How To

Nice to e-meet you! How to pull off a pawsome virtual event

by Isla Williams |

From Wimbledon to Glastonbury festival, the coronavirus pandemic (and subsequent UK-wide lockdown) has led to event cancellations across the country. So when we realised we could no longer host our planned Open House event at our city-centre offices, we decided to take the event online – welcoming potential clients and exciting new talent by opening our doors ‘virtually’ instead.

Event management has always been an important part of what we do here at spottydog, and while every event requires careful planning and preparation, the process of organising an online event comes with an entirely different set of logistical challenges.

There’s a huge range of video conferencing technology available now, and this has developed even further in the wake of this global crisis. Before hosting an online event, it’s important that you do your research to find the best platform for the type of online event you want to host, and many of these platforms offer a free-trial period, allowing you to test the functionality and figure out which one works best for you. For our Virtual Open House, we chose to use Zoom’s video webinar software, which allowed us to host an online event with up to 100 interactive video participants and up to 10,000 view-only attendees.

Practice makes perfect when it comes to hosting an online event and, while it might seem obvious, we learned all about the value of having a thorough rehearsal. This allows you to prepare for possible technical issues, such as loss of internet connection or files not opening, and gives you the chance to find a workaround that you can default to if this happens on the day. One change we decided to make was to appoint one dedicated host, with another team member operating the PowerPoint presentation, to make the transitions between our presenters run more smoothly.

Knowing that not all of our guests would be tech savvy, we wanted to make it easy for people to participate in our virtual event, so we asked attendees to RSVP by email and sent out an access link the day before the event. We also started the event with some ‘virtual housekeeping’, where we explained how to use the interactive functions and move our videos around the screen if they obscured the presentation at any point.

For the event itself, we chose to spotlight five presenters, screen-sharing each of their presentation slides as they narrated over the top, recreating the format of our previous ‘in-person’ Open House. As people tend to lose interest much quicker when attending online events, we also decided to break up the presentations and keep people engaged with a virtual tour of our office space.

To further replicate the experience of an in-person event, we additionally made use of the chat feature on Zoom webinar, as well as encouraging audience participation with a Q&A session. This enabled guests to interact with the presenters in the same way they would at a physical open house, and helped them to feel engaged with the event instead of like an observer watching from the outside.

In 2020, you can’t host a successful online event without an accompanying social media campaign, and this can be a brilliant platform to build excitement around your event. For our Virtual Open House, we also chose to live-post on our social channels throughout the event, using a dedicated hashtag and encouraging guests to get involved too. The option to record the event on Zoom also meant we could capture the presentation content to share on social at a later date.

With online events offering a cost-effective (and low-carbon emission!) alternative to in-person gatherings, they also allow guests to join who otherwise may not have been able to attend, opening up your event to a whole new audience.

Our first ever Virtual Open House was a huge success, and we received some paw-some feedback from our presenters and attendees alike. As we emerge out the other side of this global crisis, more and more businesses are looking at new ways of working, and the temporary changes introduced as a result of enforced lockdown will undoubtedly help shape this new “normal”.

This may well mean we see a more permanent shift towards virtual events like this one, and if that is the case, we look forward to e-meeting you very soon!

Get in touch to find out more about how we can help you create and manage an online event.