The 3 back-to-basic tips for a great virtual conference.
Written by Keegan Da Costa – Head of CloudCrew

We’ve all been at this virtual conferencing and webinar thing for 6 months now. And some might consider themselves masters at it through the sheer number of virtual meetings held. But are you a master?

I’m not here to bestow any insecurities on your digital conferencing game but it might. You see, there’s still too much going wrong in virtual meetings on the most basic level. Truth is, we should have gotten these things right by now. For example, by now we should have corrected bad sound (Echo, Echo, Echo, Echo, Echo), poor wifi connections (“Mike, you’ve frozen.”) and unpleasant camera angles.

Poor lighting - Light source is behind you

We can’t see you, Susan!

Novelty Gone Bye Bye

Suffice it to say, the novelty has worn off. Audiences’ average excitement levels for meetings, webinars and virtual events are at an all-time low. They’re exhausted. And that thin string of patience that’s withstanding cringe-worthy connection and audio problems is about to snap.

From torture chamber to engaging virtual conference

CloudCrew has coordinated over 100 online events, reaching more than 20 000 audience members. We’ve learnt what works and what doesn’t.

For example, what we’ve seen is that paid-for public events gets a higher attention level than an internal staff conference. That’s because the first is voluntary and the second is like forced Chinese torture. It’s this internal audience that I feel sorry for the most. I just want to hug them all, stroke their hair (that’s not creepy at all) and tell them everything is going to be ok. Ultimately, it’s not actually their fault for losing interest. The blame falls entirely on the event organiser.

3 Back-to-basic tips for a great virtual conference

So if you’re an organiser of an internal digital event for your staff (perhaps you’ve got an online year-end function coming up) Here are some back to basic tips to take your audience from tortured souls to a fully-present, activated and engaged audience.

  1. Your Wifi must fly

    Everyone thinks they have great wifi. However, myth bust afoot – Gaging its connection level on the basis of Netflix and YouTube is (drum roll please)… wrong.

    When you are watching something and content is being streamed to you then it’s your download speed that’s in action. When you’re giving an online talk, you are the content and therefore you require hefty upload speed. Ultimately, online event platforms require both. An online event requires a minimum of 5mb upload speed and 5mb download speed. The first is the most important one.

    A frequent pain point we hear from clients is that their video quality is pixelated. When we ask about their internet connection the answer is usually, “But I have fibre”. Chances are you’re running on low upload speeds. Now that it’s a necessity to have great quality camera work (if you’re someone who talks with your arms a lot, you’ve already noticed how important this is!), the once-neglected upload speed becomes imperative.

    Checking your connection strength

    An easy way to see what connection you’re running on is to do a speed test. This shows you both your upload and download speed and if your upload speed is lower than 5mb and you’re delivering content then it’s time for an upgrade.

  2. Take your colleagues to a new virtual conference venue

    No one has their year-end function in the same boardroom or meeting room you use every day. Never! You go outside, you grill meat, you go bowling. You change the physical atmosphere. A digital year-end function shouldn’t be any different. Change the room! MS Teams and Zoom are great for staff meetings and we spend pretty much all our time on these platforms or venues as we call them. But they’re the equivalent of being at the office.

    The trick to a successful internal online event is to give your staff the sense that they are leaving the office for a special occasion held in a new venue. And there’s a venue suited for every event. There are plenty of platforms that offer everything from break-away rooms to multiple stages to networking areas. All it takes is a little exploration.

  3. Surprise and delight

    We’re spending huge amounts of time on video calls and watching one-sided webinars with very little interaction. We’ve never been more passive as an audience. Furthermore, you can’t expect a passive audience to hold onto your message or take action as a result of your talk.

    You must keep your audience activated and engaged. Luckily, there are some innovative ways to do that go beyond polling and Q&A sessions. Delight and surprise your audience with something different like:

    1. Quizzes: Addictive, exhilarating and fosters friendly competition.
    2. Live illustrations: They can watch your content being drawn in real-time. Then, save it for your audience as a take-away.
    3. Live music: Live entertainment can change the tone of your event from standard and possibly boring to engaging and entertaining while still being smart.

    These engagement offerings get your audience’s blood pumping and makes your event memorable. In addition, it brings their attention back to the content being delivered and prevents them from wandering off to other websites, social media platforms or inboxes. You asked them to pay with their attention, so make it worth their investment (to read more about the concept of Return On Attention, read this)

This may sound harsh but there’s no excuse for poor online events anymore. With so many wonderful tools, virtual venues technology and setup options available, there’s no reason why you can’t hold impactful events that audiences love. Cover the 3 back-to-basic tips for great virtual conferences. But coordinating it can take time, effort and resources that you may not have. Sometimes, you just need a digital backstage crew to sort it all out for you…

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