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Top tips for taking your business events online during COVID-19

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Vice President of Global Communications at recruitment software firm Bullhorn, Vinda Souza, shares her advice on how businesses can get themselves online during the coronavirus pandemic.

With much of the world practising social distancing, many people are taking the opportunity to learn something new or brush up on their skills. Live-streamed events are an exciting opportunity to cater to these large audiences. Events bring communities together, make expert knowledge accessible, and – importantly, at this stressful time – help establish some connection and camaraderie.

Online events

The problem is, we have now become painfully familiar with the Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime format. These platforms are the only way to see colleagues and loved ones, so it’s no surprise that people are looking for higher production values from an online event.

Talking heads in low-resolution digital boxes, no matter how knowledgeable, are a bit too standard.

At Bullhorn, we run our annual Engage conferences for the recruitment industry. This year, for obvious reasons, we’re taking the event online in the form of EngageX: an immersive online recruitment conference focused on the power of people, featuring world-leading recruiting experts and Bullhorn professionals. We’ve learned a lot as we have prepared for EngageX – here are some top tips you can use, too.

Embrace the lack of barriers to entry

Anyone with an Internet-connected device and relevant interest has the opportunity to attend an online event, and organisers should celebrate that. Where an in-person conference is limited by venue, travel expenses, and dozens of other factors, an online event can gather much larger crowds and bring the whole community together. It’s a chance for learning and development at an unprecedented scale.

Organisers should prepare for higher attendance numbers and new faces. Expect a broader range of attendees with more varied levels of expertise and interests. Catering to various interest groups and facilitating networking opportunities, coupled with robust and context-relevant content, is a great way to generate value for all attendees.

Professionalism requires production value

What separates an authentic online conference experience from a series of casual videos is the platform and the production value. The right platform must include all of the engagement and activity features that the audience expects, whether that’s multiple simultaneous sessions, interactivity, networking, or anything else. A dress rehearsal using the platform is also a must, to ensure that transitions between presenters are as quick and smooth as possible.

When it comes to production value, people are growing fatigued of the laptop webcam-driven video conference. A talking head video in a dark basement, devoid of visual stimulation, with background noise and echoes, might be fine for an ordinary Zoom meeting, but it’s not ideal for an online conference.

Instead, even small steps like investing in a lavalier mic, higher quality camera kit, and delivering remarks standing in front of a neutral, well-lit background can make a huge difference.

Don’t just find and replace

Ideas that may work superbly in-person at a conference venue won’t work with attendees sitting in front of webcams. For instance, a 45-minute or hour-long breakout session is poorly suited to home viewership – you don’t want people walking off to do laundry. Instead, you need ‘snackable’ content. That means shorter sessions, live polling, pauses for quick interactions, a cohesive slide deck, and compelling visuals.

Democratise your offering

If you want to do a service to your audience right now, don’t charge them the same amount of money as you would for an in-person event. You’re not making the same investments in the venue, food, and travel which conference organisers would usually need ticket revenue to offset, so it’s only fair to pass these savings on to your attendees. This isn’t to negate the immense amount of hard work that goes into the planning, the time spent organising the event, and the costs of hosting platforms and filming equipment, but rather an encouragement to reframe those efforts as investments in building community and positive feelings toward your brand.

We’ve decided to make our EngageX event free to attend. In a time when so many people are struggling, we want everyone who wishes to attend to be able to do so without worrying about registration costs. This may not be feasible for all online events, but an affordable ticket price combined with an engaging experience makes for satisfied attendees.

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