Here is an easy “guideline” on how to prepare an online event, how to make it engaging for participants, useful for organizers, and with the use of available, free tools.
I have one theory. It can be called “a theory of constraints,” but this name was already taken by Mr Goldratt. Anyway, my theory is that constraints can make us more creative and productive at the same time. I will explain it together with a description of free tools that can be used to prepare an online event. As all free tools, they inevitably come with some restrictions.
The tools I want to describe here are only my suggestions. I tried to choose those available around the world; however, in some countries, they may be some restrictions . You may easily find better tools yourself, so feel free to use them. From my point of view, more important than a tool itself is a system (the way you work) of connecting all your tools. So let’s have a look at the three parts of the online event – from a perspective of a system.
The critical part of your communication or direct invitation by email has to be a solid registration form.
After the registration part, the best practice is to send them all event details – directly to their calendars.
I always prefer to use ZOOM for any online sessions; it can be project status, training, webinar, or even a simple call. The main reason why I use ZOOM is the smooth scheduling of all my calls and meetings. It also allows me to send the invitation to the meeting directly to the participants’ calendar. It can be a Goggle calendar or even Outlook. The second reason why I prefer ZOOM is that I can send the link to the session in the invitation as well. It is easier for the participant to join the meeting. It is not necessary to call them or to ask them for their nicknames (as it is always requested by Skype). The session is also accessible by the ZOOM app from the mobile phone, just by using the password included in the invitation that goes directly to the calendar.
It is good to engage participants with some ice-breaking questionnaire immediately after the agenda. You can use Google forms to build the survey with a few funny questions or questions related to the main topic of the event. Create a QR code for the questionnaire and display it on the slide of your presentation. Many people usually join an online event with their computers, so they have their phones close to them. They may just scan the QR code from the screens of their computer and fill the questionnaires directly on their phones. If people are on their phones already, just post the link to the survey in the chat section. Use funny questions and immediately display the results on the screen. You definitely get the participants’ attraction.
One of my favourite tools for online sessions, but also suitable for public events, is Slido. It is a fabulous tool to get people engagement during the presentation. I use Slido for creating polls and managing questions during the performance.
Of course, participants may also ask questions by voice or in the chat window, but when using Slido, the management of questions is far more comfortable. You never miss a question, and you can create pools that you might use later on, after the session. Most of all, to integrate a Slido into your presentation will make you look very professional.
Focus on the Q&A section. Make sure you answer all the questions. If you have more questions and no time to answer them, send the rest of the answers via “thank you for your participation” email after the event.
The two parts that you have to include in each of your events are the feedback and “what’s next” session. The feedback part is crucial for your own improvement. The “what’s next” part is critical for sustaining the numbers of your followers.
I will tell you the secret now. People don’t learn from experience, they learn from the reflection of their experience. Write down your lessons learned and store them on the cloud – also available for your teammates (and yourself) – for the sake of preparation of the next online event.
The last thing you should do is to post the summary of your event on social media. Be proud of your work and let those who did not participate in the event know that they missed a perfect session.
Conclusion: Sudden threats like coronavirus are creating disruption. Disruption, on the other hand, creates opportunities. To respond effectively and continue to deliver against our plans, we have to think about how we work or how all our activities are connected. It is not only about the tools that we are using. It never was. It is about how we interline all that we do. To manage an online session successfully, we need to know to whom we are presenting and what they can expect. Therefore, the preparation phase is very important. To engage the participants means not just to make the session interesting. It gives us an input needed for communication with participants, even after the event, and sustains their interest.