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10 Tips for Running Virtual Summits and Roundtables

Sabrina George
Virtual Summits and Roundtables

Virtual summits and roundtables are our new normal. Running these screen-to-screen events requires a different set of tasks from the old face-to-face meetings we used to participate in. Hosting an event of this type is tricky if you want to sustain the same level of engagement you enjoyed during on-site events. This blog will give you 10 tips for running virtual summits and roundtables that will help make these activities a success.

Tips for Running Virtual Summits and Roundtables

Tip 1: Have a technical facilitator in addition to the event moderator.

While your event moderator will manage the agenda and participant interactions, your technical facilitator should be the driver of the tools behind the scenes. A technical facilitator can monitor the waiting room at the beginning of the process. They can open breakout rooms and monitor chats to be sure they follow the set rules of the event. They should also troubleshoot any tech problems that come up. Your meeting facilitator should never be tasked with these things if you want the virtual summit to go well.

Tip 2: Create an internal and external agenda.

The external agenda is what you will share with meeting participants to keep them on track. It can even be useful for attracting attendees to your event. But your internal team responsible for presenting and facilitating the virtual event should also have their agenda. Consider it a kind of script that roadmaps all of the pieces of the presentation, from speakers to breakout room activities.

Tip 3: Use your waiting room.

For security, you’ll probably have a holding tank at the beginning of each session. Why not use that screen for an advertisement, either from a sponsor, or perhaps just to advertise what’s next? You could use it to share some of the tweets from the event and invite people to follow your hashtag. Or, it could show a screenshot of the participants of the last session. The point is to engage them with something interesting, instead of a static waiting room screen.

Tip 4: Make use of white space.

One long online video conference can become fatiguing, and, as a result, you may lose your audience as they “tune out” either literally or mentally. Having 15-minute breaks in between sessions can allow for bio or stretch breaks and a chance to get away from the screen for a moment.

Tip 5: Work your audience.

When you kick off your virtual summit or roundtable, consider interacting with your audience in an unrehearsed, welcoming way. Before launching your agenda, look around at the faces in your virtual room. Who do you know? Take a minute just to interact in a human way with the people on your screen. Talk with your speakers in an impromptu manner about their last vacation. Basically, use the first few minutes of your event to act in the same way you would if you just ran into someone you know at the coffee table at a live conference.

Tip 6: Don’t forget about breakout rooms.

Use virtual breakout rooms to create a space within the event where participants can interact. Each of these breakout rooms could have a guided facilitator. You could even select them from the audience or assign each group the first task of picking their own moderator. Give them a task in their breakout room but keep these groups small with no more than 10 people in each room. (Fewer is better.)

Tip 7: Be brave and let go of the reins.

What happens if you allow the moderators of the breakout rooms to share what the group talked about? What if you open the floor up and allow your participants to play a more active role in the event? You can use polling to engage, or you could also pre-screen participants and then allow them to pop up on screen and ask a question in person. If you have the right video conferencing solution, you can design all kinds of ways to engage your audience. You can use the chat interface in the same way. Your technical facilitator can pose questions in the chat to create a running thread. Or, you could plant audience members that subtly pose questions like, “Where are you logging in from?” Or “What company are you with?” The idea is to engage here, so you can even feed off of the speaker by asking questions in the chat space on the fly.

Tip 8: Make sure you have redundant backups.

Murphy’s Law: What can go wrong, will go wrong. You can head this off by carefully considering what can go wrong with your virtual summit or roundtable and then plan for it. For example:

  • When you send out reminder emails that show the event is happening soon, provide a technical support line for anyone having trouble accessing the meeting.
  • Have a backup in case a speaker’s internet goes out. Can they call in while you run their slides? Get speaker slides in advance and then prepare your featured guests for what should happen if their power goes out.
  • Make sure your technology vendor has a crisis plan in case there is a problem. Do you know who to call if something goes wrong?

Tip 9: Ask for feedback as part of the event.

Certainly, you should always ask for feedback after the event is over. But you can also work a feedback mechanism into the live event. For example, you could do a poll and ask your audience what kind of event they’d like to see in the future. Open up the chat function and get feedback during the last 10 minutes or so of the conference. You may be surprised at how constructive your attendees will be.

Some questions you could ask include:

  • What was your favorite session?
  • Were all your questions answered?
  • Do you have any recommendations for making the format better?
  • What one thing will you do differently after the event?

Tip 10: Use the right video conferencing solution.

Don’t trust your next virtual summit or roundtable to just any commercial video conferencing solution.

Onstream Media is the leading provider of technology solutions to help your next video conferencing event go smoothly. Talk to us about how we can help you pull off a seamlessly effective online event.


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