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Virtual Events 101 with Joy Burks

It’s fair to say that we’re all a little “zoomed” out after a year of pandemic enforced distanced meetings. COVID has forced us to rethink a lot of what we thought we knew about work rhythms. Our very own virtual events expert, Joy Burks, has some insight for those looking to plan a virtual gathering and tells us why she thinks virtual events may be here to stay.

Joy Burks | Vice President 

Q: What is the biggest advantage of a virtual event?

Joy: Inclusiveness. Organizations can invite attendees from far and wide in a way that isn’t always possible with in-person events. And that’s true for the speakers that participate, too – we are finding that event organizers are likely to get more VIPs to participate virtually. It is an easier ask when travel isn’t involved.

Q: Is there a secret sauce that makes a virtual event work?

Joy: I’d say a combination of engagement and being smart about time. When everyone is spending so much time in front of a screen, you have to make your audience want to be there by giving them opportunities to participate, but also making sure your event is brief and to the point. And one more thing – make sure your event content has a shelf life beyond the actual event. Maybe a highlight video or a written recap that goes to your organization’s members. Maximize what you’ve captured during the event by finding additional ways to share. It’s a big advantage of being virtual over in-person.

Q: What’s the difference between a “live” meeting and “pre-produced” meeting? 

Joy: Good question, they are very different. “Live” means that significant parts of the event are unfolding live in front of your audience. These will happen mostly on Zoom-like platforms. “Pre-produced” is more like a show in that most, if not all, of the program is already produced and then released at the scheduled time. For events like a fundraising gala or an award show where the goal is to bring the energy and celebration you get from an in-person event, a fully pre-produced program may be the best route. Then you might see the event unfold on YouTube or Facebook Live.

Q: What questions should you ask to start the planning ?

Joy: There’s one fundamental question that matters: What will make this event a success? Start with a clear answer to that question and your event will quickly take shape and meet your expectations. Maybe it’s an interactive experience, or an opportunity to share your story, or a forum to spur further conversation on a core topic. Or maybe it’s a memorable high energy evening. The answers will help decide the platform you use and how you structure your event.

Subject Matter produced the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ 2020 Annual Youth Advocates of the Year Gala as a first-ever virtual event. This one-hour, fast-paced event delivered twice the audience of previous in-person events and matched donations. 

Q: Are virtual events likely to stay post-pandemic? 

Joy: I think we are going to see a lot more hybrid in-person and virtual events. There is definitely something to be said for in-person gatherings – and I know we’re all eager to get back to them! – but I also think the opportunities of virtual events – the chance to cheat time and distance, for greater audience engagement and for expanded audiences – is something organizations will continue to maximize.

Read more about Joy Burks here

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