In these extraordinary times, virtual events have been a lifeline for safely moving forward with events. Those experienced with virtual events have scaled their events by continuing to do more of what works for them. For others that are new, transitioning to virtual events can be a unique experience.
Whether you are new or an expert with events, one thing is true. Online events have gifted organizations a way to stay in touch with their attendees.
Here are three surprising benefits of hosting virtual events during coronavirus.
1. Increase your impact by reaching a larger audience
Imagine you are a coach for young professionals who are having their first baby. Your work is meaningful as this is a critical life stage as a family welcomes a new member. Before the pandemic, you taught intimate, small-sized classes at your studio in your city. Then COVID-19 appeared in early 2020, and billions of people worldwide started to spend more time at home.
You realize you are still able to educate new families online and shift to teaching through Zoom. You experience a couple of technical challenges at the beginning, and you work through them one by one. Each class gets better.
In an aha moment, you realize you have the processes to teach young professionals with growing families located anywhere in the world. You run a test by offering a bundle of online classes as a course, ask your existing clients to refer their family and friends, and families in 5 different countries sign up. Then you do it again. This time, you see that your audience is growing, with families in 10 countries joining your next course, which sells out.
The hypothetical story above could unfold in similar ways for other types of events.
Whether you are organizing a conference, teaching children how to play a musical instrument, or hosting a workshop about community gardening, you can have a more significant impact when you work with people around the world. In the words of the author Mark Twain, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret to getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks and then starting on the first one.”
Event Espresso’s event registration guide can help you get started today by walking you through how to start accepting event registrations and selling tickets to your virtual events.
Next, we’ll talk about a side effect of virtual events.
2. Help your attendees create connections and feel happy
Humans are social creatures. Your virtual events fulfill a need for social interaction. They help curb feelings of isolation when people are practicing social distancing by staying at home. No matter the topic of your online event, if you offer attendees a chance to interact with each other, then they’ll share valuable insights.
Virtual events are a great way to bring together like-minded people regardless of where they live in the world. During times of a pandemic, an attendee can safely participate online from the comfort of their home. There is another positive side effect of bringing people together.
Did you know that you can also help your attendees feel joy?
“What seems to be the most important factor in providing happiness is close relations. People who are married, who have good friends, and who are close to their families are happier than those who are not. People who participate in religious communities are happier than those who do not,” the psychologist Barry Schwartz wrote in his 2004 book on decision making, The Paradox of Choice. “Being connected to others seems to be much more important to subjective well-being than being rich.”
One way to facilitate meaningful discussions is through a short question and answer (Q&A) session near the end of your event. You can invite attendees to take one minute to ask questions through a chat. Then pick questions for your Q&A where you notice a pattern and answer them one by one.
Let’s now talk about a simple system to make every event better.
3. You can rapidly gather feedback to improve your next event
Asking questions can reveal interesting insights that you can use to make your next event better. Like any other skill, you can get better by practicing over time.
We’ll look at this 3-part system:
1) Ask questions that provide valuable insights
2) Use a simple process to gather and review the feedback
3) Get specific on how you’ll apply the feedback
Dr. Brian Jeffrey Fogg, a behavior scientist at Stanford University, recommends asking this teaching question:
What surprised you?
The value in those few words is that it jumpstarts a conversation without you unknowingly biasing an attendee’s response. When used near the end of your event, your attendees will likely share what they remember the most. This is a win-win for you and your attendees because it creates a virtuous cycle. First, your attendees will get more value out of your online event since they’ve had a chance to participate actively and, second, you get concrete feedback that you can use for a future event.
Another question to consider asking is, “What’s been your favorite part about [your topic]?”
Like the earlier one, the question above is open-ended and encourages an attendee to recall something memorable from your event.
Once you start gathering feedback, you need a place to add it to. Keep it simple and start with a Google doc. Then schedule 15 minutes shortly after each virtual event to review. Look for patterns and things that stand out. Finally, make a plan for how you’ll apply what you’ve learned. It is also valuable and important to repeat this process over and over again to continually adapt and improve.
For example, let’s say that you notice attendees resonate with a certain point in your virtual event. However, the takeaway that you want them to have is on a different topic. You can change the context of how you present your key points by using storytelling.
Three surprising benefits of virtual events during the COVID-19 pandemic are:
1) Increase your impact by reaching a larger audience
2) Help your attendees create connections and feel happy
3) You can rapidly gather feedback to improve your next event
Whether you are continuing with virtual events or eager to transition back to in-person events, remember that it’s part of human nature to share in experiences. Your events help you make a more substantial impact on the work that you do.