Hosting Successful Virtual Events For Your Campaign
March 3, 2021
Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, virtual events are often the first experience a person may have with your campaign. They are spaces for people to learn your mission and find information about future campaign activities. From trainings to staff retreats, successful events can create the foundation for a successful campaign.
However, great events do not plan themselves. Strong logistics and production make smoothly-run events possible, especially in a pandemic environment. It is crucial to adapt virtual programs to reach different audiences. Here is how to plan and host successful virtual events for your campaign.
Goals & Outcomes for the Campaign
The first step when planning virtual events for your campaign is to determine your goals. There is limited time, people, and money, so use your resources efficiently. The better your plan, the better you can anticipate the needs of the audience. In this blog, the main focus will be on time and people when planning a virtual event. With this in mind, think about what your organization’s capacity looks like, and what is the desired end result of this event.
Backwards Mapping Virtual Events
Backwards mapping is the process of planning a timeline by working backwards from the event date, including all phases and needed resources. This allows you to work more efficiently towards your goals throughout the planning process, and structure in some buffer time. Backwards mapping is effective when planning virtual events of all sizes, whether it be a small staff training or a large event.
You may have already started thinking of many different parts of your plan for a virtual event. When planning a virtual event, the three main buckets to think about are:
- Logistics: When are the best times to hold the event? Is this a weekend event or weekday? Is it possible to reduce the length of the event to minimize Zoom fatigue?
- Technology Platform: How big is the event? Zoom is better for bigger events. Do you want to include breakout rooms or polls? Do you need a webinar format or a more intimate meeting format?
- Audience: Who is the audience? Are they internal (inside your organization) or external? What objectives or expected outcomes are you promising them?
Participant Engagement in Virtual Events
Understanding your audience and their needs allows you to better tailor the event. Think about how to respond to your audience. This includes how you answer their questions and address their needs throughout the planning process. Sharing a survey before the event is a great way to do this. It gives you data with which to build the event.
Activating the audience is also crucial, especially in the tech heavy world of today. Zoom fatigue is common and the event should cater to different learning styles. This is critical in order to keep the audience engaged.
The Lead Staff Training Program
When NDTC went virtual due to COVID-19 in March 2020, our Live Training Team was tasked with planning and executing virtual live trainings. We quickly realized staffing 8-9 virtual trainings was not possible for a 3 person team. So I built the Lead Staff program that made it possible to host over 200 virtual trainings. This program is meant to be tailored to an organization’s scale and needs.
The lead staff is the designated person in charge of all the tech and support during a virtual event. They create an effective space for engagement with the audience, and provide strong staffing support for an event. The lead staff is an essential part of your training, which makes a lead staff program extremely effective.
A lead staff is the main support for the host and audience. Their role could include:
- Making sure all tech runs smoothly. This means double checking all the zoom setting and preparing ahead of time for any community building activity
- Dropping the appropriate resources during the event.
- Time keeping for the host of the event.
- Answering questions during the event.
This allows the event to run smoothly, and enhances the audience’s experience.
To create a lead staff program, assess your organization’s needs and capabilities when hosting trainings or events. Continually create and strengthen resources for lead staff based on these needs. Host organization-wide trainings for those who would serve as lead staff at events. Always set up digital checks for lead staff prior to events, and debriefs following them.
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