Last week we assisted a client with an onp0line virtual learning session. The experience reinforced that most of the principles of in person meetings apply to virtual events.

To that end you must have objectives, you need to plan and prepare, and you should measure.

Setting yours goals and objectives may be even more important for a virtual event. Successful virtual events are not just achieved by making a presentation from an in-person conference and talking to your laptop. The means of delivery, structure and engagement are different. This means you need to know what you want to achieve before you start so you can select the right platform, presentation method, target audience and program.

When it comes to planning the event, you need to be as focused (if not more so) on the details. Years of experience with in-person events may have afforded you the luxury of being able to react in real time. For virtual events you need to think through every scenario. By now most of us have what happens when someone on a video call has a bad connection. What would you do as the technical coordinator or moderator if your neighbourhood had a power outage resulting in no internet connection? Better have your mobile near by to set-up a hot spot and hope your laptop has enough battery power while you try to reach your human back-up in case they need to take over for you.

Another vital planning element is the dress rehearsal. All your presenters, moderators and technical coordinators must participate. Not only will this help ensure you all the same understanding of what is supposed to happen, but attention to transitions is critical. How will your participants move between the main meeting room and the breakout rooms or the networking area? Just as importantly, how will they get back?

You’ve heard that sessions should bebroken into bite size pieces of 6-7 minutes and you should use engagement tools such as polls, surveys, word clouds and chat. How do you execute these in real time, looking like you know what you are doing? The mantra is the same as any other arena, practice, practice, practice.

You’ve come to the day of the event and you need to know how you did (or if really ambitious, how you are doing in real time). Make sure you survey for performance and your desired outcomes relating back to your goals and objectives. Don’t do it once, do it several times. Remember your participants are likely easily distracted even if they are engaged.

To be successful, you need to conceive, plan, execute and evaluate a virtual event, just as you would for an in-person event, although the specific tools and tactics might be a little different.