Technology has allowed organisations and individuals to stay connected, share knowledge and news and celebrate important life and career achievements. But after more than 18 months, doing just about everything online has really started to take a toll on our health, with many of us feeling varying levels of ‘zoom fatigue’. Plus, there’s the disappointment of having an eagerly awaited in-person event converted to online at the last minute!
We’ve delivered 110 online events (and counting!) since the pandemic began, so we see and understand first-hand the effects of excessive screen-time and the importance of making your online event engaging and stress-free!
With lockdowns and border closures continuing, it looks like we won’t be leaving this online world anytime soon. So, how do we create online events that are as fun as in-person ones, while looking after our health and wellbeing too? Here’s our top tips and ideas for hosting a happy and successful online event:
1. Ease into it
Sometimes we don’t want to get straight down to business… Consider starting your online event with a friendly warm-up activity, opening act or mindfulness exercise to put your guests at ease and out of their lockdown mindset.
We kicked off the #ColourFULL Conference 2020 for Winitha Bonneywith a gentle morning yoga class from Grounded with Gratitude Yogahere
2. Add humour
They say laughter is the best medicine, so why not hire an entertaining MC to instantly lift the mood and make things a little more fun? Having a comedian or well-known personality involved may help attract more attendees to your online event, and its’s a great way to support the arts industry too!
In 2020, we produced Hanging Local Virtual; a series of online cooking challenges with comedians and popular chefs for Western Melbourne Tourism and Victoria University to keep students connected during lockdown. More recently, we also produced the Dean’s Honours Awards and Prizes night for the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, with comedian Lauren Bok co-hosting a fun trivia session (also pictured above).
3. Content is king
Say goodbye to standard PowerPoint presentations! Well-planned and visually attractive content will give your event an extra oomph by maintaining your brand’s personality and reputation and preventing guests from tuning out.
Our talented video production and editing team can help create professionally designed presentations and show reels, incorporating attention grabbing and useful elements such as captions, special effects, videos and animations.
4. Give them options
Variety is the spice of life… Every guest will be looking to interact and gain something different from attending your event. Offering a wide range of tools will allow them to choose and control how and when they engage with you and the other participants. Make sure you offer different options such as video conferencing, text chat, private messaging and group chats.
5. Include mini breaks
For longer events, you might like to incorporate designated breaks and activities throughout the day/s to help separate sessions, topics and speakers. You could provide half-time entertainment (like at the Superbowl!) or a special video presentation to keep guests engaged, while also reminding them to get some much-needed nutrition or fresh air, have a stretch or go to the bathroom.
6. Interactive fun
Audience participation is a great way to keep your guests engaged! We’re always looking for ways to get event attendees actively involved with discussions and feedback, but also with some fun activities too.
To kick off the University of Melbourne’s (UoM) Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology (FEIT) Awards Night, we held a virtual red carpet where guests got to show off their outfits. This pre-event activity instantly created a relaxed mood and encouraged guests to be more active in the comment box throughout the awards ceremony.
7. Party time
Don’t forget to celebrate! End your event with something uplifting like a live DJ or band performance, magician or comedian. Providing something memorable and light-hearted is a lovely way to say thanks to event participants, and once again a great way to support our performing arts community.
For example, at UoM’s FEIT AwardsDJ Carly
Lockdowns have provided us with the opportunity to research and develop new ways of producing virtual events. We’ve looked beyond the standard platforms and programs, to create our own signature digital event style and have become experts at polished live stream and video production along the way.
Still unsure or wondering about the future of online events? Read our previous blog post to find out whether they’re just a COVID-fad or here to stay: https://bit.ly/3yxGxfr
2. Choose the right location/ venue
There are loads of green venues around Melbourne to choose from!
Think about things like natural light, air flow and insulation to help reduce the use of electricity and air conditioning. Some venues can even operate fully or partly on solar energy!
Where you can’t avoid using electric lights or heating, go for energy efficient options if possible.
Knowing your target audience and where they will be travelling from is also essential when choosing the right venue. You want your event to be easily accessible to help increase attendance rates and reduce the amount of travel required by your guests – which leads us to the next tip…
3. Encourage public transport and car sharing
Unless you’re offering on-site accommodation, the reality is, your guests will need to travel to and from your event. Ensuring the venue is easily accessible by public transport is important to reduce the number of people driving but (depending on the type and size of the event) you may also want to consider offering private transportation, like free shuttle buses between key locations.
Communicating all the transport options, alongside your environmental goals is essential to both educate and discourage attendees from driving and allow them time to plan their trip in advance, so include reminders early on, and wherever relevant and possible.
4. Go paperless - digital invitations and promotional materials
Just about everyone has access to email and uses smart phones or tablet and using QR codes have become the norm these days, so there’s really no need to send out printed invitations or event tickets via snail mail anymore.
We suggest producing digital invitations, e-tickets, event programs and maps, editable workbooks, and other promotional materials instead of printing and posting out hundreds of hard copies. It’s not only good for the environment but it’s cost effective too.
If you do have to print hard copies, make sure you use recycled paper or materials. We even created event maps out of recycled coffee cups once – helping to reduce the huge number of coffee cups that end up in landfill each year!
6. Offset your event
Sometimes, despite all our best efforts, we simply cannot avoid or reduce certain emissions and waste. You might like to consider offsetting your events carbon footprint if this is the case for your event. First, you’ll need to calculate your total emissions and then find an Australian offsetting company or revegetation projects to support.
Like how we pay to offset your air travel, it may also be suitable to offer the option for guests to their attendance or travel when they purchase their ticket.
This doesn’t mean you have to do less; it just means you’ll be able to make a bigger environmental impact – all while still hosting a fabulous event.
