2019 may be the last year that will seem “normal” for quite some time. Industries, institutions, governments, countries – the whole world will be feeling the effects of COVID-19 for years to come. But what does that mean for corporate conferences?
COVID and Conferences
Professional, annual, and corporate conferences of all shapes and sizes were hit hard this year. Those that had the misfortune of being scheduled near the beginning of the pandemic shutdowns in March were simply canceled. Later events were postponed, sometimes more than once, in the hopes that things would get “back to normal” soon.
As the summer months came, businesses, schools, and governments started pivoting away from “getting back to normal” in favor of creating a “new normal”. And corporate events were no exception. Those professionals hosting and planning conferences who had decided to wait it out to see if the later months of 2020 would be better for their events have realized it’s not going to happen. At least – not in the way they happened pre-COVID.
They were left with two choices: cancel the 2020 corporate conference and try again – hopefully – in 2021, or host the conference online.
Can We Afford to “Wait It Out”?
One of the biggest problems with “waiting it out” to see if COVID-19 will go away is there are no clear timelines for this pandemic. Just like those events that were rescheduled – and then rescheduled again – there is no way to know for sure that waiting until 2021 will guarantee your conference of 1,200 people will be feasible in a single physical location.
Many of the businesses hit hardest this year failed to pivot their offerings and business practices to account for social distancing and shutdown guidelines. Those who did pivot, while many still experienced losses (especially in the early months of the pandemic), are hoping to keep their doors open for another year.
The big question is: if you wait it out and next year looks much the same as the last few months, have you missed an opportunity to salvage some of your conference business this year and be ready for whatever 2021 brings?
Migration to Digital
Necessity has driven many events to online platforms this year, but why was this not a more popular option in the past? The technology has been around for years.
An interview by Brink News with Tony D’Amelio (a 50-year veteran of the corporate event industry) cites “lack of user comfort” for the slow adoption process.
New technology is divisive. You have people who want to jump in and use the tech right away, and there are others who think the well-worn path is best. All that changed this year when jobs, classrooms, and even grocery shopping had to jump ship and grab onto that virtual hosting life raft to stay afloat. Out of necessity, virtual platforms and online meetings are now a common, trusted tool for conducting business.
Corporate Conferences in the Digital Landscape
Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams – these platforms are now the forefront of communication and virtual conferences. As these tools evolve, they continue to add features that enhance the value of online or virtual conferences.
Some benefits of online conferences can help offset costs and increase attendee engagement. There’s no need to spend thousands of dollars on a venue – participants can attend sessions in the comfort of their own home or office.
Big-name presenters are still just as sought-after, but now, everyone has a front-row seat. There’s no rush to get a good seat in the auditorium, no straining to hear the speaker in a room with too many chairs and bad acoustics.
Even networking events can be hosted on many of these platforms. While nothing will beat those in-person mixers and trade show conversations, many software developers are creating virtual rooms that can mirror these big gatherings.
Take Your Event Online with Meet Me In The Cloud
Hosting an online event, like hosting an in-person event, will never be without its difficulties. But with the right guidance and training, your virtual corporate conference could be just as good as your last physical event.
Need help organizing your online conference? Let Meet Me In The Cloud help with their collection of event assist services.
Through the summer, we’ve seen a massive migration from in-person meetings and conferences to online or virtual events. Unsure if your event can be successfully held online? Here are some examples of the many events you can host virtually.
Corporate All-Hands Meetings
An all-hands meeting is a company-wide event that promotes transparency, celebrates milestones, and encourages alignment of goals and strategies. Whether your team is in-house or spread all over the world, having an online all-hands meeting can keep everyone on the same page, no matter their current work environment.
All-hands meetings tend to have many moving parts like multiple speakers and slideshow presentations. You could consider hiring an event services business to help you with the planning and execution of this crucial event.
Concerts, large conferences, wedding receptions – who knew these would be a bad idea to host in-person in 2020? Large gatherings have been discouraged for the rest of the year and beyond, but if you are a professional conference host, you likely can’t afford to lose your audience for this event. And your audience likely can’t afford to miss the event for professional, educational, compliance, and networking reasons.
Large conference events are perfect for online platforms if you have the right tools and knowledge. Virtual events can be customized for any audience, any time. Create conference sessions in much the same way you’d do it in a convention center or hotel – set up a schedule of events and create online “rooms” for attendees to join.
Make your session itinerary available early for attendees and let them pick and choose what is of interest to them. There are even conference apps that can foster networking, note-taking, and conversation.
