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Entering the World of Virtual Events

May 29, 2020 | Strategy
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After the CDC issued its recommendations on large events and mass gatherings, events from small support groups to large musical festivals were canceled. Calendars remained empty until virtual events began popping up all over the internet. Musicians were streaming concerts. Leaders were hosting live panel discussions. Friends logged in for Netflix watch parties. Virtual events quickly became the answer to the disconnection we were feeling from social distancing. They can be the answer for health systems and hospitals to continue their community outreach as well.

A virtual, or online, event is an interactive gathering of people on the internet. While most virtual events are typically associated with video, it’s not always required. Virtual events allow participation from any location and across time zones. During times of social distancing and the renewed focus on infection control, more organizations are embracing the idea of virtual connections. They’re expected to remain a part of social calendars due to their low cost and conveniences.

Some types of events that healthcare organizations can host include:

  • Town halls
  • Fundraisers
  • Classes, tutorials and How Tos
  • Interview or panel discussions
  • Yoga, guided meditation or wellness sessions
  • Support groups
  • Music therapy sets
A virtual event can be as simple or as complex as needed. More sophisticated productions might include broadcasting equipment and cameras, but in their simplest form virtual events can be accomplished using live features on Facebook, YouTube or lnstagram. Here are some best practices before, during, and after your virtual event.

Before the event

  • Promote. Raise awareness for the virtual event just like you would any other: send an email blast, create a Facebook event, run a paid social promotion.
  • Use this opportunity to collect leads. The event can be free and open to the public, but think about requiring registration to collect email addresses.
  • Find a sponsor, or two. Some organizations may not have equipment or services needed to host a virtual event but they can rely on partners who do. For fundraising events, find a sponsor who might be willing to match donations.
  • Prep your community. Set up a Slack, or other communication platform, with dedicated channels for guests. Give them the opportunity to join before the event to introduce themselves, ask questions and share their excitement for the upcoming event. Later the channel can be used to share resources and foster relationships.
  • Test all of your equipment. Try a dress rehearsal-esque run of your event. Test any equipment you’ll use, lighting, sound.

During the event

  • Record it. Another great benefit of virtual events is the ability to revisit them or share them with others who couldn’t join the live session.
  • Answer questions and comments. Have someone dedicated to interacting during the event to answer questions or comments. 
  • Remain calm under pressure. Slip-ups and technical difficulties will happen during live events no matter how much you prepare. When they do, remain calm, laugh it off, be authentic, ask your participants to remain patient. It’s completely okay to start your session off by saying, “Please be patient with us, this is our first time doing one of these.”

After the event

  • Thank everyone for their time. Before you end the session, thank everyone for the time they spent at your event. If there are future events planned, share information about those and how they can be accessed.
  • Cross promote the content. If you’ve recorded the event or downloaded the video, upload that file to YouTube channel, share it in a related Facebook group or link to them in a recap email blast.
  • Encourage the conversation. Thank everyone for participating in the event again in the comments under the video, in the Slack channel or the Facebook group. Remind guests if there are any resources available outside of the event and encourage them to continue the conversation. Share polls and quizzes. Or, simply just ask for feedback. These engagements can provide great insights to future event topics, brand sentiment and community preferences.

Final thoughts

It is important to remember that successful virtual events have many of the same qualities as in-person ones: they’re planned in advance, they offer engaging experiences, they might include personable hosts and they always foster community networking. And, not all virtual events will include the same tactics. The tactics for a virtual fundraising event might be very different from tactics for a virtual support group. What will be the same is that everyone will be happy they participated and those that didn’t will have a serious case of FOMO.

 

Plan a virtual event with the help of your friends.

If you’re considering a virtual event, or need to pivot your event marketing strategy, contact the strategy planners at Ten Adams.

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