LIVE Event Backup Plans – using Technology to Make Virtual Possible

May 20 , 2020

We’re not even going to mention the reasons why we need a backup plan – by now, we all know the uncertainty for large events both near-term and long-term. While smaller events have more-or-less adjusted to the new norm, for larger events – especially those that are designed to raise money – it’s good to have a backup plan. The backup plan is not a one-to-one analog of your live event, and probably shouldn’t be as the attention span of your virtual audience is going to be far shorter than it would be for a live event.

That being said, the shortened virtual backup event still needs to have elements that are engaging and draw your audience into participating as much as possible. There are several considerations we will make to decide what is best for your event:

Main Event Streaming Technology

You may have to trial a few technologies before you land on one you like, however, this technology is going to be the backbone of your event and should be able to handle the following (these will likely be paid subscription plans from the likes of Vimeo, Youtube and Facebook – not be the Zoom-style video conference bridges we’ve all been using lately):

  • Support the number of attendees you expect
  • You will have control over audience member participation
  • Has best support for your technical needs – streaming video / presentations
  • You can support multiple speaker/hosts who may not be co-located
  • You can control window layout on participant side of the event (whether they see 1 pane, 4 panes, etc.)
  • Users don’t have to download special plugins or add-ons to participate
  • You have “control room” type of features to produce the program
  • You can handle auction, silent auction and other funding methods before and during the event

This technology will take some preparation, practice and most importantly, fine-tuning to get the presentation correct. You will leverage this platform to drive the entire event: from fundraising to interactive elements. The important part is designing an event that will be easy-to-use and understand for all of your participants.

Appropriate Pre-Work – Fundraising

By planning your virtual back-up event early, you allow yourself the additional luxury of making sure attendees have the necessary apps and/or pre-requisites prior to the event. We know many non-profits have software systems they subscribe to for connecting credit cards to the event or even doing live bidding – some of these come with companion apps that need to be downloaded by participants.

Make this process easy with QR codes and early drip marketing to maximize the number of early downloads. You should also plan on allowing those same QR codes to be available through your presentation on the streaming service to attempt to pick up the balance of participants who have not yet engaged with these additional pieces of technology.

For participants that you know will not be engaging with the technology, or who are apprehensive, it is important to figure out how you’re going to assist them through the event – are you going to man a volunteer phone bank during the event for call-in support, or maybe even help those users pre-determine how they want to bid/participate before the event (we’ll talk about this a bit more in a few sections).

This is also where you will try and figure out how you will transition some of your normal event activities to the virtual space without overwhelming the audience: silent auction, heads or tails, etc.

Real World Supplements

Many events traditionally have physical takeaways. Consider personal deliveries of your normal giveaways in the weeks leading up to the event – they will generate some pre-excitement and are another opportunity to engage participants to download necessary technology prior to the event. You can also use these pre-deliveries to highlight silent auction items and prep participants for what to expect on the night of the event. It is also appropriate to have bidding on silent auction items run for 2-3 weeks prior to the event.

Assistance for the Less Tech-Saavy

While we’ve talked about it a bit above, you may want to consider taking additional steps for members of your supporting base to reach out and assist with making sure they will be ready for the night of the event. You can help these users by:

  • Showing them how to connect a computer to their TV for the best experience – or at least be ready to run it on their computre
  • Adding necessary apps to their mobile device and explaining that they will have their mobile device handy during the event – along with instructions on how to use
  • Letting them know that they can attend the event in comfort – typically, audience won’t be sharing video
  • Finally, you may be able to support “viewing parties” for your event – make sure they pre-coordinate with you for the best overall experience

These elements can be done by phone or even by short tutorial videos. Remember, we want to maximize fun and engagement for all participants.

Practice Makes Perfect

Finally, practice, practice, practice. A well run event, whether live or virtual, runs all the better when you’ve run through it many, many times ahead of the event. Remember, this is a back up plan, but it’s not much of a plan if you don’t practice it. We hope this post doesn’t have to be used – that you can have your live event, but in case you can’t – we hope it helped a little.