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Lessons from planning a virtual event

Welcome Back Event Profs and All! I’ve spent the last few months working with ‘Get Ahead in Events’ and ‘Event Grads’ putting together the ‘Bridging the Gap in the Events Industry’ virtual event which took place on the 25th November 2020! The event came about from a conversation between myself and Samantha Salisbury - Get Ahead In Events, we wanted to create something that would be useful for students who wanted to enter the events industry in the uncertain time of covid and give them the opportunity to be exposed to industry professionals they wouldn't usually have access to. In the events industry, there are no events, no exhibitions, trade shows etc which are targeted to students specifically as much as they are targeted at industry professionals. However, international confex and Event Tech Live do offer half day student tickets! The mistake of event organisers not targeting this market or offering them the ability to access their event is that the knowledge pool available to the "industry professionals" they are targeting begins to shrink. On this basis, we created Bridging the Gap. The gap between education and work, the knowledge gap between theory and practical, the networking gap. In my controversial opinion, the education system is incoherent from university to university, unlike a technical degree like accounting where there are certain objectives students must achieve, its not the same for events students. Some universities offer student the opportunity to put on a live event others don't, some send them to exhibitions others don't and this inconsistency has a great effect on the mental state and confidence on students post-university. When I set out on this journey I was quite excited but nervous about the impact which the event was going to have. Were we going to be able to deliver? But in true Benny fashion, I forged ahead regardless. The structure of the event was quite fluid and changed as ideas came to us which made the process so much easier because we were able to be as creative as we wanted 1. The first thing i noticed when planning a virtual event in comparison to a live event is the amount of items on the checklist, was a lot longer. We had to think about more ways to keep attendees engaged, what platform to use? how was the platform going to look? what event colours did we want to use? what kind of branding did we want? etc. This meant that we had to have regular catch up meetings with the team not only to ensure we are on the same page but to ensure there was movement on what we wanted to achieve. I would also add, ensure you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve with the event, and consistently refer back to it. 2. Secondly, your team is everything. We had a team of about 10, different expertise levels and backgrounds which in all honestly could have been a disaster waiting to happen lol. The complete opposite was what we had and along the way although a strong personality, it was alright for me to let go because I was confident in my team to carry on the work that needed to be done and this was because we had established a working culture which was open, allowing us to communicate freely with each other. 3. 'Learn your platform inside out'. Between myself and another lady we were the tech girls which meant that we needed to know the platform pre, during and post event. We needed to know the capabilities and limitations of the platform and in my opinion virtual event platforms have a variety of limitations such as; functionality to host live events - you may have to stream from another platform onto your event platform; we used streamyard, networking options, adding attendees from another platform onto the virtual face and more.

4. Event day! On a virtual event day, there are a lot of moving parts. Attendees having issues logging in, live streaming sessions, presentations, ensuring pre-recorded videos actually play etc. The easy way to overcome this is having two or three team members who know the platforms and alternate with them throughout the day.

5. The time taken to recover from a virtual event is actually longer than a live event. I would’ve thought i’m at home not moving as much but the sheer volume of information absorbed during a virtual event from speakers, to technical issues to making sure you take a break, all takes its toll so where i would normally multitask on event week leading up to the live day, I won’t advise it. Pace yourself and make time for you especially after the event, you deserve it!

These are just a few lessons i learnt from planning virtual events would love to see some of yours in the comments.


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