We all know that virtual events empower community building by keeping the members connected in new ways, from business to business and person to person. CommunityHood is back with its third Roundtable and this time we will discuss the ‘Tips For Hosting A Virtual Community Event’.
The topic for this roundtable is relevant for everyone because events are a core part of community building today. It enables asynchronous communication which is crucial if you want to have deeper conversations because it is difficult to have them via chats or for a niche platform.
One of the most important parts of any community experience is how can you conduct the right events, and conducting the right events is not possible without choosing the right formats and right tools. In the online world, there are so many tools today that are coming up and we feel that it’s important that we discover the right tools for different formats and different use cases for any community.
In today’s blog, we will elucidate upon the following:
- How to prepare the pre-event checklist.
- The various format of virtual events and the whole event planning process.
- Framework for creating different event types.
- Hacks for increased participation, attendee retention, and branding through events.
- Tackling major goof-ups that happen during events.
And much more … So let’s get reading!
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Introducing Our Volunteer Leaders
We were lucky to have these volunteer leaders, who have not only helped us execute this event, but also ideate with us on the best tools and practices out there.
- Moses Sam Paul – Co founder of TheThirdPillarClub.
- Nirav Chahwala – Creative Entrepreneur & Founder of BRANDFLUENZERS Community.
- Govardhan Doddi – Founder of Niche Marketers Community & HashtagMag.
- Vineet Nandan Gupta – Facebook Certified CM with Expertise in Community strategy & Growth consulting.
- Prateeksha Kedia – Founder of 3 communities empowering more than 1.5 lakh members in their journey of parenting.
- Manohar Kabeer – Community Manager at Mentza & Founder of 90ML Talks.
- Jayshree Agrawal – Growth team at APNA, the fastest unicorn in India.
How To Decide These Tools And Formats?
As you start building a community, especially if you Are building it for scale, you must not lose focus on adding value for every single attendee.
- First you need to decide what is the key value or what is the key intent for someone who is coming and what are the key takeaways that they are going to go home with.
- Some of the things we have seen so far are working well in the events in terms of takeaways is a mix of learning, networking and entertainment.
- Whenever you are thinking of an event format, try to measure and predict the output. Will your event be heavier on learning, will your event be heavier on networking, or will your event be heavier on entertainment?
- Any good event ideally has all three, but the mix will keep changing depending on different formats that you want to host and also the other way round.
- For example, if you want something learning heavy, the workshop format focuses on learning and so, we de-prioritise networking and entertainment for those events. We try to bring in those elements sometimes in between but learning is a key intent in those cases.
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How To Prepare The Pre-event Checklist?
This roundtable was a mix of learning and networking. We also feel that people get to know each other in the format, and it has its value.
- You also need to think around the nature of the event, whether it’s a live event or a non-live event. By a live event, we mean whether it is being broadcasted or streamed live somewhere or not.
- You also need to think whether this event or any event that you are conducting, is it a synchronous event or asynchronous event. Asynchronous events are generally those which don’t need everyone to be present on a real-time basis. For example, you could always do an AMA, which is in a chat format. So, while AMA is an event, it is not necessarily synchronous. It is almost an asynchronous event.
- While designing the event, you should also think about whether you’re designing it as part of a single event or a sequential event. Certain events are a part of multiple series of events. For example, a lot of people do this course or a bootcamp, which is divided across five or ten sessions, and then they would ask people to pay for all the ten sessions together, and then they would conduct these sequential events.
- You should also think of who are the speakers, how many speakers are going to come, what is the pedigree of speakers, what is the expected turnout in the audience, are you going to make the audience speak or chat or participate or none of them.
- Do you want mutual interaction between audience to be there or not? How do you want the tone of the event to be, whether it should be formal or informal. Do you want to make participation anonymous or not?
- For example, Shelton, who is also a community lead at Stoa school, in one of the events that they hosted, he made everyone to change their name on zoom and remove their pictures, and made it an anonymous participation event, where the topic was a difficult topic, which generally people would not want to talk about with their real identity being shared.
The Various Format Of Virtual Events
The inputs shared for various formats are as follows:
- Live events are very common. Someone suggested a hybrid event, offline and online combined. In 2008, Nirav had done an event where it was spread across five or six cities. For example, they met at a time in Bangalore and had a 1 or 2 hours’ session and then there was a comment session of 1 or 2 hours. So, it was a total of 3 to 4 hours event, in which 2 hours was with the local people and 2 hours was streamed across the internet.
- Somebody also brought up conferences. There are also a form of live events, and they go well even in the virtual world. These include any event that involves gamification, learning model, and networking model kind of events. There are also some events where you announce giveaways, etc.
Interesting Tools For Community Events
The following tools came up in the discussion:
- The common ones are Zoom, StreamYard, Mentimeter, Airmeet, Kahoot, and VConfex. The uniqueness was that people had interesting sharing in terms of formats more than the tools.
