Top Five Do's and Don'ts of Going Virtual

Key tips for how to convert content you designed for an in-person event into a successful online experience.

This week I’ve been inundated with questions about how to convert a physical training program or a conference to an online experience.  Concerns related to COVID-19 have led to the cancellation of major conferences such as SxSW, McDonald’s World Conference, and Facebook Developers.  In addition, many of the smaller workshops, training sessions and face-to-face meetings I have been working on are also being converted to online events. Given the wide-spread impact on in-person events and programs I thought it important to draft a quick guide to help companies migrate their events to a virtual format.  Surprisingly it’s not nearly as simple as just moving the curriculum you planned for your physical space into an online vehicle, especially if you have multiple simultaneous tracks, or have in-person exercises that need to be converted to a digital format.  Now I’m not saying it’s impossible – I have successfully fit a square peg into a round hole many times!  How?  By reframing the content, dividing it into differently sized and produced segments, and reimagining the audience experience, you can convert your in-person content into a program well-suited for success in a digital medium.

Top 5 Do’s and Don’ts for Converting Content Designed for a Face-to-Face Event into a Digital Experience

  1. DON’T think you can deliver the same content in the same amount of time online! People’s attention rates are significantly less in a virtual setting.
  2. DON’T think ALL content needs to be LIVE! You can simulate a live experience with pre-recorded content or on-demand content.
  3. DO look at your curriculum and break it down into 3 parts. A good rule of thumb is to deliver 1/3 Live, 1/3 Simulated Live (that’s pre-recorded and scheduled to playback at a set time) and 1/3 On-Demand (that’s pre-recorded, and made available to watch at any time).
  4. DON’T assume that using WebEx, Zoom or Blue Jeans is the right technology answer. Look at who has registered for the physical conference.  If you’re expecting more than 200 people to any session, you should consider solutions like Intrado Studio, ON24, Facebook Live, or LIVE Stream, as they are more robust and scalable for larger audiences.
  5. DO leverage a content strategist, who can assist you in effectively converting your content from delivery in a physical setting to a highly engaging virtual setting. If your audience doesn’t touch the keyboard, or isn’t being asked to interact with the content regularly, they will zone out.

While virtual sessions can’t fully replace the dynamic of face-to-face meetings, they will enable you to stay present with your audience, bring value for money, and ensure that you aren’t losing all the revenue from an event you’ve had to cancel due to unforeseen circumstances. Now if only we could develop a virtual food truck and transport me to Austin! For additional strategies and ideas on how to convert your cancelled in-person event to a digital experience, please explore Steve’s blog post – “The Show Must Go On.”

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