How PresenceSummit Leverages Zoom to Increase Virtual Event Engagement
Heading into the fifth month of wide-spread working from home, it’s safe to assume that most peoples’ personal and professional lives have been upended.
With social distancing as part of the prevailing “new normal” for the foreseeable future, you’ll need to reimagine events from the ground up to deliver value for attendees and success for your business. The good news is that by using the Zoom platform, conducting careful planning, and thinking through the kind of experience you want attendees to have, you can make online events informative, engaging, interactive, and fun.
The challenges of events in the era of social distancing
Online meetings and virtual events can be challenging to pull off. After all, human beings are social animals — we love gathering face-to-face. Charismatic speakers share meaningful anecdotes that inspire and engage us, members of the audience engage with each other during breaks, and there is a tangible energy in the air throughout the event.
The question is: how can you recreate the energy that’s generated during live events in virtual ones?
It’s not hard, and there are examples of great virtual events you can follow. In fact, an upcoming event called the PresenceSummit uses live streaming on social media to maximize their event exposure and Zoom to host engaging workshops. You can make virtual events as lively and interactive as the in-person ones — maybe even more — with a few helpful tips and guidance.
Leveraging Zoom’s platform to enliven virtual events
When you attend a conference or event in the physical world, you might sit in a ballroom with a few hundred people. Speakers rarely get a sense of what’s on attendees’ minds until the Q&A period at the end of their speaking slot. With the Zoom platform, you can take the pulse of the “room” immediately in real-time by using the chat function.
Using Zoom, hosts and speakers can toss out a few questions and ask participants to enter their responses in the meeting chat. The event host can verbally elaborate on the responses and build on them. Hosts can find out why the attendees came, what they really want to know, what challenges they’re facing in their business, and more. Using chat, participants also get an opportunity to learn more about one another and current concerns for follow-up later.
Q&A sessions are also highly interactive and have an advantage over live sessions — participants can see what others are asking in the meeting Q&A panel and even upvote their favorite questions. Moderators can group similar questions together which enables the host to offer a robust response.
Making the most of social and interactive functions
Other useful features on Zoom include polling, the ability to raise a hand to ask questions, whiteboarding, the ability to create breakout rooms, and the ability to use emojis/reactions to foster audience engagement and understanding all in real-time. For webinars, there are also practice session rooms that allow the host to set up and get acquainted with Zoom’s webinar controls before starting your webinar. The practice session is accessible by the host, alternative host, or panelist. (Of note, Zoom strongly recommends our Video Webinar platform over our meetings platform for any event where you will share the meeting ID on the public internet – this is the best way to prevent uninvited meeting disruptors!)
The ability to create breakout rooms in meetings is one of the most useful features for generating engagement at your virtual event. Zoom’s large meeting licenses can accommodate up to 1,000 people at a time and meeting hosts can set a function to place groups of up to 200 participants in a breakout room, assign them a topic or question for discussion, give them a time limit, and then request that they return to the main “room” to share insights. The host(s) can even drop into the breakout rooms, listen in, and then request that attendees reassemble in the main “room”. Here’s a great resource on how to enable breakout rooms for those interested.
Best practices and planning considerations
With these functions and more, Zoom is a powerful tool for your live-streamed events and webinars. Here are six best practices to keep in mind as you plan your virtual event:
1. Design and build your online event experience. Ask yourself: what do you want the attendee to experience before, during, and after the event? Send goodie bags in the mail beforehand and offer free meal gift cards to start your event on the right foot.
2. Enable topic discussions with Zoom Chat. Set up and promote channels with participants two weeks before the event so attendees can generate conversation on hot topics and get excited. You can also create chat channels on various session topics during the event to provide a platform for discussion.
3. Simplify the agenda. If you have multiple sessions, devise a fast pace. Reduce session times to 30 or 40 minutes to achieve optimal attention and increase time for Q&A to maintain engagement. Don’t forget to schedule breaks so attendees can address other tasks at their locations. Include time for breakout rooms and assign hot topics for discussion so attendees can interact with one another; have a representative report back on findings to the larger group.
4. Assign panelists or other hosts to help answer questions in real-time. This is helpful when you have a large group. It’s also a good idea to have at least one person on the panelist team who can answer technical questions. If you have people dedicated to managing the Q&A, but are not participating in the audio or video, you can hide their video feed via the Hide Non-Video Participants feature.
5. Promote your event. Take the time to plot how you will promote the event. A few months before the event, you should create an event website, landing page optimized for SEO, customized registration page, email marketing, press release, content marketing, and a social media campaign to get maximum impact.
6. Post-event follow-up. Send participants and speakers a post-event survey to capture feedback on their experiences. You can email recordings to attendees with additional resources and also make your recording available on demand for those who couldn’t attend. This will foster loyalty and goodwill about the event. You should also generate a meeting report and summary and provide data on registration, polling, Q&A, and content to gain more insights for your next event.
With a little effort and solid planning, you can ensure the success of your virtual event. Bring in elements of “live” events that have proven helpful and follow best practices for using Zoom to throw a lively and engaging virtual event. If you would like to participate in an upcoming event that is leveraging Zoom to host interactive workshops during a virtual event check out the PresenceSummit.