Virtual City Council Meetings
The work doesn’t stop, even in a disaster or pandemic. And city council meetings are necessary for the function of every community. You can plan all city council meetings virtually, which can help boost attendance and alleviate commute-based conflicts. Virtual meetings can also garner more participation from the council, as each member can be highlighted through video feeds and chat options. Everyone can speak up in whatever way is most comfortable.
By hosting online, city councils can offer chat- or email-based real-time question and answer sessions to directly address citizens’ issues.
Are you a little nervous about hosting your biggest annual conference online? Why not break the sessions out into webinars?
Webinars are short online events, typically done for classes with specific topics. You can do a single webinar, or host a small series that focuses on the same theme. This is a great way to add some flexibility to your online offerings. You can schedule the same webinar at different times, and since the information and presentation are the same, you know what to expect each time you host. It’s a great way to test the waters of virtual event planning while still providing valuable information and training for your customers.
Do you normally host a benefit for your local children’s hospital? Throw a gala to raise money for your town’s library, fire department, or place of worship?
Moving fundraisers to an online platform means a larger audience reach. Those who can’t or won’t come to the physical event may feel more comfortable watching and participating from the comfort of their home. You can showcase musical acts or skits, give speeches, or even offer silent auction and chat- or phone-based donation opportunities.
Plan Your Virtual Events with Meet Me In The Cloud
Meet Me In The Cloud’s Event Assist Services are perfect for online events of any size or type. Check out our different packages and enjoy these benefits: pre-session planning, content review, in-session technical support, and post-session follow-up. For more information, read our datasheet or contact us today. Let us help you make the most of your next online event.
Thinking you’ve forgotten something is one of the worst feelings, especially in a professional setting. There are so many resources out there to ensure you never have to feel this way, and you want to make sure the advice you’re being given is helpful and correct.
Migrating event solutions to a digital platform offer unique opportunities and challenges, so here are 10 quick tips for your online event that will help you make your experience a good one.
1. Check Your Connections – All of Them
Technology is multi-faceted and optimized for the user experience, but accidents and issues can still happen. Make sure all of your tools are connected and set up correctly. This means all elements: video (webcams, screen sharing, projectors), audio (test microphones through your event platform to check for feedback or other issues), and internet (wifi, hard connections, VPN, etc.).
2. Remember You Are (or Will Be) LIVE
Remote work offers a lot of freedom in terms of desk and office setup, wardrobe, and general atmosphere. Set reminders for yourself and your event participants to take a hard look at their surroundings and optimize them before the event to minimize unwanted distractions.
Check your outfit and your surroundings. Large jewelry could jingle, strange things in your video background could distract listeners while you’re talking, and having inappropriate or strange items on your shared screen will, at best, cause some embarrassment and at worst violate company policies or codes of conduct.
3. Send Out an Agenda
Give participants an agenda so they can follow along and have an idea of what to expect before the meeting starts. This can help them prepare and will also discourage wandering eyes or cellphone gameplay during the event.
4. Embrace the Tradition of Pre-Show Announcements
Do you know the pre-show announcements at the movie theater telling people to please silence your cell phones? Along with sending an agenda, be sure to give a brief statement at the beginning that outlines the expectations of the meeting or event. This is an important online event tip because each attendee is in a wholly different environment from you. Outlining these expectations first can help you enforce them when you notice someone has stopped listening and started texting or petting their cat.
5. Take Advantage of the “Mute” Button
In line with tip #2, there will be things that you don’t anticipate happening, so take advantage of the “mute” button. This is a great reminder to add to your pre-show announcements. Remind yourself and your participants to mute those mics when someone else is talking or presenting.
6. Increase Engagement by Assigning Roles
In presentations or meetings, you can assign roles to ensure more people are actively engaged. In your agenda or at the beginning of the event, assign roles like note taker, timekeeper (to keep any one participant from monopolizing the “stage”), and chat mediator (this person can monitor a live chat feed by weeding out redundant or off-topic comments and voice questions and comments participants don’t feel confident voicing themselves). Take some time to come up with a list that makes sense for your event.
7. Don’t Forget About Eye Contact
It is very easy when you are speaking and on video to look at your notes or fail to initiate virtual eye contact. Though it will feel odd at first, remember to move your eyes up from your screen and look directly into your camera lens so listeners are compelled to pay attention.
