This includes working from home, online shopping, and of course, events. Events Together hosted This Is Us Conference virtually for the first time in 2020. While this wasn’t exactly what we thought was going to happen, we actually found many benefits from doing so. For example, we could invite speakers and delegates to take part from across the globe, who otherwise would not have been able to attend. We even had people attending from as far away as Pakistan, the USA, and Australia! So, virtual events definitely have the potential to be a firm fixture in years to come, even when restrictions are lifted.
However, a key component of many events, such as conferences, is education. People like to attend because they want to learn something! As we all learn more about hosting virtual events and how they differ from their in-person counterparts, how can we make sure that we’re building education in virtual events to make them worthwhile for organisers, delegates, and speakers alike? In this article, we’ll talk about five great ways to build education into your virtual events as we look towards the future and what this means for the events industry. After hosting several virtual events this year which had the main purpose of discussion and education, we’ve built up a fair bit of experience and knowledge about what works and what doesn’t! So, we’ll be talking from our own experience of hosting virtual events, as well as some ideas we have for the future that can be used to enhance the experience of everyone who attends.
Virtual events are a great solution to several problems, not limited to coronavirus restrictions! As we mentioned before, they allow people from across the globe to attend, and also make events more accessible for those who can’t always attend in-person events. However, they also do have some limitations, and face-to-face contact between event attendees is one of them. It can be harder to focus at a virtual event, and you may be less likely to remember everything that you’ve learnt. So, one of the best ways to build education in virtual events is to provide a recording for the attendees to utilise after the event has finished! In that way, they can be reminded of everything they learned, no matter where they are or how long it has been since the event. It’s important to note here that recordings of in-person events are also a great way for them to be more accessible and educational too, so it’s not just limited to virtual events!
Physical educational materials
While people are getting more and more used to virtual learning and events, there is still something to be said for providing something a bit more permanent for them to reflect back on and remind them of everything they learned at the event. In this way, it’s a good idea to provide these materials either before, during, or after your event for your delegates to enjoy. What these materials contain is completely up to you! After all, education in events will look different for every single event, depending on its topic, attendees, and more. It could be questions and prompts of things to consider while the event is taking place. Or, perhaps a pamphlet reminding them of who the speakers are and how to get in contact with them. There are plenty of options, and different things will suit different events depending on what you want your delegates to get out of them, so get creative and see what you can come up with to keep the educational element going even after the event is over!
For the virtual This Is Us Conference, we have produced a Whitepaper which details the findings from the event. We’re doing this so that attendees can look back on it and reflect, as well as put some of their learning into action in their own workplace. It keeps the event on their minds and provides extra value, so that they are more likely to return again next year. Furthermore, when we talk about physical materials, it doesn’t have to be traditional paper mailouts! Your materials can be online and digital too. They are just there to provide a more permanent written record of the virtual event and some of the education that took place during it, so a PDF or word document can work just as well as a printed brochure or pamphlet.
Integrate networking wherever possible
Networking is not many people’s top activity of choice, no matter what sort of event they are attending! However, it’s really vital for building new connections and learning new things. This is where in-person events can be great, as they definitely allow for a higher level of networking between the delegates. But, all is not lost with virtual events! You can still build education in virtual events through networking. It just might look a little bit different than what everyone is used to. Networking is a vital part of education in virtual events, because it allows us to learn from each other and everyone else’s own unique experiences, insights, perspectives, and knowledge. Some good ways to build networking opportunities into events that are hosted online include a chat box where people can talk and get to know each other throughout the duration of the event. In fact, for many people, this is less daunting than in-person networking, as there is less pressure and it can be more informal. Breakout rooms are also a great idea. These allow delegates to virtually meet each other in smaller groups, so that they can feel more at ease but also get the educational benefits that networking with other like-minded people can bring. With networking, you never know who you might meet or the benefits that they may bring you, so it should be a big focus and priority for any sort of event!
Speakers are a vital piece of the puzzle
When it comes to events that are all about education, the speakers are really important. After all, it is usually them that impart most of the educational information that the delegates will get from the event! With this and building education in virtual events in mind, it’s important to carefully consider your speakers, workshop leaders, and others who are taking part in the conference. The best way to find good quality, informative and educational speakers is to get personal recommendations. So, why not look to your wider network both online and in-person to see what they have to say? Social media networks like LinkedIn and Twitter are also great places to find speakers who resonate with your mission and would be the perfect fit for your event. When it comes to the virtual event itself, you can think about how the speakers can add to the educational element in other ways beyond their talks and workshops. Could they lead the discussion in smaller break-out groups? Would it be possible for event attendees to book in short meetings with them to learn from them and discuss various topics? There are plenty of options, so make sure to keep the conversation with your speakers going before and during the event, to see how you can work together to make it a success and also provide a great-quality educational event.
If you’re planning on running more than one virtual event, it’s always a great idea to collect feedback from as many of the event attendees as possible. While this may not help you build education in virtual events from the outset, it will definitely help with future events. Collecting feedback will give you a vital insight into what attendees enjoyed about the event, and what they would improve if they had the chance. If education in your virtual event is a priority for you, you can tailor the feedback questions you ask them around this. Then, you will be able to build even better, higher-quality education into your subsequent virtual events. If you’re stuck for ideas, it’s always useful to have feedback to refer back to, to give you motivation for future events and inspiration for where to go next.
This article has provided just a few ideas about how to build education in virtual events! There are plenty of things that you can do. With virtual events, the possibilities are endless as you’re not limited by location, venue size, or the number of delegates like you are with an in-person event. This gives you plenty of opportunities to build great events filled with creativity and innovation. Here at Events Together, we are passionate about creating events that are as exciting as they are educational, as you can see from our very own This Is Us Conference. If you’d like to discuss how we can make your next event, whether it’s virtual or in-person, extra special, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.