Rehearsals and Site Inspections for Virtual Events
Shelby Britton, Adobe Systems
Expertise Level: Intermediate
There is no such thing as an instant webinar.
In the age of instant gratification and technology, I have run across many a webinar producer that has made the mistake of assuming their webinar technology platform will read their mind, set itself up according to their requirements, and instantly produce a flawless event to a virtual audience of hundreds or thousands.
This is a dangerous assumption. A mission critical event to a large audience should never be left to the last minute. For example, a producer of a live in-person event will visit the physical event venue for a site inspection in advance of the event and then show up early for the event to make sure everything is correctly set up according to specifications before the event begins.
The same is true with a virtual event.
At a minimum a virtual event producer should spend time in the virtual room setting it up ahead of time, hold a rehearsal with all speakers, moderators and hosts, and, finally, build in a 30 minute pre-conference for speakers and hosts immediately prior to the event.
Take some time to avoid virtual event disasters.
8 Reasons to Prepare, ‘Site Inspect’ and Rehearse your Virtual Event
Test audio integration
- There are many audio options for your webinar, including universal audio integration. You can simulcast both the phone audio conference and VoIP, use the phone only, or use VoIP only. The universal integration needs to be done well in advance of the event. For audio options and integration how-to tips, please see.
Check the speaker’s audio quality
- There are many things that can reduce audio quality. Be sure to have all speakers use the exact same equipment during the rehearsal as they will use during the live event - this includes the computer and the actual phone or headset. Wireless is not recommended for either computer or phone and, of course, using a speakerphone is a big no-no.
Ensure speaker understands how to use the platform
- If your speaker is new to the particular webinar platform technology you are using, take the time to give him a tutorial, even if he is experienced at webinars in general. Just like it’s always awkward to drive someone else’s car, it can be equally awkward finding all the right buttons to push in a webinar room that is unfamiliar.
Upload and flip through all slides
- Uploading slides 15 minutes prior to your event is risky to say the least (especially if it’s a big file that may take some time to upload). Take the time to upload them during the rehearsal and flip through all of them to check for any misaligned text or images. Make any necessary changes to the deck and re-upload them before the pre-conference and re-check.
Confirm all parties know how to get to your event
- The rehearsal will give all your speakers, hosts and moderators a chance to ‘find’ the location – locating their login info, practice logging in, download the presenter add-in, and overcome any other technical issues related to browsers, etc. The last thing you need on the day-of is a missing speaker!
Review the flow of the event and room set up
- Prepare any polls, chats, quizzes or multiple slide decks you’ll be using ahead of time using the layout functionally and arrange the layouts in order of your agenda. This will ensure a smooth flow and avoid having to ‘fish’ for polls during the live event.
Prep your backstage and familiarize all hosts, speakers and moderators with it
- Your Presenter Only Area is your private backstage area for hosts and presenters. This is a great place for the Attendee pod, a Presenter chat (so you can coordinate amongst yourselves without interrupting the event flow), the Presenter view of the Q&A pod and any notes or reminders you might have for your speakers or moderators. Remind your speakers to keep an eye on the backstage in case you need to communicate with them while they are presenting.
Have an emergency plan and communicate it to all hosts, speakers and moderators
- Virtual events are subject to things going wrong just like physical events. Think through what you will do if… your audio conferencing provider experiences an outage… if your speaker’s computer crashes… if your speaker accidently hangs up on herself… if you lose your internet connection… etc, etc. And, yes, with 7 years of experience running upwards of 30 webinars a quarter, I have run into all of these and more!
So, don’t leave the details of producing your mission critical virtual event to the last 15 minutes, because treating webinars casually will get you into big trouble. Good luck and may your next webinar run flawlessly!
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