8. Keep the Speeches Compelling
As you are thinking about the goals and information that will populate your event, remember that no one likes to watch someone read PowerPoint slides word-for-word. Make notecards or jot down some talking points, and practice speaking to your virtual audience. Framing information in a story format is usually more compelling than listing statistics or jargon-laden objectives, so take some time to add a few anecdotes to your presentation.
9. Don’t Play the Waiting Game
If your meeting or event is set to start at 9:00 a.m., keep to that schedule. Waiting for “just a few minutes while everyone gets on” only serves to disengage all the participants you are currently talking to. Start right away with your content and maintain a steady pace to keep energy and engagement high from start to finish.
10. Mix in Fun Polls and Practices
Break up the monotony a bit by sending out polls or creating interesting practices to keep people on their toes (think about all those “jumbotron” games that can be played using your video conference software). They can be icebreaker-style games or questions that let participants learn a little bit more about each other.
Still on the fence about your upcoming online event? Let Meet Me In The Cloud help with their collection of event assist services.
Virtual meetings and other online events will be commonplace by the end of 2020 if they aren’t already, and having a successful online event is important for you and your business. With virtual learning and work-from-anywhere initiatives holding steady through the summer, you want to ensure your remote employees, colleagues, and clients are not wasting time during ill-prepared Zoom or Microsoft Teams calls.
We’ve outlined some things you should consider when planning and executing a successful online event.
Consider Your Event Length and Timing
Whether it’s a quarterly board meeting or a weekly check-in, it’s important to consider what the best time and length will be for your virtual event. Some of this will depend on the considerations below, like engagement level and hosting platform. It’s easy to think of an instance where a meeting was too long and how detrimental that was to your day or workflow, but having a meeting that isn’t long enough can be just as unhelpful.
Be sure to think through the purpose of the meeting and brainstorm what timeframe would best serve your objectives. Is this a meeting to share some quick announcements or policy changes? A shorter meeting would be fine. But if you are looking at something that is more collaborative, say a monthly status update for a large company project, allowing more time for discussion and questions may be more beneficial than a quick recap-style conversation.
It is also worthwhile to consider the timing of your meeting: early mornings are great for quick meetings, but diving into an immersive and interactive discussion might go better if it’s scheduled later in the day.
Keeping event length and timing in mind can set your audience or participants up for a good experience before the event has even started.
Consider Your Preferred Engagement Level
Another important variable in the formula for a successful online event is the expected engagement or interaction level. Streaming a speaker with content-heavy monologues will not elicit high engagement if you don’t prompt your audience beforehand or allocate time sprinkled throughout the session for questions or comments.
If you are just looking to give event participants a lot of great, curated information, then your focus on engagement (keeping your audience’s attention) is still critical but your allotment of time for interaction and active participation can be minimal. It may be wise to remember, however, that in a world full of screens, our natural reaction to watching a program that isn’t stimulating is to search for outside activity or another screen to escape to.
If you are going for an immersive or collaborative event like a brainstorming session or a panel discussion, it’s important to spend time building a schedule that offers large enough blocks of time in the presentation to facilitate good conversation. Give your participants time to familiarize themselves with the expectations so they can feel comfortable contributing to the group discussion.
Pick the Best Platform/Technology
With the advent of the novel coronavirus, hundreds of virtual event businesses changed overnight to offer all the things instructors, conference directors, and office professionals needed to keep operations up and running.
To execute a successful online event, you should research multiple hosting and scheduling platforms. It could save you a lot of time and headaches on the day of the event. Finding the best video conferencing software for your business is easier than ever before – you have hundreds of resources, blog articles, reviews, and peer experiences to pull from before you make your final decision.
Don’t forget: just because you’ve always used a specific service doesn’t mean you have to keep using it. Don’t be afraid to upgrade as your needs and the needs of your business change.
Bonus: Consider Hiring a Professional Service
Dreading the thought of making all these decisions and preparations for your next event? Consider hiring a professional service to ensure you have a successful online event. These services can range from tech support to specific event scripts and schedules, and they can do the heavy lifting for you while you just focus on being a valuable asset during the event itself.
Every online event is different. Check out Meet Me In The Cloud’s event assist services.
In this “Flatten The Curve” blog series, we’ve told you about our 8 Tips for Working From Home and in our latest blog, we discussed preparing your work-from-home workspace with 5 easy tips. One of the tips on that blog was a suggestion to keep your network clean, and we want to make sure you know more of the top 7 aspects of making sure you are continuing to do business securely!
