f:Entrepreneur #ialso Breakfast Series – Let’s Talk Virtual Events

We recently had the fantastic #ialso100 2021 Lorna Reeves, founder of My Oh My Events, host a f:Entrepreneur breakfast session all about how to run the best events online.

It was a brilliant session filled with so many tips and insights – a huge thank you Lorna for hosting for us. Please find some of Lorna’s wisdom here!  

I would love to walk you through how to be more impactive and create more immersive online sessions. I refer to them as sessions rather than webinars; webinars have a really distinct definition with one, two, possibly three people, a set of slides, and very limited interaction with the audience. These sessions tend to be one way and for imparting information, and I would invite you to join my mission for hashtag, #nomoreboringwebinars by calling the meetings a session it changes our mindset around them.

In order to be interactive and successful in this arena, compared to this time last year, we need to be immersive – we need to think about our attendees, and we need to create an experience. And this is done by starting right at the beginning, not with what software or platform do we use, but with the user experience.

We need to ask ourselves: what do we want to gain from the session by the end of it? Do we want to sell something? Do we want to share information and brief people? Do we want to create a learning environment? Do we want to create a reflective, immersive space for our attendees? Who are our attendees? Are they 70-year olds who are less familiar with platforms, or are they 20 somethings who will get bored very easily and find the online space a comfortable and easy place to be?

We always need to start with the user rather than the host as this ensures that the session from the beginning is built with the user in mind. This starts right at the beginning from sending in-depth, clear and helpful joining instructions to ensuring that our intended audience can use the platform comfortably when inside it.

I always recommend before starting any session that people adopt the C.A.L.M method. This stands for camera, angle, lighting and microphone.

CAMERA

Before every session, ensure that your camera lens is clean and clean it before every session not once a day. That piece of dust on the lens will distract people and they will concentrate on the dust on your face rather than what you’re saying.

ANGLE

Your angle is important. Ensure that your camera is eyeline with you that it’s not above you (so you’re perceived as inferior) and it’s not below you (so that you are in more in a more imposing position). Connecting properly promotes trust and clarity and it also stops us from doing too many nostril and cleavage shots!

LIGHTING

Next up is L for lighting. Ensure that you are lit well with natural light where possible and avoid sitting in front of a bright window – you may choose to use something like a ring light to help balance your shadows.

Try to avoid being lit from behind – sitting in front of a window will make you look like the Grim Reaper. Using a ring light or similar and eliminating those shadows ensures that people can see your expressions clearly. In the virtual space, micro expressions are really vital and important. The small hints that people agree with you disagree with you, they are following along and really understanding what you’re saying are critical. Showing that your lighting is excellent ensures that your face is open, clear and, therefore, more trustworthy.

MICROPHONE

The last letter is M for microphone. The best way is to plug headphones in and have the output speaker into your headphones and the microphone in your laptop (or in your external camera); ear buds with built in microphones can be really helpful here. Ensure you only use one earphone where possible. This enables you to regulate your speech and ensures that you’re not yelling at people.

Your presence and power in the online space starts with very clear joining instructions. Make sure that your instructions give good helpful advice as to how attendees can access the meeting and what they can expect to see there. Ensure that any link is indeed hyperlink, not just plain text, as it is so frustrating and letting people know what they’ll see when they enter the meeting gives them confidence and reassurance.

This sets you a level up before you even meet them in the first place.

Try and get in the habit of dipping in and out of your slide deck throughout the session so that you effectively walk around the virtual room. Make sure you maximise the space between you and the camera: sit back. If you’re listening to other people talk, lean forward if you want to make an impact. And don’t underestimate the power of silence.

When setting up your virtual space, consider what is in your background. Consider the type of background you have. Is it busy with lots of books on a bookcase? Are you in a coffee shop? Make sure you’re clear about what’s in your background as it can really impact the mood for your meeting. If you are trying to create a calm space, consider a neutral background with maybe plants or colours of green. If you’re trying to portray authority, consider colours of blue. If you want to say hey, I’ve got time for you to listen and understand, make sure you are not in a coffee shop somewhere that’s busy and on the go.

Don’t underestimate the power of colour. If you want to generate excitement, make sure that using colours of yellow and orange in your background If you are having a difficult conversation, try and avoid red as this can promote anger and passion.

All of this happens subliminally without the person even noticing, but it can have a huge impact on the mood you are trying to create. Most importantly, your sessions need to be interactive, whether you’re sharing a whiteboard and asking people to write on it, getting them to fill in polls and questions – you need ways to keep people engaged.

One of the most powerful tools in the engagement space is the use of breakout rooms and now the Microsoft Teams have added breakout rooms. Engagement is key here and keeping people immersed means they walk away saying that they had an impactful, active and powerful event with you.  The more people are immersed, the more people can be engaged and excited and will walk away from the session thinking that they’ve had a powerful meeting that they remember more because they are immersed in it.