From On Campus to Online Turning Your Event Virtual

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The decision has been made to cancel your event and offer a virtual event in its place. Now what? Whether you’re looking for ways to grow your event or you’re scrambling to go virtual for the first time, it’s essential to make a plan regarding how you’ll proceed and the steps you’ll take to ensure you have a successful event. While you may feel uncertain about next steps, how to break the news to attendees, and even how to transition your entire event online, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

This 2-part series outlines ways to plan and prep, as well as things you can do to pull off the best virtual event possible. The following tips will help you start taking your event from on-campus to online—as seamlessly as possible:

  1. Regroup. Take a step back and give yourself and your team a moment to adjust. Chances are a lot of organizing and planning have gone into preparing for your event, and it’s important to remember that calling off an event—or even postponing or restructuring—can be extremely disappointing, not only for attendees, but also for those involved in planning. Take time to regroup, adjust, and convene your events team.
  2. Notify and acknowledge. When the decision is made to cancel your event, it’s important to update your attendees as quickly as possible. Whether canceling the event will be a huge disappointment or a small inconvenience, it’s crucial to recognize the implications it has on attendees and express your regret. Reassure them that you will still be holding your event online and let them know when they’ll get more details about the virtual event.
  3. Assess your staff and resources. It’s important that you still have an established events team with clear roles and responsibilities. Since the dynamic of your event has changed, your staffing and resource needs may change, so be sure to reassess how your team can best support the new format. How does this change affect the involvement of your communications and IT teams? Do they need to be involved more or differently than originally planned? Do you need additional staff and/or resources in order to shift to a cloud-based event?
  4. Review your schedule. Once you know your event has shifted to a virtual setting, you’ll gain flexibility with your scheduling. If attendees will be tuning in from multiple time zones, consider updating the date and time, and if you’re hoping to increase engagement, consider shifting to a multi-day event, rather than covering everything in one day. Polling attendees can give you insight regarding dates and times that work best for their schedules.
  5. Set expectations. Chances are some of your attendees are new to the world of virtual events, too, so it’s key to share what they can expect. Let them know what your event will look like, what will be the same, and what will be new or different. When you set expectations before the event, you’ll end up with attendees who are more satisfied and less confused by the new format.

Your event is important, and it’s never fun to cancel or postpone. The good news is that technology, innovation, and creativity can come together to help you deliver an online event that will rival—if not surpass—expectations for what you had originally planned. You may not be able to replace or replicate everything you were going to do in person, but you can create a positive, engaging online experience that will make a lasting impression—beginning with solid, upfront planning and great communication.

For tips on how to go live and pull off your virtual event without a hitch, read Part 2 of this series, Ready, Set, Go Live.

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