2020 has been a busy one for Fundraising Everywhere.
What started off as a solo event in 2019 to tackle issues surrounding accessibility to affordable training has grown to three annual flagship events, four affiliated conferences, monthly webinars, socials, and networking.
And that’s just our own events!
In January we launched Everywhere+, a virtual event platform and project management service for the charity sector to help support great people to go virtual.
As you can imagine, we’ve been very busy since.
We’ve hosted fundraisers, engagement events, celebrity quizzes, and multi-day/multi-track conferences around the world.
Here’s what we’ve learned on our online travels.
Speakers rely WAY too much on slides
Slides should complement your presentation, not lead it, yet many speakers pack too many slides (and too much text) on screen or screw up their screen-share which reduces the attendee experience.
We’ve also supported speakers through last-minute wobbles when they realise a screen-share means they can’t see their speaker notes.
Yet the best sessions we’ve hosted have been a speaker talking directly to camera, which feels like you’re talking directly to me – the viewer.
Work with speakers who are comfortable with presenting, and where you have novice speakers with something important to share be sure to arrange coaching and soundchecks so they can present with confidence on event day.
Pre-recording and demos are absolutely necessary for long events
Pre-recording means event organisers can check content quality, add transitions and editing, and keep to time on event day. It avoids dodgy mics, no-shows (yes, really), and internet ruining the day.
Without them you risk an event that lacks quality, vibrancy and in some case even speakers!
If pre-records are not feasible (last minute speakers) a demo is absolutely necessary. Without it speakers won’t know the process to sharing screens or know if their content is shareable on the day. It sounds easy but the next learning will tell you why it isn’t.
Pre-recording makes everyone’s job easier and more enjoyable – especially the attendees.
Some speakers may decline a pre-record; work with them to remind it’s about attendee experience and help is there to make the experience more comfortable. We offer recording sessions on Everywhere+ which can coach them through the process and it means the format, length, quality and deadline is right every time.
Virtual offers a lot more opportunities for fun and connection
When creating a running order for a physical event you’re limited to venue and people capacity, and creating matching tracks to allow attendees to move easily between them.
Online you’re free to be creative with timing, breakout rooms, and even the breaks themselves as attendees don’t have to rush around or over-plan their day.
At Fundraising Everywhere events we always host a ‘pet show’, asking attendees to send a selfie of their furry learning friends and we also have a musical showcase, capturing videos in advance of fundraising peers sharing their musical talents to surprise attendees in the break.
Those without pets or musical talent (I’m definitely in that camp) we ask for their virtual learning set-up selfies or fun pictures of them learning on the move.
Seeing “behind” the work creates more understanding and appreciation for the people we are and it always delights attendees who never knew their fundraising manager was a master of the violin.
And asking for attendees’ visual input brings them into the event and makes them part of the show.
Not a lot of people are confident with computers
The thing that’s surprised us most is how much attendees struggle with online events and confidence with digital.
However, this is a completely new world for a lot of people and normal for a sector that has typically been behind the experience of our corporate friends.
We simplify the process as much as possible on Everywhere+: clean event pages, one-link access, automated video-play; but we still tackle queries both before and during an event (our personal favourite is an attendee requesting a recording of an event before it happened…)
Which leads us onto the next learning…
There are varying formats of a virtual conference
At Fundraising Everywhere we create slick, live streamed experiences that make attendees feel like they’re there in the room with us and we create those for everyone who chooses to run an event with Everywhere+.
Other organisers may host a web-page with multiple video options which link off to a Zoom call or pre-recorded videos on YouTube
Others may just run webinars back-to-back.
In our experience, virtual events must require live elements to be successful. Whether that’s a live intro, Q&A, guests, or hosting – be sure to have someone there on the day with the skills to tie everything together, welcome and reference attendees, and sign-post to the next action they must take.
Organisers get too distracted by too many possibilities
We are ambitious with our events.
We believe and create experiences that attendees want to be part of.
We care about creating online communities.
Yet the internet is limitless and what we often see is organisers getting too carried away with the event size which results in huge, complicated online conferences where attendees don’t know what to do, what to watch, or how to take part.
Or worse, it gets too complicated the organisers don’t get past the planning stage.
Remember, your event is about people. Real humans sitting at home that want to learn and feel part of what you’re doing.
Create something they will enjoy so they come back again and again to start building your online community.
Feature live-hosting and pre-records, keep programmes exciting but simple to understand, and focus on quality not numbers.
The best events are the ones with brilliant speakers sharing brilliant content so put all of that hard work into your line-up and content instead of size and wow-factor.
Top Tip: live Q&As following pre-records are really slick and attendees really enjoy them. Be sure to pre-prepare some questions in case attendees don’t post their own.
Pivoting to virtual creates lots of confusion
The medium is different but the aim is the same – really, there is nothing different about organising an online event except tweaks to format, timing, and expectations.
Your sponsors can still sponsor tracks and be involved in an exhibition area, speakers can still host Q&As, attendees can still network, and you can even still have delegate bags!
As part of our service we support event managers to tweak their content and offer advice based on our experience from the last twelve months.
Don’t let confusion and the unknown hold you back – let’s start chatting and get your event going.
Sponsor-led events are usually dull
Pretty much every virtual event we’ve hosted has featured a sponsor in some way.
Whether they’ve led the event, featured as a speaker, or have contributed in some way to make it happen.
But events that are centred solely around the needs of a sponsor lack variety, non-biased learning and in most cases even diversity.
And next year when your sponsor isn’t involved and you want attendees to come back, what do you think is going to happen?
Work with sponsors who are aligned to what you’re trying to achieve and want to support to make it happen by sharing with their networks and suggesting speakers but ultimately leaving the planning and choices to you.
Virtual events have different lead times
For a physical event, the longer you had to plan the more tickets you can sell.
With virtual your peak promo moment is 48hrs before showtime.
But don’t get too comfy.
Speakers are so used to preparing night-before slides which for a virtual event means no editing and tweaking.
Use your lead time instead to support and coach (and chase) speakers to record and submit their content – and make sure you have it at least a week before the big day for any changes or shining.
There is no going back from virtual
Physical events will return (I’ve missed you!) but virtual will, and should, always remain.
We’ve shown it’s possible now, and we’ve proved it’s low cost and highly effective.
We can reach more people, improve access to speakers and ideas, and reduce the impact on the environment by reducing travel.
To stop all virtual activity following lockdown leaves out the masses who can’t afford to spend time or money away from their personal lives or work to attend events.
It’s accessible, it’s fair, and it’s for everyone – exactly what connection and learning in the charity sector should be.
To remove access to your events from supporters, colleagues or staff would go against what you stand for.
Plan hybrid events for 2021 and work with specialists (that’s us!) to provide a virtual version alongside your physical event.
And no, we don’t mean whack a camera at the back of the room and forget about it. Continue to give your online attendees a fantastic, engaging, and welcoming experience that leaves them in no doubt that you, your organisation, your speakers, and your sponsors care about them and what they do.
Virtual events are a learning curve for many.
While one flies another may falter.
But there is one certainty – they can be fantastic and COVID-19 has normalised a method of communication that we can use to our advantage, and continue to get better at, for years to come.
If you want support with creating a virtual event or turning an existing event virtual, we’re here to chat.
Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org