From On Campus to Online Turning Your Event Virtual

RACHEL TILLEY, FINANCIAL AID CONTENT MANAGER
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You’ve planned, prepped, and communicated the fact that your event has shifted from being on campus to online. Now it’s time to put all the pieces in place to pull off the smoothest, most engaging virtual event possible.

You’ve put a lot of time and effort into planning, and you’ve got some great content to share. The only thing left to do is flip the switch and make everything virtual, but if you’re not already a virtual planning guru, that may seem easier said than done. The following tips will keep you moving in the right direction and ensure you deliver an exceptional event that leaves attendees wanting more:

  1. Use social media. It’s important to incorporate social media in your online event. Leverage hashtags to ensure your event-related posts and updates are easy to find and follow. They’ll help you gain traction and increase visibility. And once you post on social, continue to engage with your followers to keep the conversation going.
  2. Choose the right technology. Selecting the technology that will support your virtual event is key. Discuss options with your events and communications teams, as well as IT staff to decide which platforms and channels will work best. Discuss whether you’re going to live stream. Is there a website, channel, or platform your attendees are already familiar with? Choose technology and channels you feel are the best options for your event type, attendees, and event staff.
  3. Modify your event. Some event elements will translate well to a virtual audience and others will not. This can make it tricky to determine what needs to change. Think creatively and ask yourself questions about what will work for you and your audience. Do your presenters need to be live or can they be pre-recorded? Can you replace live tours with virtual tours? What tools and digital media can you use?
  4. Pare down your event. After all the planning, it can be hard to cut event elements, but when you go virtual, there isn’t always a direct correlation for all the content. Some things simply won’t translate well to an online format. Consider your team’s limitations and bandwidth and keep things manageable. Your event will be a success if what you deliver is thoughtful and well-planned.
  5. Repurpose content. It’s important to get creative when you go virtual, but there’s no need to exhaust yourself creating tons of new content. Consider what you already have that can be repurposed. Is this an annual event? Can you re-use footage, presentations, or highlights from past events? Do you have any evergreen content that can be utilized?
  6. Build hype. When you’re thinking about new content, focus on building excitement for your event. Be creative when it comes to engaging attendees who were originally planning to attend an in-person event. Amp up the excitement about going virtual by updating your social media accounts, creating short videos, and even offering up some swag.
  7. Involve your community. Find ways for the original event staff, students, and faculty to continue to participate as you shift to a virtual format. And if those people weren’t participating before, consider opening up your online event to a larger audience. This allows the community to participate in ways that are helpful to you and beneficial to your audience.
  8. Reach out to peers. If you’ve moved to an online event because of something that is affecting many people, be sure to reach out to your contacts and colleagues to find out what they’re doing. Ask them what challenges they have run into and what has worked for them, their department, or school. You’ll not only learn from each other, you’ll end up identifying ways to partner and support each other.
  9. Measure and debrief. Just as you were planning to measure and debrief on your in-person event, follow through after your virtual event and analyze how everything went. Whether you count attendees, view recorded sessions, review surveys, or talk through overall logistics, it’s important to look at what worked and what didn’t.
  10. Celebrate. You did it! Take time to celebrate with your team. It’s a huge accomplishment to turn an in-person event into an online event. It was unexpected, and you had a short timeline—but you stayed focused, organized, and calm. Breathe a sigh of relief, organize a virtual happy hour for your team, and enjoy your accomplishment.

Once you’ve successfully made it through turning your event from on-campus to online, you’ll be ready to do it all over again. And that’s a good thing, because virtual interactions are here to stay. There will likely be many virtual events, meetings, and calls in your future—and now that you’ve tackled the Mt. Everest of virtual—and entire event—you’re ready for anything! Remember to reflect and review, and you’re sure to make each event better than the one before.

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