Three Simple Ways To Make Your Next Virtual Event Not Suck
Remember the Soylent Green rule when it comes to meetings: “It’s made of people!”
When’s the last time you had a meeting where you didn’t hear the phrase “You’re on mute”?
The pandemic has brought us kicking and screaming into the frustrating reality of webcam lighting and technical difficulties. Virtual meetings and events used to be a seductive dream of accessibility and convenience for event facilitators like me. When 2020 became The Year We All Zoomed, we learned the hard way that even a $2 billion company can’t make an interface that works for everyone.
Virtual events have a different set of accessibility issues than in-person events, but they’re still there. I’ve seen it first hand in the conventions and fundraisers I’ve worked with over the past two years.
There are three fundamental principles that can make or break a virtual event.
- Resist the urge to make it fancy. There are a lot of new apps out there trying to become the next Zoom, with little gamified interfaces so you can be like Mario with a little 8-bit avatar. The problem with these is that not everybody plays video games. Yes, it is fun for some — but for others, it’s just another layer of trying to figure this shit out. The simpler your meeting space is, the more they’ll get out of the meeting. Think sliding doors at a grocery store. You walk towards them, they just open.
- Embrace the awkward. It is a miracle that we can have multiple people from all over the world talking and listening to each other — but it’s also weird that we’re in little boxes, seeing into each other’s homes, using headphones and microphones and phones and speakers and a whole bunch of weird icons on the bottom of the screen.
This means you take time for your attendees to get to know the “room”. In an in-person event, you might point out where the coffee is, or encourage people to look at the brochures on the table. In an online event, spend 5 minutes to do something like:
• show everyone how to customize their display name (“let’s add our pronouns”)
• make sure everyone knows how to post in chat (“post one thing you want to get from this meeting”)