There are many other ways to make your event a more eco-friendly and socially minded experience like using social enterprises or local businesses (like us!) Give us a call to chat about your next event and remember – every little bit you do does add up to make a big difference!
Thanks for the images Green My Plate - suppliers of reusable plates, bowls & cutlery, wash stations and compost bins to events. Check them out: https://www.greenmyplate.com.au/
As we emerge from lockdown and begin to open up across Australia, events are making a comeback – providing us with much needed and missed opportunities for face-to-face interactions, celebrations and collaborations. For more than a year, these things have only been possible online, yet even now, the pandemic has not gone away and it’s not exactly business as usual!
In these uncertain days, it’s essential to keep everyone safe while holding a successful and memorable event. So, here are our top three tips for running a COVID-Safe event:
1. Identify the potential COVID risks
Some events present a higher transmission risk than others. For example, outdoor vs indoor, local vs national guests, a one-off event vs multiple days or sessions, and allocated vs unallocated seating, to name a few. Conducting an initial COVID-19 risk assessment should be the first step in planning your event.
The outcomes of such an assessment will help us to determine event essentials such as the venue, number of attendees, catering, entertainment, event format and even the run sheet. We can also make an informed decision about whether a face-to-face, hybrid or virtual event will be the most suitable option for your business.
Trust us, based on eight years of experience - pandemic or not, taking the time to look at your goals and ascertain the best way to achieve them will save you headaches and issues further down the road!
2. Follow the rules and requirements
In Victoria, we’re required to seek permission to hold any public event, such as an exhibition, festival or trade show, that involves more than 1,000 guests. In addition, some of our clients have other COVID rules that we must follow, such as whether their staff are allowed back on site or not. Regardless of the size or scale of the event, everyone must comply with all of the COVID-19 restrictions in place at the time, including venue density quotient, 1.5m social distancing, hand washing, and/or sanitising and mask-wearing.
As event producers, we’re also required to prepare and communicate a clear COVID-safe plan to everyone and keep records to support contact tracing of any guests, volunteers, contractors, and staff who attend or work at the event. There’s plenty of information and some great templates available on the Victorian Government website, which we use and customise, along with comprehensive checklists, for each event.
Remember, each state and territory has its restrictions and requirements that may change in any given week, so if you’re planning a national event, you may need to consider what this means for any interstate attendees or guests – especially if a lockdown is declared while they are travelling. For example, a recent Perth expo was shut down early due to the snap lockdown in Victoria, with many interstate exhibitors having to make a mad dash home before borders closed.
3. Have a backup plan
Live events will always be a little risky and unpredictable; from speakers not showing up to technical malfunctions, you never really know what’s going to happen on the day. A traditional event planning risk assessment will help you identify, think about and plan for potential issues, but as we’ve seen here in Victoria and around the country, snap lockdowns can be called at very short notice, and just when you think things are going well too! If you are planning a face-to-face or hybrid event, be sure to have a well thought out backup plan ready to implement.
There are a few options available, in case of a sudden lockdown, including:
Like you, we’re eager to produce and attend more in-person events, but the reality is COVID-19 will continue to be a part of our lives for some time yet. As long as this is the case, online and hybrid events will remain the best option for ensuring we can keep everyone safe and healthy. We talk more about the trend towards online events in our recent blog – read it here.
So, if you go ahead with an in-person event, we recommend you follow our three tips above and that your event producer has the technical capabilities and experience to run a successful online event, just in case!
Having successfully delivered several hybrid and physical events since easing restrictions, we’re available to provide bespoke advice and recommendations. Get in touch to chat about any of your upcoming COVID-Safe event needs.
The zoom boom
We can’t deny the benefits of online events - connecting people on a national and global scale opened doors and created more opportunities for organisations, with relative ease and at a fraction of the cost. Many of the old barriers simply fell away and suddenly we were doing just about everything online!
Yet, it was hardly the ideal scenario, with regular interruptions from kids, pets, poor internet connections and the dreaded ‘mute’ button. Not to mention the initial novelty of Zoom meetings quickly wearing off. There’s nothing quite like the tangible, interpersonal experience you can only get from real life interactions.
When the threat of the pandemic began to ease, we saw hybrid events become our new hero - providing event guests with the option to participate either online, in person or a combination of both, depending on their location and situation.
Hybrid events appeared to tick all the boxes – offering the best of both worlds, but from a production and planning perspective it’s the equivalent of running two events alongside one another!
Beyond the chat-room abyss…
During lockdown, we saw an opportunity to not only develop and trial our own unique way of producing virtual events, but also support our community at a time when morale and motivation was at its lowest. We looked past the ready-made online meeting platforms and created our own digital event space.
‘Couch Community’ became a virtual place for the JTPM team, clients and broader community to connect, interact and be entertained. We curated and produced a series of fun and interactive online events - from hilarious ‘Chef vs Comedian’ mash up’s to soothing and inspiring ‘Wellness for your Wellbeing’ self-development sessions.
Feedback about Couch Community was positively glowing and encouraged us to keep pushing the boundaries and developing creative online event solutions throughout 2020. As a result, we’ve been able to competently and successfully pitch our concepts to clients, and the digital arm of our business has grown significantly - with one event quickly leading to the next.
We’ve since delivered a number of outstanding online and hybrid events including:
So what’s the verdict?
Online events are not a passing COVID-fad, at least not yet. With many still affected by the pandemic, online events remain extremely important in connecting people. But we won’t settle for the stock standard online approach at JTPM, and neither should you!
Even as the pandemic eases, we may find that some clients will continue to incorporate online interaction into their events and others may not return to physical events at all. So, for now, online events are here to stay and we’ll keep working on innovative ways to deliver memorable experiences and look forward to see what the future of online events will bring.