Expert Tips on Planning a Virtual Event

How do virtual events work? Where should you host your virtual event? How can you make your virtual event successful?

Engage by Cell sat down with virtual events expert Jill Schiefelbein aka “Dynamic Jill” to get answers to these questions and more.


When planning a virtual event, where do you start?

"A lot of people are fretting about the technology, but what I really want to encourage everyone to do first is think of the experience. What is the experience we want our employees or virtual attendees to have? What is the experience we want our donors to have? That experience should be so far high up the list because if you don't have a clear picture of that, you're not going to be able to select the technology that's going to best help you provide that experience."


How long should a virtual event last?

"Rule of thumb is when you are focused on an experience first, how long are you keeping people truly engaged? The first hard and fast rule is communicating your expectations for people and what their expectations can be in advance. What will people typically tolerate if it is an engaging event? Sixty to 90 minutes absolute max, but you better darn well have some diversity in that. One person sitting and talking over PowerPoint slides does not diversity make.”


How can you incorporate a celebrity appearance at a virtual event?

"When we're talking about celebrities, I mean any high profile person to your organization. Virtual events are different. You can now have a high profile person come into the event, do a 20 minute Q&A, and then have breakout meet and greet sessions with people. Also, for a particular donation level, you can have celebrities, many who are using the Cameo platform right now, film a video for a donor for a specific purpose. With virtual events, you can offer different online event experiences and different access to celebrities where you don’t have to worry about the travel and security costs that come along with that.”


How can you have a virtual luncheon?

"When you are thinking about a luncheon, my question is why? Instead, be honest with people. Acknowledge that you’ve had a luncheon every year, but with logistics and costs, it is not a reality this year. Explain what you're going to do instead and then build up the excitement of that shared experience. If you really want to surprise virtual attendees afterward, as soon as the event is over, you say, ‘We actually couldn't get over the idea of a luncheon. So in your emails, as soon as we end this event, you will find a gift card to a local restaurant or GrubHub. We couldn't serve lunch directly to you. We wanted to make sure that as you nourish our souls with your generosity here, we're able to nourish you from afar’.


How can organizations improve virtual meetings
for internal employees?

“When you think of virtual meetings, make sure the agenda is crystal clear. Then make sure everyone knows their division of responsibility. We all need to know what we're bringing to the table ahead of time. Stick with what the purpose and goal is, and always at the end, and this goes for virtual or in-person, confirm that everyone is on the same page before leaving the meeting. You can use meeting recording tools. Also, think of some creative ways that will not derail the meeting, but will keep people getting to know each other, to kind of replace those water cooler conversations like fun games.” 


Will virtual events ultimately replace in-person events?

“Events as we used to know them are never going to be the same. Most of them will have a hybrid component with them. Some people will be willing to risk traveling and some won’t. Some people are willing to be in rooms with other people and some people won’t. Organizations have suffered massive financial turmoil so budgets for traveling and in-person events are not as they once were. I don't think we're ever going to transition back magically where Zoom meetings and virtual meetings are not a serious consideration.” 

As organizations pivot to a virtual space, Engage by Cell is here to help you adapt and thrive. Check out our suite of mobile tools to improve engagement with staff and guests at your next in-person or virtual event:

Audio Dial-In

GPS Mapper

Fundraising Thermometers

Mobile Digital Passes

Mobile Fundraising Tools

Mobile Websites

Text Messaging

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