Do the words “online event” make you think of lengthy webinars or live streaming business conferences? You’re in the majority. But 2020 is changing the game when it comes to hosting events virtually.

Around the world, resourceful event professionals are getting creative in how they’re using livestreaming to broaden their reach, and they’re not always doing it on big budgets. Thanks to inexpensive technology and tools, events of all sizes can reap the rewards of going online.

New to hosting online events? Check out this collection of resources.

The value of virtual events

While virtual events may seem like they’d be less engaging, you’d be surprised at the value they can bring. They allow you to bring together a wider audience. Travel costs that could have prevented attendees from being able to attend a live event are no longer an issue. 

Plus, virtual means less overhead costs — after all, you’re not budgeting for a venue, large events staff, and other in-person line items. So you get to drastically reduce your outgoings (not to mention, your carbon emissions), while spending more on curating the best virtual event possible.

Lastly, there’s the data. It’s much easier to track who is watching what when everyone is tuning in online. All that attendee data is music to sponsors’ ears, which can make securing the best ones for your online event a whole lot easier.

Ideas for virtual events

How can you translate your in-person event experience into something valuable for people online? It’s all about using the format to give attendees what they want (an online yoga class, family music concert, or virtual training) and offering ways to connect via chat features.

To help you get inspired, here are eight ways to turn your event virtual:

  1. Teach a workshop on your business expertise
  2. Interview an industry influencer
  3. Show how to make your most popular cupcake
  4. Host a series of courses on perennial gardening
  5. Run a question and answer session about your business
  6. Demo your brand new product
  7. Run an awareness webinar prompting attendees to donate to your cause
  8. Teach your yoga/art/dance class online

And here are three examples of what virtual events look like in action:

  • HR Virtual Summit
    The world’s largest virtual HR conference attracts over 30,000 attendees ever year. All sessions are virtual, including keynotes and breakouts. Chat features support audience participation and attendees are rewarded with industry professional credits for free.
  • 3% Conference
    Founded with a mission to help to increase the number of female creative directors, the 3% Conference provides livestream access for a reduced cost to its lineup of speakers from the worlds of advertising, marketing, PR, tech, nonprofits, and more.
  • Coursera
    While not an annual event, Coursera has mastered the free and online course niche, offering content to help people build their skills. Check their website out to get inspired on how to run engaging classes for people tuning in from all over the world.

Engage your audience

Achieving engagement from your students, especially online, takes practice and experience. Even if you’re new to teaching — or just new to teaching in a virtual format — you can make your online workshops interesting and memorable with a few fresh ideas.

1. Make it relevant

To earn people’s attention, make sure the content you’re delivering is useful. How do you learn exactly what your audience want out of your webinar or online workshop? Ask them.

A few weeks before your event, conduct some initial research with your target attendees to shape your content, and send a pre-event survey so they can pinpoint problems or topics they’d like to hear about.

On the day of your online event, kick-off by giving a brief overview of what attendees are going to learn and how those skills will help them achieve their goals. If you’re using an interactive tool like Zoom, ask them to raise their hand – virtually – or type what they’re most excited about learning. Then, you can tailor your content to reward those who speak up.

2. Ditch the traditional presentation

People learn in different ways. Some of us are visual learners who prefer pictures, videos, and diagrams, while others respond to spoken and written word, music, logic, or even physical activities.

To create an inclusive online learning environment, try to combine traditional linguistic teaching methods with audio and visual presentations, PDFs, interactive tasks, and group breakout sessions. Throw in a few choice gifs to get a good laugh from your audience and hold their attention.

Start off your workshop with a quick PowerPoint, then move into a clip from a relevant podcast. Later, you could have attendees draw short comics based on what they learned and ask a few to present their comics to the rest of the group.

3. Change your backdrop

Most online trainings are held in professional-looking spaces or office areas, with white walls and maybe one piece of art, if you’re lucky. Challenge the convention and surprise your attendees by showing up on-screen in front of a colorfully painted wall, outside in a gardened area, or in a space that’s more dynamic and inspiring than a bland, windowless meeting room. As long as your audio won’t be compromised, don’t be afraid to get creative with your location.

4. Use props

Props can make your teaching even more engaging. These could be practical objects that literally represent your subject matter (think scales, an abacus, or a mannequin) or they could be ridiculous (try a rubber chicken or magic wand). Props liven up your session and will help people remember what they learned.

Your training or workshop might be serious, but people learn best when they are having fun. Make your class aware that you’re going to place a few easter eggs throughout the presentation to keep them engaged and then award the attendee who found the most.

5. Play games

Need to keep your attendees focused? Tap into their competitive sides. Puzzles or riddles, crosswords, memory games, ordering tasks — all are great ways to keep your attendees engaged and on-task. For added drama, impose a time limit.

Try introducing a quick quiz at the end of each content section, helping recap on what’s been learned, and offer a small prize for the winner.

6. Tell a story

Whatever you’re teaching, try to make it relatable to everyday life by using real examples, case studies, and creative metaphors. People will sit still for hours watching a movie — why not steal some cinematic tricks?

Stories are central to the way memory works. Even if we don’t realize it, we’re always searching for the narrative. If you can find a way to weave your information into an overarching story, attendees will be more engaged and more likely to remember your content well after the class has been dismissed.

7. Play some tunes

Music can set the mood and get attendees energized before your session and during breaks. Play something upbeat to pump them up and then lower it back down to let them know it’s time to start. You can also use music during the session – soothing classical pieces have been shown to help people concentrate while completing tasks.

8. Keep it short

One of the best ways to keep your audience engaged is to avoid overloading them with information. Give them too much and their brains will shut off. Either make your online session a maximum of two hours or, if it’s taking place over the course of a day, allow short breaks. Give attendees a chance to get up, walk around, and grab a cup of coffee.

9. Provide recognition and reward

Attendees will be more motivated to successfully complete your workshop if their efforts are recognized and if they have something to show for it at the end. Let attendees know they will receive personalized certificates to mark their participation. You should also consider extra incentives such as a competition or small prizes for the best students. Again: tap into the innate need to compete.

Get ready to lead an online workshop your attendees won’t soon forget

Teaching is as much about entertaining your audience as informing them. Make your training or workshops lively, varied, fun, and unexpected. Your participants will learn more and be more likely to come back for more. Ready to create your event? Check out our Online Events resource hub and get started on Eventbrite today. 

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