2021 Virtual Event Best Practices

Over the past year, most meetings and events have shifted from an in-person to a virtual setting. With Zoom calls evolving into a long-term solution for conducting day-to-day business, we came together to learn about successful ways to host virtual events going forward. Our moderator was Shaun Wilson, Cadence managing partner. Other panelists included:

These panelists provided valuable tips drawing on their vast experiences with virtual events such as Detroit Outloud, Detroit Homecoming, the Detroit Jazz Festival and more over the past year. 

Plan, Plan and Plan Some More

  • Rick discussed that virtual events need extra production days to prepare for speakers and coordination compared to in-person events. 
  • Jasmin added that to avoid technology issues, one must check for internet stability and understand connectivity requirements are essential to successful events. She talked about incorporating pre-recorded audio when it’s appropriate so that not all audio is live (just in case technology fails you). Her advice is to always give yourself additional planning time.
  • Colleen mentioned pre-planning meetings with speakers are a must (as many as possible!) and to always coach speakers on how to use the event’s technology in advance. “First, you need to ask who’s your target audience? What are they going to see? What do you want them to walk away with?” said Colleen. 
  • Tip: Always test everyone’s internet connection a day or more prior to the live event.

Understand the Platform You’re Using

  • The age, expertise and tech-savviness of the ideal event-goers should determine the platform used. Jasmine talked about hosting Detroit Out Loud via Vimeo, its website and Facebook Live, so that it was accessible to key audiences of all ages.
  • Understanding music licenses is a must as well. Jasmine mentioned using local artists that played their own music live so that music licenses weren’t necessary.
  • Knowing that virtual events allow for people all over the world to join is a real opportunity and challenge. Jasmin and Shaun discussed the app that was created for Detroit Jazz Fest to provide a unique way to reach attendees globally. 
  • Tip: Consider where your audience is and utilize a platform they’re already on or create a new platform that they’ll understand.

Keep the Audience Engaged

  • Rick talked about “outside of the box” ideas in order to keep virtual event attendees engaged. He’s used a variety of tactics with his clients such as UberEats gift cards and a designated time to order lunch, comedians that break up learning sessions and more. So creative!
  • Consider how long you can feasibly keep your audience engaged. Colleen discussed that an event that is multiple days long isn’t always possible and that it’s more important to think about impacting the audience.
  • Tip: Work with organizations that are familiar with virtual event planning to develop a strategy and creative engagement ideas.

Bonus – Insights Going Forward

  • The group agreed that even as in-person events eventually resume, there will continue to be a virtual event appetite and/or a hybrid model where smaller groups are in-person and larger audiences can tune in online. 
  • Colleen noted that the “surprise and delight” notion of engaging audiences virtually should continue regardless if events are in-person, virtual or hybrid. 
  • The group recommends watching/attending additional virtual events to observe best practices as well. 

You can watch this event by selecting this link.

Megan Bonelli (formerly Peterson) is an Account Supervisor at Franco and a Detroit PRSA board member.

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