Expect the Unexpected: How to Mitigate The Tech Risks of a Virtual Event
As meeting planners, event professionals, and attendees shift to a virtual world, we are becoming more reliant on technology… which can be a fickle thing. We’ve all experienced dropped calls, unsent text messages, and frozen Zoom screens – but how can we lessen the technology missteps when putting on a virtual event?
Our colleagues took time to talk about this in the recent webinar, 2020 Events Plan V: Virtually Meeting – providing tips of the trade when organizing and producing virtual events. Shannon Semler, the Senior Vice President of LAI Live, highlighted easy and actionable ways to get ahead of the technology risks associated with hosting an online meeting.
Shannon reminded the audience of why event professionals put on fantastic shows again and again, it’s the attendees. So how do we bring that in person first-class experience to the world of virtual with little-to-none technical difficulties? Read on, my friend.
Questions to think about:
- How many participants are you expecting for the virtual conference? Is your registration and payment system equipped to handle the amount of expected attendees?
- Are you thinking about a mix of live and pre-recorded sessions?
- Which, if any, interactive components will you be using during the event? (i.e. live Q&A and polling)
- How will the sponsors be used throughout the event?
- Is there a continuing education component?
- Is there a component to your live event that you’re concerned about missing out on or transitioning into a virtual environment?
- Are you storing virtual meeting for on-demand usage after? If so, where?
Preview – Test – Practice
Yes, Allen Iverson, we are talking about practice. Whether your event is tomorrow or in 5 weeks, practice makes perfect. Getting comfortable with your technology capabilities is of the utmost importance. Knowing your virtual technology challenges will make them easier to overcome.
- Preview the platform you are using. Does the microsite stream property from your platform? Is your attendee experience optimal with this back end set up? By prioritizing familiarity with your technology, you will be in control and ready for whatever the live event gods throw your way.
- Test your internet connect. Until we are back in the office with hardline outputs for internet, we are at the mercy of our home office internet. So by testing the streaming capabilities of your home computer, you can cut down on day-of interference. And also make sure your internet bandwidth is the same. If your kids/partner/roommates are often using internet devices simultaneously, don’t forget to test how this will affect your connection.
- Practice with your presenters. This steps seems like a “duh” to event planners but exercising that extra level of control over a virtual meeting can save a lot of anxiety. Make sure presenters are set-up with their day-of technology, including optimal lighting and camera/microphone technology.
What to Confirm Before Rehearsal/Event:
Once you're ready to preview, test, practice, and repeat - here are some components to consider and confirm to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible with as few virtual meeting technical challenges as possible. Go over these steps to avoid common issues with virtual events.
Time Zones. Confirm what time zone all participants will be located in for the rehearsal and recording.
Network. Find out what kind of network participants will be dialing in from (home vs. office network)
- Office networks typically have more security and can lead to issues with firewalls.
- If on a Home network, avoid having multiple devices stream on the same network during the event.
Devices. Find out what kind of device participants be dialing in from (phone vs. computer, PC vs. Mac)
- Rehearsals must take place from the same network and device they will be dialing in from for the event.
Here's a quick checklist of helpful tips to make sure your participant's delivery is engaging and to remove some of the potential risks of an event that come with a remote presentation.
- Have participants hard-wired to their internet if possible
- Have participants sit as close to their router as possible
- Make sure participants are dialed in from a preferred browser (typically Chrome or Firefox depending on the platform)
- Make sure participants have all other tabs, apps, or programs closed out
- Wear headphones. (Pro tip: If wearing headphones, make sure participants do not wear earrings. They can interfere with the feed.)
- Have participants check their background (visuals and noise level)
- Remind participants to keep their device/camera at eye level
But what if something goes wrong?
Now, in the off-chance that something goes awry during your virtual meeting, do not fret. Our team at LAI has seen a lot of mishaps and risks that can happen at an event during our time, and the one thing they all have in common is that they pass. Below are a few ways to mitigate potential risks at events or handle virtual event technical difficulties.
- Flagging things. It is extremely important to expect road bumps and anticipate your reactions to them. It could be a firewall that executives experience, a gust of wind that impacts internet connection, or glitchy headphones. Flag it and be ready to work around it.
- An Emcee who is as cool as a cucumber. If a presenter drops off due to bad connection, no problem. Your emcee will step in and smooth over that gap in programming by tossing to a video, giving a company state of the union, or recapping the meeting so far.
- A Virtual Producer. A virtual event producer can ease a lot of your worry by handling the run of show, rehearsals with presenters and speakers, planning for a Plan V Back Up Plan, and serving as the point-person if something does go wrong.
- Pre-Event Event. This mitigating step is much more for technology hesitant attendees. If you are able to host a smaller event whether it be a webinar leading up to your annual meeting or an opening night reception, your less tech-savvy attendees will feel more confident when they sign on for the main show!
Finally, keep in mind that everyone is adjusting to a virtual world, and are ultimately way more forgiving and understanding in this time of craziness. Planners, attendees, and sponsors are all in make-it-work mode. As we continue to explore this new normal together, partnerships are being formed which are creating even more powerful event experiences across the world.
LET’S WORK TOGETHER!
LAI can partner with your team to take the anxiety out of executing a virtual event and the risks associated with events, and make sure your program goes off without a hitch! Reach out to our team today to start talking all things virtual event design and online meeting management.