Planning & Delivering a Virtual Event

What is a Virtual Event? 

A virtual event is any organised meet-up that takes place online, in a virtual environment instead of physically in person. And there is no limit to the range of events that can take place online such as small scale speaker events to large scale conferences with thousands of participants. 

Virtual and engaging events are going to be a big part of the future so we suggest you prepare yourselves to be able to create engaging, inclusive and accessible online events for your members. 

Why Hold a Virtual Event?

There are many reasons that you should be considering holding a virtual event and here are some things to consider: 

  • Safety: Due to the COVID pandemic, is it safer to run your event or activities virtually for your members.

  • Lockdown Restrictions: You may have an event planned in person, and local lockdown has been put in place. Rather than cancelling or postponing your event, you may be better off delivering it virtually.

  • Increased accessibility: Events and Conferences can be expensive for students to attend in person. Virtual events have a lower cost of delivery and therefore a lower cost for attendees. As well as this, travel expenses may be lower and time barriers are removed due to flexible delivery times. 

  • Cheaper Budget: The costs associated with delivering an event in person is usually much higher than if you delivered it digitally. This year risk associated with large events may not be approved by the Union so it may be in your groups best interest to plan your event digitally instead.

Planning a Digital Event

It is important that before planning a digital event you field the vibes with your society or club members that this is something they want and will attend. A lot of people are put off by virtual events and want to know that they are not going to be sitting looking at a screen for hours. Consider doing a pre-registration poll on your instagram story or facebook group asking members if they would attend the event based on your description and plan.

You need to think about who is going to be attending this event and why. Having an open event means members of the public are able to attend easily, and like an in person event, our policies still stand regarding external speakers and academic chairs. If your digital event is open to the public and the speaker is not from LSE, we may need to get you an academic chair.

 

Like planning any in-person event, there are the basic questions you should be asking yourself when developing your idea for a digital one. Some of the important questions:

- Who is going to be attending my event and why? - Should my event be live or pre-recorded? - What will we do if we have connectivity issues? - Will I charge to attend my event? - What pre-event information will attendees need? - What is the purpose of your event? - What format will my event take and how are we going to deliver this? - Can our group afford it?

There are lots more questions you could be asking yourself so we advise you to fully develop your idea and then use the rest of this page to help you practically plan your activity.

 

Developing the content of an event is the most important part of planning digitally. You want to make sure your event is engaging, fun and more than anything interactive. People don’t want to sit at a screen and watch some talk for long periods of time so consider the make up of your event if it is over an hour long.

Who is going to host or chair your event:

Your host plays one of the most important roles in a digital event as they create the flow, the mood and tone for your event. They want to make sure they connect your content and messaging to your attendees in an uplifting way. This can be done through interactive features of a system or a space that participants are drawn back to between content segments of your event.

External Speakers & Academic Chairs :

You can source your speakers in the same ways that you have always done for you events and because of the lack of travel you may be able to score time with some better speakers than originally planned for cheaper! Our policies still apply to student groups planning digital events that include speakers to come along and talk. This includes, if your event is open to the public you will need an academic chair. Academic Chairs can be effective at moderating an digital event by explaining their role and presence at the beginning of a digital event and giving them the system power to stop conversations that are against the law. An example of this is making them a co-host so they can mute individuals being inappropriate or remove them from the event.

 

When planning a digital event, one big question you want to ask is, does this event need to be live or can it be pre-recorded. Both of these types of events come with their own pros and cons but typically live events have a better, more natural feel to them. You need to think about what could go wrong with each of them as well, pre-recorded you need to ensure you have enough time to film, edit and upload the content before but with live you need to think about connectivity issues including how to navigate around them.

 

To get your speaker sessions recorded properly you may need to consider purchasing equipment and sending it to them to help them record high-quality videos at home.

If you want to send them equipment to do this, you should consider itemized recording equipment that is 1) manageable to ship; 2) easy-enough-to-use; and 3) would deliver the quality videos needed.

