Having a Virtual Backup Plan for Live Events

May 20 , 2020

Using Technology to Make Virtual Possible

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 and long-term. For larger audiences, especially those that are trying to raise money, it’s necessary to have a virtual backup plan. This plan would not be a one-to-one match of your live event. In fact, it shouldn’t be as the attention span of your virtual audience will be far shorter than it would be for a live one.

It is important to note that your shorter virtual backup event still needs to have elements that are engaging. This will help you get more participation out of your audience. Before deciding what will work best for you, there are several considerations to make.

Main Event Streaming Technology

You may have to trial a few technologies before you land on one you like. These are likely to be paid subscription plans from services such as Vimeo, Youtube and Facebook (not the Zoom-style video conference style used of late). This technology will be the backbone of your event and should be able to handle the following:

  • Support the number of attendees you expect
  • Allow control over audience member participation
  • Provide best support for your technical needs – streaming video / presentations
  • Ability to support multiple speaker/hosts who may not be co-located
  • Grant control of window layout on participant side of the event (whether they see 1 pane, 4 panes, etc.)
  • Offer no need for special plugins or add-ons to participate
  • Access to “control room” type of features to produce the program
  • Capacity to manage auction, silent auction and other funding methods before and during the event

It is going to take some preparation, practice and most importantly, fine-tuning to get the presentation for your virtual back up plan 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 participants.

Appropriate Pre-Work – Fundraising

By planning your virtual back-up event early, you can make sure attendees have the necessary apps and/or pre-requisites prior to the presentation. Many non-profits use software for connecting credit cards and live bidding to their event. This may require companion apps that participants will need to download.

Make this process easy with QR codes and early drip marketing to maximize the number of early downloads. Plan on allowing those same QR codes to be available through your presentation on the streaming service. In doing so, you may pick up additional participants who have yet to use this type of technology.

It is important for you to figure out how you will assist those attendees who will not engage or are apprehensive to using this technology. Will you need a volunteer phone bank during the event for call-in support? How can you help users pre-determine how they can bid/participate before the event (more to come on this topic in a below section). You will also need to consider how you will transition some of your normal event activities to the virtual space without overwhelming the audience, ie. 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 your event. This will generate pre-excitement and are another opportunity to engage participants to download anything necessary. You can also use these pre-deliveries to highlight silent auction items and prep participants for what to expect on the big night. It is also appropriate to have bidding on silent auction items run for 2-3 weeks prior to your fund raiser.

Assistance for the Less Tech-Saavy

For those who struggle with technology, you may want to take additional steps to make sure your supporting base is ready and able to participate by:

  • Providing steps on how to access on a computer or, for a better experience, how to connect to a TV,
  • Adding necessary apps with instructions on how to use on a mobile device,
  • Remind them they can attend the event in comfort – typically, audience doesn’t share video,
  • Finally, you may be able to support “viewing parties” for the event. Be sure to pre-coordinate for the best overall experience.

These elements can be done by phone or by short tutorial videos. Remember, you want to maximize fun and engagement for everyone attending.

Practice Makes Perfect

Finally, practice, practice, practice. Your virtual backup plan is sure to be successful when you take the time to run through it several times before the big day. Remember, this is only a backup plan but it won’t be much of a plan if you don’t practice it. We hope you are able to have your live event but in case you can’t, we hope this post helps.