Prepare for your virtual event: How to avoid common tech pitfalls

Raise your hand if this sounds familiar: You’ve just shared an idea at a virtual company meeting, only to be told that the internet cut out and nobody heard what you said. Or maybe it’s 20 minutes into a webinar where the next speaker starts their presentation. Another voice chimes in, “you’re still on mute.” 

With virtual gatherings at an all-time high, we’ve all run into these classic tech snags. Luckily, many of these common pitfalls are largely avoidable. With a bit of planning and practice, you can let the virtual format work for you instead of against you. 

As you’re planning your event, remember that people will be tuning in from all different locations. You can expect that some of these environments will carry a variety of distractions for attendees, and technical hitches can make active participation even harder. 

Below we’ll discuss how to get all your virtual ducks in a row to keep your audience engaged, your presenters comfortable, and your gathering flowing smoothly. 

Here are some of the key areas to consider as you prep for your virtual event: 

Nailing down technical basics

  • Tell your audience what they will need to access your event. Do they need to download an app? Encourage them to do so ahead of time. Do they need to enter a password? Notate all this information clearly for attendees as part of the registration process, and make sure to consistently deliver this same information with each reminder leading up to the event. Some platforms have an option to resend this kind of information in an automated email at a designated time frame (e.g. one hour, one day) before the event. This prep work will help your event begin on time and ensure everyone is engaged right from the start. 

  • Conduct an A/V run-through with other speakers/presenters before your event. Simulate the event process from start to finish, including transitions such as screen sharing, speaker changes, and breakout rooms. This should ideally be done at least one day ahead of the event to allow plenty of time to troubleshoot and resolve any issues that may come up. 

  • If you’re hosting or presenting at a virtual event, make sure you have a strong internet connection. Are there certain parts of your home or office that get a better wifi signal than others? The closer you are to your router, the faster your connection. Or if you have an ethernet cable available, plugging in can help to avoid the ups and downs of a wireless connection. Speed test tools, like this one from AT&T, can give you a quick reading of your internet connection. (For reference, stable video conferencing demands approximately 1–4 Mbps in download speed and 1 Mbps in upload speed.) By considering this ahead of time, you’ll help save yourself and your event-goers from the frustration of frozen screens or dialogue lost in the airwaves. 

Making presentations device-friendly

  • If there is a visual component to your presentation such as a slideshow, video, or graphics, make sure these visuals are clear and large enough to see on different screen sizes. Consider laptops as well as phones and tablets. 

Getting presenters camera-ready

  • Have presenters position themselves in front of a simple and uncluttered background. A neutral colored wall without windows or doorways works well. Additionally, some platforms allow you to choose a background image. This can be a great way to incorporate your organization’s branding or set a particular tone for your event. (Looking for that “innovation center” feel at your virtual event? Try one of our CIC video backgrounds!)

  • The presenter should be the main focus. Their head and shoulders should fill the frame, and the camera lens should meet their eye level whenever possible. 

  • Place your lighting strategically. Soft, consistent light from the front is key. To avoid appearing back-lit, make sure your light source is not behind you.

Assigning roles

  • Consider designating all presenters as co-hosts through the platform’s settings menu in advance. This allows for smoother transitions between presenters and gives these individuals a higher level of control with volume settings or screensharing features, for example — especially when some presenters are outside of your organization. Co-hosts can also assist with logistics such as letting users into the virtual meeting room or changing mute settings. 

  • You might also consider designating a co-host who is not a presenter to function as a behind-the-scenes facilitator for logistical needs. This is particularly useful for larger, more formal, or more complex virtual events. In this setup, everyone can focus on their sole role within the event — facilitators on facilitating, presenters on presenting. 

Sound considerations

  • When speaking, use headphones with a built-in microphone to reduce background noise. 

  • If using a separate audio source from your computer, make sure it is selected in your video conferencing system’s preferences menu ahead of time. 

  • Encourage guests to mute themselves, or manually mute them in your video conferencing system’s settings. Note that some platforms, such as Zoom, allow you to select ‘mute’ as the default for attendees when creating or editing your scheduled event. Doing this ahead of time makes for one less thing to worry about right before and during your gathering. 

A little preparation goes a long way

The suggestions above are meant to help you get ahead of some of the common issues that event hosts run into. But that doesn’t mean your event has to be 100 percent hiccup-free in order to be successful. Your technical setup should ultimately be in service of the rich content of your event — the useful lessons or fruitful connections that your audience takes home with them. 

Rather than stressing about hitting each and every bullet point above, treat this list as an ongoing resource that you can lean on over time to refine your virtual event skills. And by gaining mastery over virtual events now, you’ll have a beneficial skillset that you can use to advance your mission well into the future.

Looking for support in planning a virtual event? CIC Events provides event space, equipment, and expertise to make your gathering a success.

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