Here’s a list of the items recommended to:

- A bi-color LED ring light - USB microphones - A pop-up white background kit (this allowed for a consistent look and feel between the speaker sessions)

 

It is important that you consider how your attendees are going to feel at your event. In-person events are built for engagement through organic networking work whereas it is more difficult to facilitate this through digital events.

- Consider the format of your event - if the event is over an hour, make sure you break it up into sessions and stalls and time for people to interact. - Consider interactive functions of systems and applications such as polling, quizzes and break-out rooms. - If you can create small digital spaces for people to interact then consider this!

 

  • Ensure you think about the needs of the attendees - What are their goals and how will they find the design of your content. Put yourself in their shoes. Have you noticed you have any questions about what to do at the event, how to log on etc.
  • Personalise where possible. - See this external article to learn more about personalised events.
  • Work with your Team to deliver together so it is a good experience for you.
  • Line up your speakers for success - ensure they have a technical guide, best practice tips on how to speak effectively at a digital event and ensure they reshears with you so they are comfortable using the agreed platform.
  • Look after your attendees. Be proactive and prepare your virtual attendees for a great experience by consolidating your virtual event to limit fatigue, establish housekeeping rules, include Q&As in sessions, create an on-demand library, and make every experience interactive. You may even want to explore options for sending your attendees gifts or merch.

 

Virtual events can be structured in lots of different ways but some important parts you need to consider are:

- Event website - Event registration - Pre-Event guidance for attendees - Live presentation content - Live, one-way audio/video - Question and answer - Live polling - Note taking/favorite slides - Recorded content - Interactive video conferencing - Feedback surveys - Post Event Sharing & Contact

 

Working a team to be able to deliver a successful event is important. Below is an outline of a potential event team structure you could use. - Co-facilitator: to host some of the sessions so you can give each other a break. One of you could also be focussing on group dynamics while the other delivers content. It can also give you more variety and therefore better engagement from participants. - Tech support: a person specifically appointed to resolve any tech issues that occur and/or support a participant one-on-one if they are having tech issues so that you can focus on the training. - Producer: coordinating the 'backstage area' of your platform. This might include adding and removing people from your live stream and sending the 'host' comments from social media to use as part of the discussion. - Remote participant support: if someone doesn’t have a laptop, or can’t access the shared online document, this person can help them still access the content by being on a call with them and 'representing' them online. - Note/minute taker: someone separate from the presenter, facilitator or host to capture key discussion points, decisions and any actions to be written up and circulated after the session. - Time keeper: this may not be a role in itself however someone should ensure the session keeps to time and doesn't run over.

 

Sponsorship can come in many shapes and sizes. From funding, to support, to marketing, to supporting you in content. We advise that similar to your in-person events that you work with sponsors in the same way to support you digital events. Some ideas that can help you think about how sponsors can support your digital events:

- Sponsors event sessions and event speakers - They can provide a valuable addition to the event line up if you cannot source others. They can also allow you to offer a range of sessions rather than just 1. - Sponsored giveaways - They can give you items or funding towards competition prizes for your events or help you do some postal marketing for your event. - Sponsored Afterparty or Happy Hour - They can sponsor and lead the cost of the after event for your bigger conferences. Can you send participants and after party pack that has items to relax and have some fun? - Simply collaborate with them - Ask them for their ideas in helping to generate a great event or whether they could be your mentor. - Sponsors to fund and replace in-person experience replacements - Can you ask them to fund a £5 uber eats gift card for every participant so they can order lunch at home during the break? - Sponsors to cover the per person cost of an event - and highlight this event was brought to for free by X sponsor.

We understand that in securing a partnership for this kind of event may be different so here are some thoughts to consider:

- Your audience profiles should be the same and your attendees should have a direct benefit of this sponsors partnering with your event - All external partners need to have proper documentation and policies about GDPR and they need to understand the information a group can or cannot give them. - The external partner should understand that spamming and hounding attendees and leads if not for a good experience. Make sure you agree on how you’ll follow up and guidelines for how you will put them in touch with your attendees post event.

