The world is in a difficult place right now, and the online communities aren’t an exception. Everywhere you look, events are being canceled, and for people who network online, this can be really unsettling, as we’re all close and we miss our gatherings. Luckily, we get to stay connected online, and especially now, when everyone is staying safely at home, taking your event online is a smart and easy move. We’ve put a short guide that will help you to organize an online conference in 4 easy and actionable steps, so without further ado, let’s discover them together!
1. Why you need an online event and how to promote it
Мany people find the idea of organizing an online event a little unsettling, but it’s actually not difficult at all. Keep in mind that right now people all over the world need to stay put, and will likely be way more willing to attend a virtual event and pay more attention, considering they are cut out from many of their regular outdoor activities and social circle.
While this is an unfortunate moment for everyone, it’s a good opportunity to strengthen the relationship with your peers and add new people to your local community.
What you need to focus on is promoting your event as much as possible.
Let’s see a few practical tips on how you can capture the attention of your audience:
- You probably have an account at meetup.com, so newsletter to previous participants is certainly in order. If this is a WordCamp, mailing your visitors from the past events is absolutely fine as well, as long as you follow the Code of Conduct.
- Make sure to post your announcement in all relevant Facebook groups – people are spending a lot of time on Facebook and other social media right now! You can also join the international ones if your event is in English. Use captivating creatives for your posts in order to get the attention of people browsing: pictures from your past events, bright colors, human faces, or animated videos (a 4-8 second animation will do just fine).
- Instagram isn’t that big of a channel for WordPress-oriented stuff, but it doesn’t hurt to post there too and on Twitter usually, you will find several folks interested in this kind of events. For these two channels don’t be afraid to dive deep into the hashtag game!
- Some Reddit channels would be also a great place to posts, such as r/WordPress , r/Webdesign, r/Startups etc – whatever you find relevant
- You can ask your past and present speakers to spread the word amongst their audience – they usually are happy to do so on their own platform and channels.
- Sites dedicated to events would be a great channel, especially if your event is in English. If that’s not the case, you can always go for local event promoting sites.
Overall, regular rules of thumb apply; hosting an online event requires as much noise as possible (just be careful not to come off as obnoxiously spammy!).
2. Get the right platform
Let’s start with your most obvious need: when you’re wondering how to host your virtual event, your first thought is probably related to the streaming. We’ve posted below two of the best options you can use, though you’re not limited to that, of course.
- Google Meet popularity is skyrocketing ever since Google made them into a business tool, and it’s a really amazing option for company meetings and virtual events.
Because of the Covid-19 situation, Google announced that the premium features of Google meet – typically available only for Enterprise users of G Suite – will be free until July 1st. Some of the most useful options of the platform include:
- An increased participants limit from 100 to 250 per call
- An increased audience limit for Live streaming up to 100,000 watchers per domain
- Option to record the virtual events (online meetups) and upload the recording Google Drive
If you’ve never used the online platform, it’s a great time to test it out. Not only does it allow a huge number of potential viewers, but it also has a couple of features you won’t find anywhere else.
One of them is the option of creating instant captions; while the mechanism isn’ perfect, it’s still an excellent accessibility option for live virtual conferences. Another is the high-resolution streaming and pinch-to-zoom on a mobile app – a great feature for mobile participants.
Also, it doesn’t require installation – you can join by opening the respective link in a browser, which makes things way more straightforward for potential viewers. Of course, classic options such as phone dial-in, presentations, and reporting are also available.
Overall, it’s a powerful yet incredibly clean solution for online events. We strongly recommend giving it a try!
- Zoom.us seems to be another favorite option when it comes to hosting virtual events due to its good balance between useful features and cost. The platform’s Pro plan includes up to 100 participants, and it doesn’t have a minimum of host subscriptions (which is actually the case with their next plan). They have a great range of features which makes it the perfect platform for smaller virtual conferences and meetups.
- Great control of the session; you can mute and unmute participant yourself (as a host), you can invite other people to speak, you can quickly moderate when necessary etc.,
- Chat and polls available (especially useful in live online events for making the experience more interactive)
- Notifications and reminders (also handy)
- CVS import
You will probably find their interface clean and very easy to learn, which is another great thing about them. Overall, its effortless use and decent pricing makes it an excellent choice for small gatherings.
Oh, and there is also a replay option, in case you’re looking to offer that to your audience. If this isn’t quite what you wanted, there are many other great platforms, such as Crowdcast.io, GoToWebinar, Livestorm, WebinarJam, etc.,
3. Prepare your presenters
Speaking in front of many people can be genuinely frightening for many speakers, especially for the first few times. Believe it or not, speaking on an online event can be even more unsettling, because there is no option for you to see your audience reaction to your talk – not in the same way, at least.
The best way to avoid awkward moments is just the same as with normal events; rehearse!
An essential part of our virtual events guide is the preparation of the speakers. Suggest them to rehearse in front of a webcam and record themselves. First of all, they’ll get used to the idea of staring into a device, instead of people. Secondly, they can see where things go south and correct themselves. Typically, they may discover the following problems:
- Not looking directly into the camera
- Not speaking clearly and using a lot of filler words (uh, um, er, ah etc.,)
- Lack of voice modulation
These are all normal obstacles that most people experience. Kindly helping your speakers with potential issues will allow them to do their job better, which in turn can upgrade the experience and make your event way more successful.
4. Test technical settings
Test your technical equipment and environment as early as possible. Conduct tests with your speakers too, and if anything comes up (and it usually does), you will have plenty of time to fix it.
It’s best if you use a checklist of anything that can go wrong when it comes to hosting your online event. Here is one to start off with:
- Volume/microphone issues (e.g., mics not working) Make sure you check the “Adjust microphone level” option upon joining
- Low-quality image (e.g., camera isn’t good enough) If your device doesn’t provide good-quality image, try to borrow one or rent a studio room – they’re paid by the hour
- Poor streaming quality (e.g., internet connection isn’t fast enough, that’s a pretty important one) Disable all other running services or downloads on your machine, use cable internet or search for a location with faster internet
- Noise disturbance (e.g., the location isn’t very sound-proof) warn people around you and minimize noise by using a headset or borrowing/buying a noise-canceling microphone
- Presentation issues (e.g., text on the slides are too small for some resolutions) simply check this beforehand and apply the necessary fixes
- Screen Sharing (e.g., your screen might not share properly) see if there is a visible obstacle and if not, try to contact technical support
You also need to think about all the little things that can get in the way.
For example, how are you going to deal with reminding people about their time limit, if you don’t have a timekeeper? Interrupting them would probably seem rude, so explore alternative paths. How will you handle Q&A? Do you have different MCs, and how will you handle handing over the host position?
Finally, remember to have fun! Events have always been an amazing experience, so the best thing to do is keep it that way, even if the experience is slightly different.
We’re all in this together, so our hearts go to everybody that’s currently in a bad situation due to this global crisis. All we can do is stay connected and keep our spirit up with small gestures like online gatherings and events, even if just to see how your audience is doing. Stay home, stay safe and finger crossed that this situation will be soon over!