This year, Birmingham Tech Week has gone virtual. We’ve swapped event spaces for Zooms, but we are still running a programme of fantastic virtual events that highlight the diverse West Midlands tech scene. 

To help our speakers prepare, we’ve pulled together our top tips for hosting a great virtual event. This blog will cover what you should do before, during and after to help it go smoothly. 

Before your event 

The run-up to your virtual event is arguably more important than the event itself. Without good preparation and organisation beforehand, the event is unlikely to go as well as you want it to. As with anything, the more prepared you are, the better it will go. Here are a few things to make sure you tick off in the days and weeks before you go live:

  • Do a practice run – even if you are a seasoned public speaker, give your event a practice run. You could do this by yourself, or get someone to watch it and provide you with feedback. Practising is a great way to iron out any creases, check that you aren’t going to overrun and to familiarise yourself with what you’re going to say. It can also help you feel more confident.
  • Think about your background – this may sound a bit silly, but it’s worth thinking about what background you are going to use during your event. Poor backgrounds can have a negative impact on your event, as they can be distracting. Even if you think your kitchen is nothing special, it could be the difference between engaging a delegate or not. Go for a bare wall if you can, with good lighting. If you don’t have access to this, you can always customise your background. Zoom, for example, allows you to upload anything to be your background, so you could go for an office type scene. Or, opt for your company logo to remind your audience where you are from.
  • Eliminate all noise sources – right before you go live, make sure you’ve eliminated all sources of noise nearby. One of the most important things to do is mute notifications on your laptop. There’s nothing more annoying than the constant ‘ping’ of WhatsApp messages and emails coming through while you are trying to present, so make sure you quit the apps to turn them off. You should also stop any noises coming from your phone, including vibrate as this can still be heard. Turn your phone off, or put it on Do Not Disturb. Also, make sure that there are no TVs or radios on around the house, and that the washing machine isn’t spinning while you are presenting. If you’re expecting a delivery, maybe leave a note on the door saying not to disturb you. But if something does go wrong, don’t worry! People have come to expect this as part of the ‘new normal’ so just make a joke and move on – we’re all human after all.
  • Check the logistics – these are simple things that are easy to forget but can help your event run smoothly. One of the main things to check is whether you have permission to share your screen. If you set up your meeting, you will usually have permission, but if someone else set it up for you, then you may not. Before you start, make sure you can share your screen. If you can’t, check in with the person who set up the event and ask them to change their settings. Another thing to check is open tabs. If you are planning on sharing your screen, you can opt to share a specific tab or to share your whole screen. If you choose the latter, your audience can see everything, so make sure you’ve not got any tabs open that you don’t want them to see.
  • Promote your virtual event – although your event is not in-person, you still want to access as many people as possible. Promote your event on social media and email your clients to let them know what you’re doing. 89% of event planners say that pre-event engagement is vital for increasing audience numbers. Besides, you’ve worked hard to produce an informative, beneficial event, and you deserve an audience.

During your virtual event

During your event, apart from actually running it, you want to be doing as little as possible. That’s why it’s so important to get everything done beforehand so that you can focus on delivering a great event. However, there are some things that you should check and take note of: 

  • Press record – if you have promised to record your event for delegates to go back to or to send out to those who couldn’t make it, make sure you press record. You don’t want to get to the end of it and realise that you didn’t film anything.
  • Have a backup internet source – even the most reliable WiFi may let you down, and without a backup, you might not be able to get back online. It’s a good idea to use your phone’s hotspot because it’s a lot less likely to fail you. Most computers will automatically go onto your hotspot if they lose WiFi. Make sure your phone has it enabled and your computer is connected to it.
  • Use headphones – if possible, use headphones during your event. They reduce background noise and improve sound quality.
  • Remind people to mute themselves – we’ve all forgotten to mute ourselves at some point, and it’s pretty embarrassing. Give your audience a gentle reminder to mute themselves at the start. If you also want them to turn their video off, you can ask them to do that then as well.
  • Be clear on the format – if you are taking questions, do you want them during your presentation or after? Do you want people making use of the chat filter? Clearing these things up at the start can help reduce confusion and unwanted interruptions.
  • Interact with your audience – although you can’t see them in person, it’s important to remember that there’s an audience out there watching you. Encourage questions in the chat, run a poll, make jokes, play a video, anything that makes the session more interactive is great. Act as if you are in the room with them not on a screen in their kitchen and it will make the world of difference.
  • Don’t be afraid to pause – don’t run through your presentation at breakneck speed. Take breaks to interact with your audience, and have a glass of water handy just in case. Presenting is thirsty work and you don’t want to get a dry throat halfway through. Just make sure it’s not too close to your laptop, as an accident could bring your event to a very abrupt ending!

After your event

Before you can sit back and relax, there are a few things you should do after your virtual event. 

  • Send out a recording – if you recorded your event, make sure you send it out to everyone who registered for it. Some of them probably weren’t able to make it so will want to watch it, and others might want to watch it back to revisit something you covered.
  • Write a blog – writing some blog content about your event is a great way to let more people know about what your event covered and your involvement in Birmingham Tech Week. This is also great if you missed anything important during the session, as you can cover it in here.
  • Follow up – if you promised to come back to someone on a query or comment, make sure you do so. You never know, they might become a great contact for you and your business. On some platforms (such as Zoom), you can download the chat log. This could come in handy when getting back to delegates after the session, and you can see if there were any burning questions that you missed.
  • Regroup – think about how the event went. Did it go as planned? Was there anything you would do differently in future? If you did the event alongside anyone else, chat to them about how they thought it went. Make sure to note down any tips and tricks for next time.

Birmingham Tech Week is a collaborative series of events run by people and organisations from across the West Midlands. The week will highlight Birmingham’s burgeoning Tech Scene and will focus on several innovative topics. This year, the week is taking place digitally between October 12th and 16th 2020. We have events from AWS, Google, Microsoft, National Express, NatWest and loads more. You can see our full programme of events and sign up for them here.

Holly Botterill

Holly Botterill

Holly is contributing to Birmingham Tech Week's content for the second time. She enjoys running, reading and spending time with family and friends.

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