By Samuel Mueller, CEO and Co-founder at Scandit
Many companies had hoped for a gradual return to normality this year with conferences, exhibitions and team outings resuming at some point. But with COVID restrictions still being enforced, businesses will need to consider whether they should continue planning virtual-only events rather than assume in-person events could see an imminent return.
While there is still much uncertainty, how can businesses unaccustomed to virtual-only events ensure that those planned for 2021 will go off without a hitch? Here are five useful tips team leaders should consider to ensure their virtual events will be a successful and permanent fixture on the company’s business calendar.
‘Making do’ is not enough
When planning any kind of event, your mindset and approach are the most important things to get right. Consider how your company has grown over the years, your employees’ needs, and which aspects of your team culture are necessities to thrive. There is no doubt the pandemic disrupted many plans for in-person events over the past year, but it also ushered in opportunities to re-invent the wheel and celebrate any occasion under challenging circumstances.
Treating virtual events as something less or trying to just ‘make do,’ is not the approach business leaders should resort to when ‘Plan A’ takes a backseat. Instead, consider this new normal as an opportunity to embrace the positives of what a virtual event can deliver. With the right planning, online events can provide great opportunities for customers and employees to reconnect, take a break from day-to-day routines and even have fun within the new virtual landscape.
Plan as much as possible
When hosting a virtual event with attendees spanning multiple countries and time zones, planning is absolutely crucial. Give yourself as much time as possible so that you can deliver the very best experience and consider all of the different event components; from developing a theme and branding to understanding how things will work together logistically and what technology will be needed.
Even if you already know you will be running a fully virtual event, start the planning process several months in advance to ensure you have enough time to overcome any inevitable obstacles.
Rally towards a common goal
Every company has a shared mission and goals they are targeting. Bringing these to the forefront of a virtual event and building a theme that aligns with this mission will help unite and engage employees. This is especially important in the current climate where employees are fairly dispersed and working remotely.
Once you have established a strong theme aligned with your business objectives, this theme can then provide a platform to shape the whole event – including activities, branding and any guest speakers. If executed well, this will lead to a fun and successful event which will unite employees towards a common goal, generate a shared spirit and set the scene for the year ahead.
With that in mind, you must make sure attendees are engaged. You don’t want people thinking, ‘Oh no, not another Zoom meeting!’ Instead, try and replicate the engagement and enjoyment you would expect at a physical event. You have to go that extra mile to make sure activities are exciting, and colleagues can easily share their experiences.
Here are a few ideas that will help make your virtual event a more thematic and lasting experience:
- Get employees outside and working together: If possible, it’s great to encourage employees to get away from their computer screens and into the great outdoors. Set joint tasks and challenges to encourage them to work together and bond virtually, even if they can’t be together physically.
- Roll out your inspirational speakers: While we might not be able to sit together in an auditorium, video conferencing makes it possible for employees to be inspired from the comfort of their homes.
- Provide staff with a budget: During company outings, employees will typically be looking forward to a fancy meal or an experience at a bar. Why not provide each employee with a budget so that they can cook something memorable at home?
Expect the unexpected and ensure all employees have the same experience
Even with all the planning in the world, you should still expect the unexpected. With so many moving parts to creating a global event, you must be able to think on your feet and add enough time to your plan to react to unforeseen circumstances.
If a virtual event is to be successful, everyone should have the same opportunities and tools regardless of their location. But making sure all attendees have the same quality experience is no easy task.
Different customs and time zones can cause issues, but ensure every employee has the same level of excitement in the lead-up to the event. To help create buzz, orchestrate gifts and props that align themselves with the event’s overall theme and activities. The gesture will undoubtedly spark curiosity and show employees that this would be more than a standard Zoom meeting.
Out of reach, but not out of mind
At a time when global issues continue to have major effects on our lives, business leaders have a responsibility to ask themselves – do I really need to put employees on a plane and send them across the globe to an event? Successful events can be held virtually, however, the level of planning, alignment and budget should not be underestimated.
On the face of it, there may seem to be less logistical considerations compared to a physical event. But attention to detail is required in other areas to ensure engagement and compensate for the lack of in-person interaction.
Logistics aside, developing a strong theme and establishing an achievable, common goal should be at the heart of any event to help unite and motivate everyone towards the next milestone. Going forward, virtual events can help companies create a sense of togetherness, even when face-to-face gatherings aren’t possible.