Transitioning To Online Events During COVID-19

As more countries go into lockdown mode over COVID-19, many face-to-face meetup and event organisers are looking into how to host the events online.

As one of the Sydney WordPress meetup organisers, I’ve been looking at options over the past few weeks and talking to people in the same situation in various Facebook groups and Slack channels.

Technicalities aside, however, running an online event is very different from hosting a live gathering of people.

Live streaming yourself on stage; giving a presentation to an audience is not a good idea and won’t translate to your virtual audience.

Here are some ideas on how to transition your face-to-face gathering to a virtual online event successfully.

Think About Your Delivery

Presenting to an in-person group of people from a stage requires you to move around, raise your voice to keep the attention of the audience on yourself.

But when you move to online events, you will need to think about changing the way you deliver that content.

Suddenly your presentation is moved from a stage to somebody’s home.  

It’s a more intimate, quieter and personal environment so you will need to adapt your style.

Rather than moving around, you’ll be close up to the camera and in the faces of your audience.  

Also, no need to shout or raise your voice too much!

Adapt your delivery style to be more personal as if you were (and you will be) talking to a single person.

Think About Length of Content

When you attend a conference or meetup event, people are willing to sit through a 30-40 minute presentation, take notes and approach the speaker at the end.

The home or office environment is very different, and that changes the expectation of your participants.

They will get bored and switch off easily with lengthy presentations and will be easily distracted by things happening around them.

Also, they can’t come up to you in person at the end so you may have to provide opportunities to allow participants to ask you questions and provide feedback.

Consider chopping your content into smaller chunks that can be useful on their own and complementary to each other for the overall event.

Think About Type of Content

Long presentations are boring, and if you want to entice people to watch your online event, you will have to give them something worthwhile in exchange for them giving up their precious home or office time.

Letting people know what you are going to be presenting and in which order will be helpful for those who want to check-in and out of your online event.

Consider using different types of content to make the event more fun, engaging and to break up all the talking you are doing.

Playing short video clips works well as a content break as well as using meme gifs.

If you are using charts and data as graphics in your presentation, consider offering links to the datasheets in Excel, Google Sheets etc. so the audience can look and play with data while you explain it.

Think Like a Storyteller

If you can add stories into your online presentation, engagement and retention will increase.

People love a good story, especially one that helps people out in a situation similar to their own.

Break up your event by adding in some testimonials, case studies and examples of how people have used the information you are delivering online.

Think About Your Engagement

To keep people engaged with your online content, allow them to ask you questions and share their thoughts.

Break up your content often, asking for questions about the previous section you have just covered.

Ask if everyone understood your explanation by getting them to hit “1” for yes or “0” no.

Using hit keys is a quick way of keeping your audience engaged and awake.  

Using keys far apart on the keyboard such as “1” and “0” help to engage the attendees left and right brain too!

Polls are an excellent way of gathering information from your audience, measuring engagement and helping you to refine your future events.

Me mindful of your time though and don’t dwell too much on answering questions if it is going to make your event overrun.

Think About Platform

Tools make it easy to create a Facebook or YouTube live broadcast these days with a single click, and they are free too.

However, think about where and when your audience will consume your content.  

Most corporates have a ban on social networks like YouTube and Facebook, so they will not be able to view your online event at their office.

You may have to look for a webinar platform that hosts events or lets you embed the content on a website of your choice.

If analytics is vital to you, YouTube and Facebook live don’t have much of that stuff, so again you may have to look elsewhere.

Another reason not to quickly jump on YouTube or Facebook live is that you are giving them the content to do with as they please for marketing and advertising.

If your brand is crucial for you, do you want Google or Facebook showing your content or snippets of your content in their marketing campaigns or slapping adverts all over your event?

Consider indexing, SEO and searchability factors too as Google or any other search engine does not include Facebook data.

If you are planning to get some SEO juice from your online events or want people to be able to search for it after the fact, forget Facebook live!

Think About Accessibility

Just as you would at a physical gathering, think about how you can make your online events accessible.

Live captioning services are available if you have the budget, or having somebody sign as you speak and making that available in the corner of your presentation will help.

If you are on a budget, Microsoft Office 365’s PowerPoint has an excellent on-demand subtitling function where it will actively listen to your voice and show subtitles under or overlayed on your presentation, for free!

Conclusion

If you are thinking about moving your physical event to one online, don’t just record what you are already doing and share it as a live event on the socials.

Do, prepare and plan how you can present your event effectively online using the different set of tools at your disposal.

Finally, don’t let the COVID-19 or anything else stop you from running your regular events.

Keep In Touch

Wil

Wil is a dad, consultant, developer, conference organiser, speaker and business mentor. He co-organizes the WordPress Sydney meetup group and has been on the organising committee for WordCamp Sydney since 2014. He speaks at many special events and contributes to the WordPress open source project. His likes are chillies, craft beer and electrogravitics.