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Online Event Design

By Inga Petri (Strategic Moves[email protected]) with Lynn Feasey (Points North Creative)Jason Guille (Stream of Consciousness) and Felicity Buckell, October 2020

The design of the conference overall as well as each individual conference session should take account of basic human needs related to opening the conference/session (arrival and settling in), doing the work by establishing rapport and participation, providing adequate time for closure, feedback and post-event follow up.

Both the online conference overall should reflect this design as well as individual sessions. Coordinating moderators and panelists and ensuring everyone has a common understanding is achieved through a preparatory meeting and well-structured communications.

Insert the tangible

Introduce the physical into this otherwise digital experience. For instance, send something tangible by mail prior to the event, such as a swag bag, ingredients to prepare a special beverage or meal during a planned networking session, or gift certificates (also an opportunity to support local businesses and/or promote sponsors). Whatever you choose, have fun with it, and your attendees will, too. Most important building anticipation for the online conference or event can be crucial to securing actual attendance and active participation.

Online Conference Design Considerations

Production is a Team Sport

No matter which platform you choose, be aware that shifting from a physical venue to a digital one does not mean less work organizing necessarily. It does mean different work, new planning considerations and some new roles. In some ways it will be easier; in other ways it will require more preparation and there are different cost drivers involved beyond the platform costs.

A well-run online conference or event will take significant effort and skills on the part of staff and speakers, so make sure you have enough people for the tasks at hand. Over and above event producer, roles might include MC (or Chair, for introductions, and be the common thread/personality linking sessions), producer (ensuring smooth flow of technical aspects of the agenda), moderator (chat box, break-out sessions, etc.), and technical support for video production, presenters and panelists.

Quality reigns

Do everything you can to put together a first-rate production in your context (leaving plenty of room for being human as too polished can simply turn into boring). High quality sound and lighting are proving essential for maintaining audience engagement. Use a good headset microphone, ensure excellent sound, reduce shadows and make sure faces are well-lit, and consider presenters’ clothing and background.