1. Ensure Your WiFi Connection Is Secure
Most Wi-Fi is secure by default, but if you have an older system, then it might not be, which means anyone in your neighborhood or apartment complex can see what you’re up to! Make sure your connection is secure before doing business. And by all means, avoid public Wi-Fi. If you have to work away from your home network, use a personal hotspot or some other method to encrypt your web connection.
2. Check That Security Software Is Up To Date
Take a look at your anti-virus and check: Is it even installed? Is it actively functioning? Is it fully updated? In addition, take a look at your browsers and make sure that privacy tools and add-ons are working properly as well.
3. Have A Backup Strategy And Plan
Backup all your important files and customer data systematically. If your company were to be the victims of a cyber attack, all data could be lost without a backup. Because of this, you need to create a plan to backup – don’t just assume that you’ll remember to backup those files: schedule the backup on your calendar so you won’t forget!
4. Secure Your Device
Even if it’s just your kids running around your house, lock your screen if you work in a space where others can access your device. Set an automatic timeout in case you are called away from your desk and don’t have a chance to lock your screen.
5. Create a Robust Passphrase
A strong password can be one of your best allies in work-from-home cyber security. Using a robust password makes it much more difficult for a hacker to get into your company’s system. They must be over eight characters long and use both upper and lowercase letters as well as numbers and symbols. The longer… the better. Best practice is to make passwords up to 64 characters.
6. Utilize Two-Factor Authentication
Most companies have already implemented two-factor authentication (i.e. when users must confirm their identity with a code sent to their mobile device after having used their username and password), but if your company doesn’t already, now is the time to get on board! Two-factor (or multi-factor) authentication makes it extra difficult for an attacker to access company data.
7. Update Employee Information Security Policies
Since many of your employees are now using personal devices to communicate and work, updating your information security policies can help protect you against their violations. Help employees be aware that they cannot use their personal email for company purposes, sync client information to a personal cloud account, use social media to discuss the company’s business, etc.
And there you have it! 7 quick fixes to your work-from-home cyber security that could save your team a lot of heartache in the long run! Please feel free to reach out to us and we can help you and your team create a more secure work-from-home experience!
A Necessity for Productivity
In the first blog in our “Flatten The Curve” series, we told you about our 8 Tips for Working From Home, and right now I’d like to point out your attention to tip #7: Prep Your Workspace. It probably doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.
You’re thinking, “Okay, I need a computer, a chair, a decent background for video calls, and my phone. Done!”
There really is more to it than that. According to Libby Sander at the Harvard Business Review, a study found that “when participants cleared clutter from their work environment, they were better able to focus and process information, and their productivity increased”.
Clearing and preparing your work-from-home workspace is necessary for your productivity.
Here are some specific things to pay attention to when you are getting your work-from-home workspace ready for the day.
1. Prep Your Workspace
Just like we mentioned in our previous blog, take a few moments to clean up the area of any extra stuff from the day before, make sure you have the tools you need to get your work done (phone, chargers, pen, paper, etc.), and check to make sure your internet is working.
2. Arrange Non-Desk Workspace Areas
There are a lot of people who are working from kitchen tables and dining tables. These are great spaces to work on because they offer you a lot of space to spread out, but the downside is that you are having to share the area with mealtimes. Take a moment before your day starts and move the napkin holder and the placemats. That jelly jar is just going to end up getting your documents sticky, so set it aside as well.
3. Give Surrounding Areas A Quick Pick-Up
If you are working in your kitchen area or your bedroom, take a few moments to clean up the areas around your workspace. Sander also pointed out in her article that “cluttered spaces can have negative effects on our stress and anxiety levels, as well as our ability to focus”.
When you glance up from your computer to have a moment of creative thought, if you see a heap of dirty laundry on the floor or a pile of unwashed dishes, that creativity is going to fly away as you focus on all the at-home chores you still need to do.
4. Check Your Video Conferencing View
Pull up the webcam on your computer and make sure that the view others will see is professional and clear. No one wants to discuss a pressing issue with the sight of an unmade bed behind you! If your video conferencing tool has a feature which allows for alternate background images, then try that.
5. Keep Your Network Clean
Remember, you are now on your home network – it is not nearly as secure as the network you are on at work. Think about what you are sending out and make sure you are not clicking on something that could create problems (viruses, trojan horses, etc.). Take some time to make sure your computer is set up with security protocols.
Please feel free to reach out to us and we can help you and your team find a perfect balance between traditional and work from home experiences!