Thanks to technology, events don’t have to be held in just one geographical location any more. People can gather virtually, using screens, video cameras and phones to experience an engaging conference or meeting without having to shell out for costly plane, train or taxi fares or worry about where they are going to stay the night before. From conference calls to sales seminars; award ceremonies to product launches, video-conferencing sessions can replace the more traditional business get together very successfully indeed.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
Once the initial outlay for equipment has been accounted for, video conferencing is much cheaper than arranging meetings in person. It can spread the message to more people, more quickly and efficiently too. It allows people to log in wherever is most convenient to them and to have all their paperwork and files to hand without needing to lug them halfway across the world. Video conferencing also opens up huge possibilities in terms of accessibility and helping colleagues with restricted mobility or other additional needs participate fully in proceedings.
WHAT ARE THE DOWNFALLS?
Capturing and maintaining peoples’ attention and interest can be harder when attempted virtually, as they will have other distractions around them, instead of being contained in one meeting room as a group. It can feel easier to pull out of attending the event at the last minute if no effort has been made to physically get there. Content must therefore be doubly compelling to keep people engaged and logged on. The equipment must be carefully checked too, as technological hiccups are more prone to happen during video conferencing, and it is most off-putting to be cut off, or have interference on the screen disturb the quality of the conference delivery.
HOW TO PLAN A VIDEO CONFERENCE EVENT
When it comes to the pre-event admin, video conferences should be handled the same way as a traditional meeting with lots of notice given, invitations and agendas issued and reminders sent. Use all appropriate methods of contact open to you, such as email, phone, social media and ‘hard copy’ letters. You could offer incentives for delegates who agree to take part, such as prizes, preview clips or competitions on LinkedIn or via the company’s web page. Keep track of replies and chase up any outstanding ones. Don’t forget to send step-by-step instructions for how to join the video conference on the day.
HOW TO RUN THINGS ON THE DAY
First and foremost, you must ensure that the equipment works smoothly throughout. It is worth employing someone with the right level of expertise to focus solely on this element of the day. Try to have a back-up plan ready for the worst-case scenario of transmission failure. Keep people’s expectations realistic – make sure delegates know what they can simply listen to or watch, and how they can interact, e.g. via webcam, phone or via an internet chat facility. Make sure speakers are both loud and clear enough, and tell them to speak slightly slower than they would to a traditional meeting to allow time for the message to be transmitted and digested by their virtual audience. Try to have some eye contact with the camera so as not to alienate those not in the room. Schedule in regular comfort breaks, with clear instructions for when (and how) to return. Make sure the microphone and camera is switched off if you want to say or do something that you don’t want to be transmitted as part of the event.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTERWARDS?
Another advantage of video conferencing is that you will normally have access to everything that took place in the form of a video recording. This can be edited and sent out to delegates and interested parties, such as the media, government policy makers or other key stakeholders. Don’t forget to thank people for participating and to seek feedback, both on the content and the technology involved. You could fix a time to hold a follow-up session for people to discuss the content of the video conference and make plans for future events.