- The tools are something everyone is familiar with, except two mentions of Gather. Town and Luma, which are relatively less popular. But if anybody has looked for an alternative for Zoom or Airmeet, they would have come across Gather. Town which is a little more immersive, and Luma is largely a management tool on all fronts.
- You can use different features of zoom to change the vibe or engage people in a little more interesting way. The idea of formats is not only limited to what is the structure, it is also about how you engage people across those 30-90 minutes that you have.
- So, you can use the virtual background or anything else in an interesting way, and most of us are using Zoom rather forcefully because we are lacking alternatives. Nobody really feels that Zoom is mind blowing or it is doing phenomenal work.
Has Anyone Moved Away From Zoom As A Default Event Hosting Platform?
Bigger events are hosted on Airmeet and Bevy. But when it comes down to smaller events, Zoom is winning hands-on for whatever reasons it is. There is also WebEx and Microsoft Teams, but the way Zoom has evolved itself, everybody is using it. So, right now that is one platform that everybody knows about.
Zoom can host up to 100 people at once, and it has the lowest membership fee. As soon as you cross the limit of 100, their fee shoots up like anything. The amount charged by Zoom, Airmeet, or any other platform was in a similar range if you want 500 people at a time.
The flip side is that there are a lot of these event and conference hosting platforms with the networking table and other things. But you need to have a Zoom account that can be live-streamed into the main stage so that the participants can check it out. There was a workaround where most of the other conference hosting platforms need to have a Zoom link integrated. So basically, Zoom is still doing the main work everywhere.
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Does The Experience Become Better On Other Platforms Once The Size Is Increased?
A lot of people dislike Zoom. I understand everybody’s sentiment, we are all appreciating Zoom because many events have depended on it. But most of the time, you are choosing zoom because everybody else has it. And the moment you go for an alternative, even if it syncs with your thinking of the format, you are afraid.
So, you are not choosing zoom because it is seamless integration. It’s for reasons like there is familiarity, it is considered to be a default app, etc. But Zoom is designed for office meetings and conferences with minimum distractions. In a house party-like environment for nine tables, where people want colors and enough distractions for people to break into smaller rooms of their own, Zoom is not very helpful.
Gather. Town attempts to provide this to a certain extent, but the onboarding process of Gather. Town is so bad that people just like Zoom, because the moment you click the URL, you are inside the room and you also have a little bit of customization.
Zoom must not be prepared for this kind of upsurge in usage because they were never designed for the use cases that have come out of the pandemic. The problem is that the majority of people focus on industry events and people who are curating intimate events don’t fit into Zoom’s plan bracket. It doesn’t cater to all the needs of its users.
For example, I would like to run a reward scheme as part of the event because every time I think of building an incentive into event attendance, I don’t have any avenue. I would like to use some sort of analytics where I can give away rewards rather than manually monitoring them. When it comes to events, I think in an offline environment, it is the reward mechanism that is working. No platform is cracking it as of now.
Three Things That Went Terribly Wrong While Using An Alternative Platform Other Than Zoom
As someone who hosted a virtual event for a certain community with about 220 paid attendees on that call, Radhika shares her experience about three things that went wrong because she did not use Zoom.
- The ease of familiarity and the usage. So, she had a lot of people who were joining in from Health Tech. These are your PhDs, academicians, and research scientists. These are people who are good at what they do but not necessarily as familiar with your interface. So, they had to move around with a lot of questions like, “which room do I go to?”, “who do I call?”, etc.
- Tech was a major glitch. Radhika was anchoring that event and her video stopped working. That’s the biggest nightmare an anchor can have. If it were an offline event, she would have shown up again somehow, but what can one do with a video. She refreshed with multiple browser videos, nothing happened and so, she hosted that entire concluding day in audio.
- Somebody wanted to leave the meeting, and instead of clicking on the leave meeting option, that person clicked on end meeting. 150 people on the call and the event ended for everyone abruptly.
So, in terms of format, try to look at zoom itself and use the existing features interestingly. That was the huge takeaway. Rather than relying on features, you can use ideas where you make people express themselves. You make certain rules inside the Zoom room where the rules enhance the experience.
Marketing Automation Tools That Let You Automate The Entire Event
Jayshreee shares her concluding thoughts:
- Zoom, Google meet, Microsoft team, these are some of the most used tools to organize events and conduct meetings.
- Apart from that, for live-streaming educational classes, people are familiar with tools like GoToMeeting, WeStream, OBS, etc.
- Hubilo is also popular among people these days. They are also using Microsoft forms, Google forms to gauge the feedback of the event.
- Lastly, to automate the entire event, end to end, there are certain tools called Live Webinars, that people are using.
- You just have to create a simple account, and then it takes care of sending calendar invites to sending thank you notes.
If you want to learn from the experience of leading community builders themselves, then join ‘CommunityHood’ now. It is always useful to share and hear the perspectives of other community builders.