If you know us at EventMind, you know that we like to keep things simple. We always keep our views as transparent and open as possible about the realities when it comes to running online events. It's often when things go wrong, that we learn the most - mistakes are natural and normal, right? In 2020, the number of virtual events being organised doubled, so we decided to share with you what to do when things go wrong. They are challenging to organise and things will go wrong, so we want to showcase the realities to organising virtual events. We are sharing this blog with you all so you can avoid making the same or similar mistakes.
We recently attended a client event. We like to write up our experience and tell them about it. This makes the client aware of mistakes they made but also how they can improve their online events in the future. This particular event in conversation was all going so well, until it wasn't.
We wanted to share some insights so you could avoid making these mistakes, or be aware of the risks that could happen so your event can go ahead without any glitches. Challenges were starting to show and we were heading towards problems below:
What we learnt
Separate your roles
During this said event, we were the host of one of the break out rooms, but we were also a technologist. This meant we had to keep an eye on what's happening with the technology as well as host the room. This was mistake number one. On reflection, we should have agreed to be a co-host in the breakout room and just hosted instead of worrying what was happening in the main room and the overall event. Organising an event is hard enough, you do not want to be worrying about doing multiple tasks at once, no matter how simple the task may sound.
This is difficult to do from a business consulting point of view, as we want it to go so well, so we wanted our mind, hands and eye on the technology. This meant we could help, fix problems, troubleshoot and solve any issues that were to happen. In this instance, we made the wrong move. If we had gone into the breakout room and just hosted and allowed someone else to be the main host and take care of the technology issues, we may have avoided this situation. If you’re an organiser reading this, I know it’s so easy to want to have five different roles when organising virtual events, as you want control and you want an understanding of what is going on, but a main point from us is to ensure you separate your roles. On the Online Events Made Simple podcast we discuss tips like this for event organisers, come and catch up with the recent episodes!
Even if it seems like a simple event, ensure to separate out the roles between your staff so that the host is just the host, the moderator is just the moderator - keep it simple.
Understand your controls
The irony is, is that although you may understand the role you have been given, the event software you use may not align with these roles. For example, if you have been given the event moderator role on the platform, this may not mean you have been given moderator access on the back end so always check, double check and triple check prior to the event to ensure all the logistics on the back end is set up before your event. Unfortunately we found this fault on the evening of the event, so we found out you were only able to have one main host, and so this means your co-hosts have very limited access which meant in the situation that we needed to contact our attendees, we did not have the power to do so. Although your platform on the front end may say you’re a host, but are you a different type of host to your peer? It may say you're the event manager, what does this mean? Look at what level of access and control each role has, so if you need to fix something, you know what options you actually have.
In this instance, we were not able to bring the attendees from the break out rooms, back to the main room, as again, our access was limited. We tried so many workarounds so the event wasn't affected, and essentially, so we didn't have to shut down the whole event. This was near enough impossible, so we have learnt alot.
This was so disappointing as we tried to work around these controls, however these logistics were not checked prior to the event, so we had to solve our own workaround meaning it disrupted some attendees, and it was really disappointing as we wanted the event to run so smoothly. In the first instance, we were not able to be in the break out room, so we were not able to moderate the event - had we had known our controls and access before, this is something we could have prevented.
Let’s be honest, we cannot control what our event attendees are going to be like and how they’re going to act. You have no idea how your attendees are going to react to the technology being used and whether they are going to respond to instructions being given, so keep this in mind when organising your online event. During this event, attendees were not responsive, so whilst they were unable to access the technology, we were not able to communicate with them, which meant we were not able to solve their issues and respond as quickly and swiftly as we would have liked to.
Of course attendee behaviour is not something you can control, everyone is so different. However, what you can control is contact your attendees prior to the event to ensure you have their mobile number or another form of contact information so you are able to contact them if you need to, and if the platform in use is not allowing you to.
Train your host
A massive takeaway we have learnt from attending this event is that training your other host is crucial., whether this is a work peer or client. Ensure what they can do in a situation, be aware of both of your access controls, if you’re not able to complete a task in a situation like this, is this something your host can be aware of and do? Check whether you can switch access, communication is key to virtual events so stay aware, and stay communicating to prevent situations like this from happening. Make sure this host can onboard the controls, make sure they can activate something if it is needed and make sure they are aware of their access.
Solution going forward
So that’s it, that’s an honest experience of when an event went (really) wrong. It was disappointing as it was our client, so of course we wanted to ensure the event went seamless and we wanted to provide technical support. Unfortunately, we couldn't work around this situation as the controls were not clear. Communication was a clear mishap in this situation and it just clarifies that communication is absolutely necessary in order for event success. We’ve learnt that to some extent, it's important that your client knows what the limitations are, how the platform works and try to risk proof them as much as you can so you can manage expectations. If communication was clearer during this event, this is something that we could have avoided.
We wanted to share this experience, that although we’re event technologists and experts within the field, we experience challenges too. We’re honest and truthful, if we experience a problem, we want to make the industry aware of it in the hope they can avoid it. We wanted to share that online events can go wrong in terms of the technical side, and when it does, it's very frustrating. This can jeopardize the event attendee experience, but if it doesn't, it can impact client satisfaction too. We hope these points help you with organising your online event.
EventMind does not endorse any particular virtual event platform or software. We review the platforms available on the market monthly (through a combination of client feedback, test events and demos). If you're looking to make online events simple, or want trusted and unbiased advice, then contact the team today by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 0330 133 3485.