17 things I learned running an online event

In 2017, despite having organised events for almost twenty years, I ran my first completely online event. We had over 500 paying attendees over an eight hour event. Here’s what I learned.

17 things I learned running my first live online event

1. Set measurable objectives when running an online event

An online event is no different from any physical event. You have to firstly know (and be able to measure) why you are running the event, and you have to be sure that running an online event is the BEST WAY to achieve your objectives. Here’s a link to help you think about objectives for your online events.

2. Look around for the right platform

We started looking for the right platform around one month into our six month plan for our event. We knew that choosing the right platform to deliver our online event would be the most important decisions we would make. We firstly started looking at live production platforms and speaking to live video agencies to understand exactly what we would need to be able to deliver the content. During these conversations we realised that actually, a good webinar platform would probably be the best option for us.

3. Choose the right platform

There are hundreds of available options for someone hosting an online event. The platforms differ in a few different ways, so it is important to have a  clear idea of what your event will look like before you choose a platform. It’s crucial to have a very good idea of the number of people likely to join as well as the amount of content you will have at your event. For us the interactive element was a crucial too. We went for the Cisco Events Centre platform when someone described it as “bullet proof”. For our first event we really couldn’t take any chances with the most crucial element: getting the content to our attendees.

4. Wifi is crucial

No surprises here. You have to have as good a connection as possible. This trumps everything else when you are selecting your venue to broadcast from.

5. Have a dedicated computer running the session

This is similar in a way to the wifi advise above. You have to do everything you can to make sure what is being broadcast is 100%. We had a dedicated computer doing nothing more than broadcasting the event.

6. Have at least one preferably two test computers running the live webinar 

We had two computers running the event on two different internet browsers. These were our lifelines to what was being delivered. If our two feeds were working then we could be sure that we were doing all we could with the feed. During the first 10 – 15mins when the event went live we were receiving messages from attendees unable to join. Having those two computers playing our feed without any issues, allowed me to have the confidence to say to attendees to “double check things on your end” I was able to focus on offering help to those unable to join: knowing we had a 100% perfect feed going out.

when to take your event online

running an online event needs a very professional approach.

7. Make sure you have genuine interaction

Following our online event, we believe one of the reasons we received such great feedback was that we tried to make the event as “interactive” as we could. Initially, we asked our potential attendees (via the Blog “Practically Perfect PA” that owned the event) which sessions we should cover. During the live event we encouraged comments and feedback. We didn’t get to master the polling feature, which I know would have added to the interaction. We did have live sessions and this certainly encouraged questions for the panels. Crucially, we had a dedicated person, thanking attendees for questions and comments and generally engaging with our audience – a kind of social sidekick.

8. Texturising content is crucial

As a firm believer of “meeting design”: the principle of texturising content to avoid it being stale and boring, we made sure we integrated meeting design into the programme. Obviously there is little you can do to affect the environment (as they are watching from their home or office) so you have to concentrate on keeping the content varied in pace and delivery. We had no session longer than 30mins, with our average sessions length being around 18 mins (kind of Ted talk length) with the odd exception is what you are after.

9. Make sure you have content available post event

Not everyone is going to be able to make your live event or attend for the whole event. Our event was eight hours long so we knew that people would likely be dipping in and out of the content. We also charged for the event so we felt we HAD to make it available post event. It’s really a no brainer making the content available post event as you have done all the work in preparing it and at the very least, it can provide a great marketing tool for your next event.

10. Brief and support all your speakers

Of the seventeen sessions on our online event we had sixteen which were top notch. We put that down to, firstly choosing and paying some brilliant speakers. Second to that we spent time with every speaker talking through their content. We gave them a tutorial in recording their session and made sure they stuck to the time we offered them. We also provided access to some screen recording software to make the recording process as easy as possible for them. This is crucial, especially if you are going to go for quite a lot of short sessions for your event.

11. Be prepared and able to edit videos

Not all of the videos will arrive ready to be broadcast. It is likely that you may have to raise or lower the volume, zoom in or out to make the recording a bit more dynamic, add slides, text or titles, to provide more information, shorten the session or even perhaps crop images. At the very least you will probably have to reduce the size of the files you receive to optimise them for your broadcast. So gen up on a good video editing platform.

12. Run a test event

This is as much for you and your team as it is for your attendees. But this is crucial for attendees, as it gives them a “live” opportunity to test that everything will be alright on the day. You should run it with some of the recordings you will use during your actual live event and you should run it from the venue you will use on the day. Try, as much as possible to run it in conditions as close to your final event. Your advice to your attendees should be the same.

13. Put in place a process for offering “live” help / support

No matter how much preparation you do, there will always be issues on the day. Most (if not all) will come from your attendees unable to access the online event, or having issues with your broadcast. Even though they are “their” issues, you have to provide as good and useful advice as possible. Having text ready for each issue is a great tip to speed up your response and get people on line.

14. The broadcasting environment is important

If you are going to spend any more than a couple of hours overseeing, hosting or perhaps chairing your online event, it is important you choose the right environment. We chose a big, bright and well lit meeting room. It was on the ground floor so one of the team was able to nip out for coffee, and we could all take a break and get some fresh air.

15. Choosing the time is important

One of the great things about an online event is that ANYONE, ANYWHERE, can access the event. So you therefore have to choose (as best you can) a time that will allow the majority of your target audience to watch. The Practically Perfect PA blog is especially well read in Europe and North America, so we chose an 11am BST start and a 7pm BST finish, to allow most of our audience to catch the majority of the event. It is impossible to find a time suitable for all so this is where point 9 (having the content available post event) goes.

16. Technology as well as people’s experience is making online events much, much easier to run and access

Two things worried us at the start of the event planning process. Will the technology be up to delivering this type of event and will the potential attendees be able to work and understand the format. Thankfully the answer was YES on both counts. The technology has come along way from cracking and buffering feeds and most people (especially our on line audience of Executive Assistants) had used some form of video / seminar conferencing facility before.

17. Online events can make money

Raising some money may not be your objective, however we learned that for some event businesses online events can be a revenue stream.

If you have recently run an online event and have anymore tips we would LOVE TO ADD THEM. We hope these ones help you make your next online event a success.

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