I’ve attended tons of virtual events in recent months and hosted some digital gathering of my own too. And if there’s one thing you can count on, it’s something going wrong.
Below, I’ve collected six problems that seem to occur over and over again. If you’re able to minimize these issues, you’ll reduce frustration and increase audience engagement.
And the first problems begin before the event even starts.
1. Attendance Sucks For Virtual Events
When planning a virtual event, you should be aware of the high rates of no-shows, especially if your ticket prices are low or free. Be prepared for only 30% attendance, and even that is pretty good. One conference organizer wowed me with her attendance rates of over 100 people, but they 250 registrants.
See, many people register for online events to receive a video recap. They want the recording, but won’t show up to take part. This isn’t a big problem in the long run, but it can depress engagement during the event.
You’ll want to give registrants a reason to show up for the virtual event when it’s happening. But how?
From the moment your event registration is live, start your pre-event engagement to ensure live attendance. Networking, breakout rooms, and one-on-one sessions with experts are excellent ways to drive real-time attendance. But make sure that registrants know this will happen, and try and even get commitments from them by booking a 15-minute coffee break with other attendees and even your speakers.
And don’t forget good ol’ email marketing. Most event marketing software solutions include emails. You can still just as easily use your email marketing tool of choice.
2. Forgetfulness Happens
Live events mean travel, hotel bookings, and other substantial commitments. And no one forgets a flight date and time.
These inducements are missing in virtual events. So you’ll need to be a little bit aggressive in reminding registrants about the upcoming event. I recommend emailing, and even texting reminders to people every week leading up to the date. Then, send out reminders the day before, the morning-of, and one hour before the start. Then send one more when the event begins.
There’s one thing to emphasize here. When planning a virtual event, you’ll be using technology unfamiliar to your attendees. Your reminders should include detailed instructions on how to attend the event, which brings us to the 3rd point.
3. Confusion Infects Virtual Events
When it comes to planning a virtual event, you need to be extra-detailed. Because there’s no in-person hand-holding, you’ll need to ensure that attendees know the details. Send people an email about how to connect, what time it starts, what software is required, and anything else. Then send those details to them again.
I recommend sharing those details as part of their registration confirmation and then sending repeats. Do it a week out, a day out, and on the day of the virtual event. The last thing you want is confused people emailing you (or commenting on your social media) that they don’t know how to access your digital conference.
4. Internet Connectivity Drives Everyone Crazy
You’ll want to make sure your speakers have a good connection and a mobile hotspot backup. Virtual event planners recommend that your speakers plug directly into the router with an ethernet cable for the best results. And make sure that speakers can call in through a phone number as a last resort.
If bandwidth is a problem, turn off the video and just use audio. That’s often the quickest fix.
5. Sound Clarity
This one is extraordinarily frustrating when it goes wrong and is often very difficult to troubleshoot.
I urge you to run a sound-check with every speaker before the event. Seriously, trust me on this. Common reasons for sound problems are lousy microphones, crappy BlueTooth connectivity, and the worst of all, incorrect audio settings. The audio settings are the most difficult to solve because your speakers might not know where to look for these settings. Test and test again.
Watch out for wireless headphones and wireless microphones. One of the most common reasons for sound problems is that a wireless device is connected, but the speaker has forgotten about it. So while they’re frantically pounding at the computer, the problem is simply that a nearby device has control of the audio inputs and outputs. Turn off BlueTooth on the computer itself if the speaker is planning to use the computer’s mic.
6. Video Quality
Viewers have quite a high tolerance for low-quality video, so this one isn’t a common issue. But if the video freezes often, or is distressingly out of sync, just turn it off and go audio-only. If the video is distracting, it annoys everyone.
Virtual Events Need Tech-Support
I’m confident that you’ll have to field some technical questions. Not everyone is comfortable with new software, and some people won’t understand some tech-terminology. So plan for this, and you’ll be glad you did.
Here are some tips to ensure attendees feel included, even if they’re not very tech-savvy:
Google common troubleshooting questions for the software you’re using. You’ll be able to share help docs with those who need it. Maybe you’ll even add links to these documents in an email or your event website.
Also, avoid using jargon. While most people understand what a browser is, many others don’t. I recommend using words like Chrome, Safari, or Microsoft Edge. People will realize that they use Chrome to access the web, even if they don’t know that it’s called a browser.
Have alternative ways to access the event. The most common solution is phone call-ins, which Zoom and many others provide. There will always be people who can’t get technology to work, and sound is a common point of failure. So having a phone option allows them to listen in.
Have a partner. The second pair of eyes and ears can be a huge help. They’ll notice if your video is glitchy, or your sound is too soft. They’ll also see if the camera is pointing up your nose (true story!). While you’re focused on running the event, they can answer attendee questions and act as support staff.
Learn The Software
Trust me – take the time to learn the software. Whether it’s Zoom, HopIn, or anything else, invest in exploring every button. You’ll want to know how to mute attendees and turn other people’s videos off. Also, know where to find the meeting URL and how to invite others.
Ensure that you understand how to give screen sharing access to presenters, how to change hosts, and how to answer chat questions. Plus, if you know the software well, you might be inspired to use some of their features that you otherwise would have missed.
Interested in learning almost everything you need to know about running virtual events, big and small? Download the ebook Planning A Virtual Event: Almost Everything You Need To Know.