A Guide to Hosting Your First Virtual Event

Human Resources Today posted an article this month discussing how to run virtual HR events.

It’s specifically intended for the volunteer leaders of the various HR organizations. After reading it, we thought it as useful for HR professionals who organize training programs, virtual group meetings, and, of course, the upcoming open enrollment presentations.

Unless you are a program leader for a professional group, the sections about finding sponsors and getting people to pay won’t apply. What you will find helpful are tips about meeting length, archiving the virtual presentation so people can review it later, and the differences between live and virtual presentations.

For instance, the author, noted speaker and HR leader Ben Eubanks, says research into video events shows our attention begins to flag right around 40 minutes. To counter that, you could keep the program short. Few participants will complain.

For events that need to run longer, Eubanks advises to “add a layer of interactivity… to boost attention and interest.” That could be a Q&A done live or via the chat function most video meeting programs offer. Speakers might also ask for a show of hands, or provide a live link to a quick poll. Anything that involves the audience will keep them engaged. Just make sure the activity adds value as well.

Another technique is to use more than one speaker. A panel discussion with give and take makes the program more lively.

Anyone who has ever hosted a virtual training program that was presented live and then recorded for viewing later, knows that one big challenge is the fast-forward function. This is especially a concern if the program is for certification or continuing ed credits.

You may not be able to guarantee someone was present for the entire session, but Eubanks says there’s at least one service that will archive the video program and disable the fast-forward function. Thinkific allows you to both prevent fast-forward and include certification codes at the end of the session for attendees to register their credits.

Zoom may be the current gold standard for virtual meetings, but don’t overlook other options. Eubanks suggests livestreaming to Facebook or You Tube as an alternative. There’s no charge and many of the features in commercial webinar software are available in livestreaming, including commenting. You need streaming software – Eubanks says he uses StreamYard, which has a free option. For a few dollars a month, you can customize the look and record the stream.

Reading the article will help you become comfortable with organizing virtual events. Though it doesn’t answer all the questions, it’s a good primer.

Photo by Gabriel Benois on Unsplash

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