By Natalie Magee
Hosting a virtual event and seeking ways to deliver the best possible experience for your audience and collaborating partners? We have put together our top tips for virtual event facilitation from our experience delivering over 100 online events in the WFP Innovation Community.
1. Designing a great event
Before designing any event, ensure that you take a user-centered approach and put yourself in the shoes of the potential participants. What would make this a great session for them? The best way to do this is by answering the following questions:
- What are the most valuable points to cover in the session?
- What are the desired outcomes for the presenters delivering this session?
- How can we make the session interactive?
- How can we be inclusive of participants who might have limited internet connectivity, call in using a mobile device or face other communication barriers?
- Is there any documentation we should share in advance or afterwards?
2. Agenda document for internal use by the facilitators
The best way to ensure your event runs perfectly is to prepare a comprehensive agenda document that is detailed down to the minute. For example, include the information regarding the agenda item, presenter, technology, link or text, length, start and finish time, as demonstrated below. You may wish to play a song to create a great atmosphere as people arrive, make sure you include this in your agenda planning.
3. Use a second computer screen
If you are sharing a visual presentation during the event, connect a second screen to your computer and display the presentation from that screen. When you share your screen via your chosen event tool, for example Zoom or Teams, you can simply share your second screen, which frees up your main computer screen to enable you to do things such as view and type in the chat box or monitor the participant list.
4. Set up your camera and space
Creating a professional setting for your video will help to make your participants comfortable, focus on your presentation and enjoy the experience. Below we have included some top tips for setting up your camera and space:
- Set your camera at eye level and shine a light directly onto your face.
- Personalise your background and ensure it looks professional.
- Minimize clutter in the background (e.g. household appliances).
- Look directly into the camera as much as possible, as this helps the audience feel like you are making eye contact with them.
- Silence your cell phone and laptop notifications.
- Close any windows in the room to dampen the sounds of the outside world.
- Maintain distance from your backdrop to avoid shadows.
5. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
Before the real event, have a full rehearsal with all the presenters, during which you pretend there is an audience and ensure you can stick to the schedule. Use the opportunity to test the interactive features you want to use like chat, video or polls. This will also give you the opportunity to ensure all presenters have set up their cameras and microphones well and that they can be seen and heard clearly.
6. Engage your audience
When bringing any group of people together, it is important to ensure that the audience is engaged and actively participating in your event. Here are a few tips to engage your audience:
- Ensure that you communicate to the participants before the event whether or not they will be required to appear on camera.
- As guests arrive to your online event, play music to help boost the mood
- If possible, start the meeting with an icebreaker such as a question. Decide whether you would like to invite people to either unmute themselves and answer verbally or add their written answers in the chat.
- During the event, frequently ask relevant questions and have participants respond in the chat. Ask your question out loud and also display the question on the screen or write it in the chat, so that participants can review a written copy in case they forget what the question was.
- Ensure the facilitator responds to questions/comments in the chat as appropriate.
- When appropriate, use humor to engage the participants.
7. Attractive presentation slides or visuals
Quality slides and visual presentations will help your audience to stay engaged and to better understand the information being presented. You can ensure your presentation slides are attractive for the audience by including minimal text and leaving lots of white/empty space, including photos or videos in order to break up the text and ensuring that any text is large enough to be read by participants who might be watching on a mobile device.
8. Over communicate
Just because you said it, doesn’t mean participants heard it. Just because you wrote it down, doesn’t mean participants read it. If it’s important, tell them, tell them, and then tell them again.
9. Contingency plans
As with any important occasion, it is important to have a contingency plan. This will enable you to still deliver the best possible event, even if things go wrong. Here are some tips to mitigate the risk of disruption to your event:
- Ensure speakers are prepared with both a strong wifi connection and also a backup alternative of hotspotting their mobile data in case their wifi drops out.
- In the event of a high-stakes presentation, you can also make a pre-recorded video which can be played in the case that the presenter is unavailable due to technical or scheduling issues.
- Have a contingency plan of pre-selected speakers who could be invited at the last minute, in case any of your selected speakers suddenly become unavailable.
- Have a phone line available for participants to join the call in case their internet connection drops out.
- Ensure participants are already familiar with any digital tools that are required to be used during the event. If participants do not already have experience with the tools, consider hosting an onboarding workshop in advance where participants can learn the tools.
- Always have another colleague join you during the event to provide technical support to any participants who require assistance. This person can answer any questions in the chat or even have a side call to talk an individual participant through a solution.
10. Survey at the conclusion
It is important to understand how participants experienced your event so that you can use this feedback to improve subsequent events. Make sure to survey your participants at the end of every session. This can be as simple as asking them to rate the session out of 10 in the chat. Ideally, you would share a link to an anonymous survey where they can give their honest feedback to help you better understand their needs.
We hope you have found these top tips helpful and we wish you an excellent virtual event facilitation experience ahead!
The WFP Innovation Accelerator sources, supports and scales high-potential solutions to end hunger worldwide. We provide WFP staff, entrepreneurs, start-ups, companies and non-governmental organizations with access to funding, mentorship, hands-on support and WFP operations.