Will you be hosting your first digital event? Here are a few tips for having a successful start
Digital events, by their very nature, have some characteristics that distinguish them from in-person events. Countless publications and webinars are available providing information on operating the tools of a digital event. But there’s more to these events than choosing the right commands and clicks with your mouse. What else should I consider when faced with the task of creating an event without any prior experience? I’ve put together some tips for anyone taking on the role of host for the first time. Many of them are quite simple, almost self-evident. But I’m always surprised how often little things are overlooked that can tarnish the overall impression of an otherwise positive event. There’s good news for all newbies, though: If you follow a few basic rules and do your homework, you will quickly gain confidence and become adept at hosting digital events.
When do I start preparing the event? It’s actually quite simple: as soon as you know about the event. Make sure to know all you need to know about the audience, content, setting, procedure and technology as soon as possible and document this in an organizational plan for the event. By the way, such an “instruction leaflet” can easily be reused for further events. Be sure to coordinate the objective of the event and the distribution of roles with the protagonists on the virtual panel. After all, as a host you can only consider items you know about.
Before the event
Check your calendar and reserve plenty of time before and after the event. You won’t be a good host if you’re under time pressure and your mind is still stuck in the previous meeting. My recommendation is to take at least one hour before a big event to focus solely on preparations and getting ready mentally. A dress rehearsal is also advisable for larger digital events. This allows you and everyone involved to get comfortable with the setting and talk through procedures beforehand. As a host, you are familiar with Zoom, Teams, Skype and the like and know what you’re doing.
The issue of dress code is often neglected, and it is essential that you also communicate this to the panelists. Do not wear stripes, small patterns and bright colors. There is hardly anything more unprofessional in a video broadcast than witnessing a wildly flickering moiré effect or a speaker whose outfit clashes heavily with the backdrop.
The PowerPoint presentation should be ready at least one day in advance and be tested under real conditions during dress rehearsal, because the infamous last-minute changes are a gateway for errors and often lead to disaster.
During the event
3-2-1-Go! I love it when the stage director does the countdown! To start on cue, focus five minutes before the start and do nothing else. Here’s another important rule of thumb: You should know the first and last five sentences of your presentation by heart and be able to recite them in your sleep. That gives you peace of mind, even if your nerves should flutter. Other than that, don’t worry about slips of the tongue. These happen to professionals as well – although maybe less frequently.
One of the things you need to get used to in a digital event is a certain degree of anonymity as there is no non-verbal, direct feedback from the audience attending the event in front of their computers. I therefore recommend using a “silent” listener from among your colleagues who can follow the event and give you guidance via a separate channel.
After the event
A short debriefing with all contributors is recommended to sum up the event while impressions are fresh before everyone gets back to their daily business. You too should create a personal good/bad list. This will help you at your next event at the latest.
This has been a small selection of tips that might be helpful to you if you take on the role of host at a digital event. I wish you much success and even more fun!
HEAD OF INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS & CORPORATE PUBLISHING
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