Hint: It’s not about the platform

Over the last two months (though it certainly feels much longer), our industry has frantically been pivoting live events to virtual event formats. For many, this meant rapidly researching a vast array of streaming providers, web conference solutions, and virtual event platforms.

In the process, it’s also meant a lot of trial and error. How many of you quickly launched a web conference for hundreds of participants, only to realize that the platform alone doesn’t address everything you need to achieve your desired meeting outcomes?

In the rush to virtual, many of us have lost track of the most critical step in the process – event design! Here’s a reminder of two critical principles to consider when designing your virtual event.

1. A virtual event is not a direct translation of a live event

Zoom fatigue is real. If it’s not already a diagnosable condition, we’re probably not far off from seeing it in medical textbooks. With unlimited online and at-home distractions, it takes a different kind of focus to engage in virtual events. Coupled with the lack of visual or physical breaks attendees would typically have in a live setting, the ability to overcome these distractions can be overwhelming without the right balance of high-stimulation and lull time.

Second, it’s more challenging to establish emotional and attitudinal connections across cyber space. The networking that typically happens more serendipitously in a live environment must be designed with purpose in a digital environment.

2. You can warp time and space

We all struggle with attention spans in digital environments. But unlike the time or space restrictions you have in a live event setting, you can be more flexible with virtual events.

Engagement doesn’t need to happen at a specific time and can be stretched to meet the needs of your audience. Leverage the freedom of access and community building tools across time zones to meet participants where they are – delivering content when your attendees need it, and how they need it. Content such as on-demand video sessions or simu-live can open new opportunities for engagement with presenters and learning opportunities.

As the global event industry enters the recovery stage, there will be an ongoing need to engage remote audiences – either completely virtually or in a hybrid setting. Put the principles of event design first before considering the delivery platform and consider partnering with someone who can help guide you through the design process and create an experience that will be sure to meet your desired outcomes.

Our team has created virtual and hybrid solutions cultivated from years of experience. Connect with us to see how we can assist with your event design.

Presenting live is challenging enough at the best of times. But these days, you also have to be your own sound engineer, lighting technician and camera operator.

For my Professional EDge topic, I wanted to do something practical that can help elevate your virtual meetings skills, all while turning what you have at home into something that can be easily be delivered. I also produced a reference guide with all our tips on it, which you can download here.

But for today, let’s run through some highlights and secret hacks we use ourselves for presenting.

Optimize your Home Internet

We’ve all heard stories about the internet straining under the pressure of so much video. But rest assured, the internet is fine and is used to this amount of activity.

Here’s what you can do to optimize your connection:

  • Get your router out into some free space. Like a fine wine, routers need to breathe.
  • Go wired from the router to your presentation laptop. Ethernet cable is cheap and can run 300ft, so if you have a really critical session that’s counting on internet, I highly suggest you get the cable out.
  • If you must go wireless, use a 5Ghz connection at a close range for the best results. Speaking of wireless, it’s always best to turn off other internet devices in the house while you’re presenting.

Presentation Tips 

There’s a lot to think about when presenting, and minimizing distractions is key. One of the best ways to do this is to have a co-presenter. This person can step in if there is a glitch on your end, but can also handle sorting through attendee questions, answering chat messages, and even forwarding slides. They can also operate the lobby room functionality and troubleshoot with attendees struggling to connect.

Here are a few other presentation tips:

  • Understand what you’ll be able to see and hear while presenting. Will you have a producer in one ear? Will you see your slides? What about slide notes? Practice presenting in the mode you’ll be in and build up that comfort and confidence.
  • Backup audio is key. As a secondary connection, dial into the meeting on your cellphone, but remember to turn down the speaker and mute the mic to avoid feedback. If your computer goes down, unmute your cellphone and carry on!
  • If standing up helps you present, stand up for your virtual presentations, too. It’ll help you stay animated, get you to use your hands more, and you’ll be more engaging as a speaker. Find your natural presentation state and set up your studio to best accommodate.

Platform tips

There are many video conferencing platforms around right now and all have slightly different feature sets. Some allow virtual backgrounds, some handle Q&A differently, and some allow for breakout space.

Whatever platform you choose, there are common themes to how to get the best out of it:

  • Eliminate distractions on the platform by turning off entry and exit tones, and think about whether you should allow the audience to be heard. Larger audiences are better handled via text Q&A. Smaller groups can do full two-way audio, but make sure as the leader of the meeting there is a way to mute noisy attendees.
  • When it comes to security, the best advice is to use a one-time meeting ID instead of your personal ID that you use over and over.
  • Waiting rooms or meeting lobbies are another opportune way to ensure those who are in your meeting should be. Additionally, make sure you have a good handle on who has sharing rights within your meeting. These tips will help to keep your delivery focused to those who should be seeing and hearing it.

Make the best use of space 

Presenting from home is a challenge, so do your best.  A plain background will avoid the audience becoming distracted and make it easier for virtual background software to pick you out.

Here are some technology tips to get you looking and sounding great:

  • Lighting – place a table lamp behind the camera to provide natural light onto your face and avoid light distortion from unwanted sources such as your laptop backlight.
  • Audio – wired headphones or a good quality headset are best as they allow the microphone to be close to you.  If you have to use the mic on your webcam or laptop, soft furnishings will help deaden the sound and avoid echo – so close curtains and make use of a carpeted room.
  • Video – Use anything you have lying around (milk crates, piles of books, etc.) to get the camera to eye level.  Anything else is going to look odd.

Over time, I think this concept will evolve and we’ll start to see more small, dedicated studio spaces open up to accommodate the need for more professionally produced virtual content. PSAV will be there to support that idea when the time comes.

Until then, remember we’re here to help you whether that’s advice on home setups, temporary internet, virtual event platforms, and all your other event technology questions. Feel free to send an email to internet@psav.com to get any of these concerns addressed or for future internet support needs.