 

There are a range of different platforms you can use to deliver your digital events but you need to ensure you choose one that has the features you need.

- Features you should consider include: - Screen sharing - A virtual hands up tool - Question and Answer Functions - Break out group functions - Being able to mute and unmute participants - Document sharing - Polls and temperature check features

There are a range of platforms out there to choose from. As LSE students you get free access to microsoft teams and Zoom. We advise zoom as it has a very good features list.

 

All events, both in-person and digital should be as inclusive and accessible as possible. Here are some tips to think about:

- Make sure language is clear - Use larger fonts where possible - Use high colour contrast at visual touch points and presentations - Provide captions and visuals for audio where possible - Ensure when choosing speakers you choose a diverse range of individuals - Choosing the appropriate time of day and length of event

 

Long events - Consider how they are structured. Virtual events are different to in-person conferences, attendees are at home or remote and their focus isn't always going to be 100% on the event because they are not physically there. And there are distractions. Can you think of a time you focused on something for 8 hours at home? Ways to get around this and improve experience is break the day up into digestible chunks. Maybe even over days!

Time Zones - LSE students and your event attendees may be all over the world so choosing a time that suits a large range of time zones or even a specific time zone for your captured audience. Usually the range between 11am - 2pm works for all.

Session Lengths - Keep them short, snappy and interesting. Try to limit to 20 minutes and if you are going over 40, you’ve lost them.

 

“Virtual Event Production refers to the audiovisual (AV) production and technology services used to produce a virtual or in-person event. While in-person events require a special type of AV production, virtual events require their own skillset.”

Here is a great blog that provides details of how to consider AV for your Virtual Events.

 

When technology is involved, there is going to be user error. Virtual events are not all the same. There are many different types of video conferencing tools out there, as well as event technology options. Don’t take your attendees’ digital savvy (or lack thereof) for granted. Before the event, it’s best practice to create a guide for attendees explaining how to access the event, sessions, and more. Even better, allow attendees to practice launching sessions or sending messages before the event starts. This will ease attendee stress, decrease the flood of questions on Day 1 of the event to a trickle, and provide an overall better attendee experience. On the day and during the event make it clear who the attendees can contact if they are facing a technical issue.

 

It is good to ensure you provide a clear guide to etiquette at your digital event. Here is an example written by Policy

 

Ensuring that you can moderate your virtual events and keep them a safe space for participants is crucial and we will expect to see this risk management step outlined in your events risk assessment. The role of a moderator can be similar to those of an academic chair but covers more than just conversations. You must monitor the communication channels, check submitted Q&A questions are appropriate, delete inappropriate comments in the chat and remove individuals causing an issue. Test run how you can do this before your event starts! We don't want to be getting complaints simply because you didn't know how to moderate your platform.

 

You never know what is going to happen. Event the greatest of event planners can miss the most sleight of details which can have a large impact on the delivery of your event. Ways to prevent this:
  • Plan a backup if something goes wrong
  • Have a communications plan ready for if something does go wrong
  • Have multiple members of the society hosting so if one drops out, someone else is available to pick up the event. The same with speakers.
  • If someone is pivotal to the event such as a high profile speaker, provide them with an internet dongle as well as their own internet, just in case.
  • The easiest thing, provide tech support on the day for your attendees.

 

Not every digital event may need a risk assessment, but most still do! Using technology and electricity is still a risk. Speakers and upholding freedom of speech is still a risk you need to consider and show that you have thought about. More information will be released on digital risk assessments soon.

 

As the event organiser you need to understand the areas of concern in cybersecurity for your event. You should always know that breaches can happen and must put measures in place to prevent them. As an organizer, consider:

  • Website Encryption, so that information submitted through your site is only readable by you
  • Only collect relevant information from participants
  • Be sure to use a secure platform

Additionally, you should also let your attendees know they too play a role in ensuring data privacy. This can be done through ensuring that they adhere to the following;

  • Keeping their computer systems up to date and installing all necessary updates
  • Avoiding disclosing very personal information
  • Avoiding downloading any content from a person or an untrustworthy source