With 7 years of community management experience and as Senior Manager of Events and Community Marketing, Lina Tran manages all community initiatives hosted by Hedera Hashgraph, the enterprise-grade distributed ledger. Below, Lina outlines her advice for companies and projects venturing into the world of virtual events.
The COVID19 pandemic has upheaved events and conferences due to take place in 2020. Travel itineraries have been canceled across the globe, while the number of conferences moving to virtual events has soared. IBM announced that its Think conference would be digital this year, Consensus: Distributed 2020 has switched to a virtual conference format, and Microsoft’s biggest event of the year, Build Developer Conference, is moving to an online stage.
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And even if you’re not with a huge tech company, you can still generate great results from virtual events. It’s important to stay positive and recognize the resources we have available to us as an already powerful decentralized community. We must take advantage of this opportunity and appreciate the fact that despite having to keep our distance physically, people can come together from all over the world to connect and communicate with each other.
Tips For Hosting Virtual Events
At Hedera Hashgraph, we have been hosting virtual events with great success for over two years, and have attracted as many as 21,000 livestream viewers to a single online event. With our experience in managing and hosting community events online, bringing together global audiences into one virtual space, we have compiled some top tips for hosting virtual events:
1. You must have great content
People attend events, physically or virtually, to learn something new and to gain knowledge that they didn’t have before attending. The audience wants to be educated, empowered, and compelled. Intriguing the audience becomes evermore difficult in a virtual world and unless you have something interesting to share, they won’t attend the virtual meetup. It’s vital to provide a good description or overview of the event that hooks the audience and entices them to log in to the virtual event in advance. This should be mirrored by providing captivating information during the actual event too. Remember, people can easily log out of a computer screen, so it’s crucial that you keep them interested with gripping content, perhaps even more so than you would for in-person meetups.
2. Participation is key
Provide a way for your audience to interact and participate in the event. As in any physical event, people will have questions or comments to make in a virtual environment. Options such as a comment box, a Telegram group, or simply the messaging platform attached to a video call in Zoom or Google Hangouts, for example, should be considered. Space to communicate outside of the virtual event is also imperative. Sharing an email address or Twitter handle allows people to follow up with queries at a later date and gives people who prefer not to ask questions in front of a crowd the opportunity to ask a question in private after the live virtual event has concluded.
3. Use the appropriate tools
It’s important to choose the appropriate tools when hosting a virtual event. Today, we are spoiled for choice with several different platforms available to us, which are relatively inexpensive or often free. Again, it’s about choosing which tools are the most suitable for both you and your community. For example, you can very easily host a virtual meetup using a Zoom link and then feeding it to YouTube Live. This has two main advantages; firstly, as long as you have a YouTube account you can post comments and ask questions in real-time while the event is live which enables your community to interact and participate during the event. Secondly, YouTube Live will automatically record, upload, and save your video to your YouTube channel - this means even if someone was unable to make the live event they can rewatch it later at their own convenience.
4. Keep your community in mind when promoting your event
Your community is your priority. When choosing the appropriate tools to use to host and promote your event, it’s important to consider where your community “lives.” Are they primarily Discord or Telegram users? Be adaptable and accessible, and accommodate your community - try to use methods that they are already familiar with. It’s crucial that you meet your community's needs and facilitate a simple, hassle-free experience for them, rather than simply using the platforms that are easiest for you. When hosting, try to select a platform that your community is accustomed to. On the lead up to the event, it’s important to promote it, to keep your community informed about details such as time, date, and discussion topics, and most importantly to create hype. You want to create excitement, encourage attendance, and garner genuine interest in the event.
5. Don’t worry about the size of your audience — adopt a one-to-many approach
Often people worry about the size of their audience when hosting an event, be it physically or virtually. Is it worth hosting this event? Will people show up? My advice is not to worry about the size of your audience or the number of people that log-in, at least not at first. Communities take time to build. You have to start somewhere, so take the leap now! The beauty of hosting a virtual event is that it can be recorded, saved, shared, and repurposed into multiple different mediums to suit your audience. You can take the content that you have built for the virtual event and turn it into a blog post or a tutorial, for instance, that your audience will learn from in the future.
In this way, you can adapt to your community and reach out to even more people. You are not only reaching those who log-in to the live event, but the hundreds of people that consume the content later. Therefore, no matter how many people log-in to the live event, you should shift from a ‘one-to-one’ approach to a ‘one-to-many’ approach.