events with some new energy given the lockdown lethargy that everyone is feeling.  Some small tweaks here and there could revitalise your online offering and help you create really memorable events.

How should I move my event online?

Perhaps at the beginning of the first lockdown you could be forgiven for a hasty shift online of your conference or sales show but when you have some notice, it’s important to plan your online event in detail.  Think about how the event ‘in real life’ was going to work:

  • What kind of experience did you want attendees to have?
  • How were people going to network and make good connections?
  • How might they listen to demos or speakers and interact with the speaker / in groups?
  • How would people feel at the end of the day?

You’d want them to leave feeling satisfied that it was time well spent and your virtual event should deliver that too.  As Forbes suggests, the critical step is to create your event on paper and then find the right online platform (there are more out there than just Zoom and Microsoft Teams!) to accommodate it rather than just recording some speakers and asking people to turn up and watch.

What’s the ideal duration of an online event?

In the past, as event managers, we’ve wanted to achieve maximum attendance in one geographical location and tried to cram as much as possible into one day or evening.  That’s when people had to travel, though, and now that people don’t need to move from their home office, it’s important to think differently.

It comes back to the event experience.  The thought of being sat at a desk for a day’s event is not appealing and your attendees are not going to benefit from it, neither physically nor mentally; but video conferencing affords us the opportunity to meet virtually more often, for less time.

For example, if you were planning a four-hour conference, could this be transformed into shorter time slots over several days or weeks, with some online breakout room time to allow people to connect and share ideas?  Your attendees will be more focussed and engaged for these shorter time slots; they will gain more from the event and your participation rates will improve too. Win, win!

Also, to help boost concentration and creativity, incorporate some time to move into your online event. Take screen breaks so people can stretch or encourage attendees to listen whilst standing or pacing around their office.  At a normal event there would be plenty of moving around so allow people to do the same online.  Providing people with that autonomy improves the event experience and it will feel less onerous than being sat still for the duration.

How can I keep my event on track?

Video conferencing is great, but it does mean that just as a car can breakdown and people arrive late to your in-person event, technology can let us down too!  We’ve all been there, and we can all empathise, but late arrivals and glitches can derail your online event and provide undesirable distractions.

Here are some top tips:

  • Factor in time for glitches, people dropping in and out and having to help people with the technology. Make sure that you have tried and tested the video conferencing service that you’re using – you don’t want to be the cause of delays!  Bear in mind, Benjamin Franklin’s adage, ‘Fail to prepare; prepare to fail.’
  • Make sure that in your pre-event email, you list event etiquette. Keep it brief otherwise people won’t read it or remember it.  Some suggested items to include are:
    • Ask people to test out the technology beforehand.
    • If an attendee’s Wi-Fi drops, for example, and they can’t re-join, they’ll be able to watch the recording (it’s a good idea to record the event for a plethora of reasons but this is certainly one).
    • Advise people as to when they can ask questions – throughout or save them for the end.
  • This is a good segue way into the next point which is to make sure that, as the host, you have an assistant to deal with the emails from late-comers, attendees facing technology issues and questions about the presentation in general. An assistant could also take minutes and keep time.

Human connection is an important part of business and in-person events are preferable to online events, for sure but, online events don’t have to feel like the poor relation.  Prioritise your attendees’ needs and be creative about how you can still facilitate human connection – that will leave people with a lasting impression.  And when it comes to what you’re delivering, try to make it as close to ‘live’ as possible to secure meaningful engagement.

In the current climate of monotony, make 2021 the year that you and your business become known for excellent online events – and if you need some help, Rise Communications is here to assist.  We are experienced event managers who excel at running energetic and targeted online events for local, national and international audiences.

You can contact us by emailing us at