It comes as no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic has put in-person events to a halt for the foreseeable future. Given that many events have made the switch to the virtual sphere quite successfully, we believe virtual events are here to stay. Once the technical logistics are accounted for (e.g., choosing which video conferencing platform to use, whether you’ll be livestreaming or prerecording, etc.), virtual events can not only serve to bring people together, but to inform and inspire.
At Hawkins International, we have been participating in many webinars and virtual meetings to learn the latest on everything from the future of travel to the newest wellness trends. Based on what we’ve experienced and practiced to date, here are some tips and tricks to develop your own inspiring virtual events.
Engage Your Audience
To liven up an event, make use of engaging features such as trivia questions or virtual stretch breaks to bring your audience together. We noticed Skift has done a great job of using polls to break up longer webinars, by asking the audience questions and displaying answers in between segments. The interactive element allows your audience to get a sense of what other participants are thinking, and it provides information on the general sense of the state of affairs.
Create a Sense of Community
Although we may be signing on from home, virtual events can create a sense of community by allowing audience participation. Hawkins International recently hosted a Virtual Media Roundtable on behalf of the Dorchester Collection on “The Future of Luxury Hospitality.” Participating journalists had the option of turning on on their video cameras. This created a virtual press conference, providing the media with a personalized setting to ask questions directly to the general managers of Dorchester Collection hotels “face to face.”
Add a Non-Virtual Element
While your event will be taking place virtually, consider partnering with a food delivery service or hosting a happy hour with a signature drink recipe that everyone can create at home. That way, everyone starts off sharing a physical experience, albeit virtually. Perhaps there is an opportunity to encourage ordering from local restaurants, or to send out happy hour kits from clients or from local vendors (think wine and cheese). This helps support businesses while providing an element of entertainment and delight to your virtual event.
Sometimes Simple Wins
Sometimes, simplicity is the key to a successful outcome. In April, Jennifer Hawkins co-hosted a webinar called “Planning a 360 Hospitality Comeback with Hutchinson Consulting, Hawkins International and Maverick Creative.” Moderated by Maverick Creative’s Managing Director Catherine Colford, the simple format allowed for the three hosts to have a naturally flowing conversation where participants could ask questions in the chat feature. Similarly, EDSA’s Associate Principal Richard Centolella was recently on Skift’s The Long View discussing the centrality of design during a pandemic. This event, which you can watch here, was a simple Q&A between Richard and Skift CEO Rafat Ali. The audience could ask their questions through an IM chat as to not disrupt the flow of the webinar.
Whether hosting an intimate webinar, a 20-person discussion or larger-scale event, many factors come into play to create a successful virtual event. If you focus on the elements you can control, it could make your virtual event just as powerful as an IRL meeting.