Just another day in March at the office. We were happy to have just finished the International Women’s Day 2020 video when suddenly we heard that the COVID-19 pandemic had officially hit all the world, that from the next day the whole office would shut down, and we would need to start working from home.
Brilliant people like me thought “No need to panic. We’ll be able to get back to normal in two months tops and our on-site event SievoFriends will happen just as planned in June.” Suuure thing! Naturally, we ended up turning our SievoFriends on-site event into an online one. But now the marketing team had a big haunting question:
How the heck do we do an online event?
Google didn’t have much information. Of course, an outbreak that forced people to stay indoors happened for the first time in 100 years(?) and not much has been developed on the internet about online conferences before.
Fortunately, after a lot of sweat figuring it out, today we are glad to say that we created not only one but two successful online events! And we’re here to save you some time by sharing 8 tips to create successful online events based on our experience.
1. Consider all the preparations
Online events can have as many or even more things to consider while planning as on-site ones. There are so many things to think about that losing your mind is easy if you don’t structure the organization of your event first. For said reason, we highly recommend you to start by splitting preparation into 3 parts: Pre, During and Post-event.
- Pre-event think about: The event landing page, the speakers and hosts to present, the overall best topics, agenda and schedules, the online-event platform to use, the budget, the streaming knowledge needed, dry run times, lighting and set for the speakers, the visual branding and the communication channel strategy.
- During: Agile communication with all teams and presenters, punctuality when following the event agenda, the streaming team strategy on that day, the Q&A live panel, the social media strategy during the day and the way to wrap-up the event.
- Post-event: On-demand sessions and landing page, thank yous to speakers, emailing strategy, and feedback. Also, repurposing event content for other channels like your blog.
For each stage of the event think who will be doing it, what resources will it take and how much time you'll need in advance to make it happen.
2. Have a supportive team
As stated before, there’s a lot of happening while planning an online event. So many things that it's almost impossible to be done by one single person. So, we suggest finding a person to take the “captain of the boat” role for your event. In our case, the awesome Galina Leväsluoto, Junior Event Manager for our SievoFriends events, mapped out everything we needed before the event and then proceeded to do one of the key pre-event steps: asking for help & delegating tasks.
For this, it is important to have an agile and very supportive team. Don’t be afraid to ask who at your company who is good at doing certain tasks and asking if they would be willing to help. You never really know who might be up for it!
In our case, for example, Tuomo Vierros, Product Manager of our Data Flow team, was the go-to-Sievonian for tech that kindly helped us with all the streaming knowledge and direction that we were lacking at the beginning. Same was true with our lovely presenter, hosts and behind the camera crews in both events: our Key Account Managers, Senior Consultants, Customer Development Managers, Summer Seals and the Leadership team that gave us a big hand during the whole production of the event. Because of this, we are proud and happy to affirm that only united & supportive teams can create successful events.
3. Follow the tech from the best
Learn from the most experienced online video streamers: YouTube gamers. Not much explanation needed really. Just follow the techniques used by them since they are by far the most developed in the streaming game out there. Check what they do and how they do it: From nice-looking consistent visuals to the gear needed for a stream. Their techniques saved us a lot of time.
4. Make it human looking
If there is one (terrible) mistake online events tend to makets, it's ruining their events by making them look “futuristic”. During the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, we saw enough Sims-looking online events. If you have been thinking about following this trend, please don’t! An online event does not mean that you have to turn the ex-on-site venue to a virtual one, meaning also making little avatar people in front of stands. An online event means that real humans will be behind their computers, not that they are computers! In our opinnion, the best way to go is to do the opposite and make participants feel closer to each other by showing real human faces.
This is the reason why we went for showing the faces of our Sievonians throughout all the SievoFriends branding, followed by a sincere teaser that gathered people from our company talking to our customers from home.
Important note: Don’t forget about having a consistent visual branding present in all the elements used before, during and after your event: invitations, slides, templates, landing page, emails, on-demand page, etc.
5. Create interactions
The special side of on-site events is the possibility to get to know new peers in your field and grow your network. This is something that online events have been missing for a long time but nowadays there are platforms that provide networking features to chat and video call with people that share the same interests. So, if possible, use a platform that supports networking as a feature in their tool. We used Brella.
Interaction is important if you aim to make your participants stay at your event for longer times. Consider that this applies also to your sessions, so try to always make a space for Q&A after each presentation or even organize workshops where participants can interact with the presenter during most of the time.
6. Promote it
Whether you're ready or not with all the steps mentioned before, you should make sure to promote the event in advance in order to get people to register. Make sure to use your strongest social media platforms, direct emailing to your subscribers and your peers’ email signatures to make it happen. People give up their time for events only if they think there are new things that are worth learning or updates they can't miss, so remember to share your event followed by a consistent message that clearly expresses the value your event will deliver to all its participants.
Dry runs before your event are a must. Don’t make the mistake of practicing only a day before the event but weeks ahead if possible, there are always last-minute things to consider and you might want to have some weeks still to get them if needed. Give a clear explanation to your speakers and teams of what is happening during the whole day of the event and what they're expected to do and say at a certain time. Also, make sure you have everything ready for the online practice sessions and make your speakers feel that the dry run day is the actual online live event so if mistakes happen at that time, you all know how to handle it in advance for the real day of the event.
Very important note: Have fun. The best part of practicing ahead with dry runs is that the lack of pressure at those moments creates spontaneity (especially when nobody but your streaming team is watching).
8. Shine & Celebrate
The day of the event arrives, everything goes smoothly after so many dry-runs and you simply shine. By the end of the event take the time to celebrate your awesome speakers, their presentations, the crew in front and behind the cameras, and the new friends made before and during the event.
To sum up, online events are a bit new and even confusing to most of us. However, with these tips, you’ll be all set to start creating your own successful event. Remember to be organized, strategic and have fun in the process! Personally, I enjoyed very much working closely (virtually) to my colleagues during SievoFriends & SievoFriends Americas. The success of these two events happened thanks to every single one of them!