A year of working from home has given us all a reasonable level of comfort hosting online video meetings, but what about running a virtual event? Not long ago, members of our team participated in an online conference that was brought down by tech glitches, video blackouts and bad audio quality. The final blow came when hundreds of participants from all over the world were locked out of a Q&A session. We’re sure the organizers meant well, but as spectators, we saw what online event experts might call a series of “rookie moves.”
Burke Van Valkenburg is President of VVC Communications. Since the shutdown, Burke and his team have provided their expertise on virtual broadcasts for the Canadian Club of Toronto, The Empire Club of Canada and The Toronto Region Board of Trade. We recently reached out to Burke for his take on common virtual event missteps.
Media Profile: In your experience, what are the most overlooked factors that can sink an online event?
Burke Van Valkenburg: A complete failure to connect due to bandwidth issues, participants being late because they have to download new software and audio problems are the most frustrating elements of online video meetings. Bad video is one thing but if your audio is poor, choppy or overwhelmed by ambient noise, the event’s impact is drastically reduced.
MP: What’s the solution?
BVV: We’re all nervous about how we look but I would suggest that before investing in things like lighting and a green screen, a stand-alone microphone or headset with a microphone is the best place to start. Gamers learned this years ago and thanks to them, the technology is cheap and easy to use.
MP: Are there other pitfalls organizers should know about?
BVV: Technical troubles with virtual events and meetings have a much more catastrophic effect than with traditional ones, but I have to call out the fact that Zoombombing is a real thing! Say someone in the audience makes an event URL public. There are people out there who seem to get pleasure from causing chaos by joining events and playing offensive videos, swearing or worse. Once in, the only way to get rid of them is to end the event. One way to gain some security ahead of time is to designate someone to manually admit people.
MP: Working with a production partner seems costly. How do you typically handle that conversation?
BVV: Clients often come to us after the embarrassing experience of trying to do it themselves. It’s important to be objective. An event featuring senior members of an organization and a large external audience requires expertise. There are many free, roll-up-your-sleeves type platforms available but running a high-profile event comes with a price tag.
MP: Are there platforms that are better suited for what we’ve been talking about?
VVC: We looked at what was available and built our own. LiveMeeting is a virtual service that’s ideal for large internal and external events and offers control over who is allowed to attend and participate. It also addresses the things we’ve been talking about – the ability to manage questions, audience polling, chat, PowerPoint presentations, pre-recorded videos and branded graphics.
Just remember that technology alone doesn’t make for a great event. It’s important to have a dedicated webcast producer to give an organization the comfort of knowing that they’re not alone managing everything from start to finish.
Interview by Christopher Wood