26 April 2021

Five top tips for making the most of virtual events

As the COVID-19 pandemic progressed and businesses saw their calendar of events cancelled or postponed, virtual events and digital networking were kicked into overdrive to replace them. As the business owners of 2021 now look optimistically towards the future, how much is the digital realm likely to surrender to live events as restrictions are once again relaxed?

With the benefits of reduced carbon emissions, financial savings on travel and accommodation, and a wider potential audience capture, it’s safe to assume virtual events are here to stay. Even as live conferences and exhibitions return, it’s highly likely that many events will choose to remain online. So how do you adapt to this new paradigm and ensure you’re making the most of attending virtual events?

1. Prepare your equipment

It’s essential for both attendees and event organisers to test their equipment before the event starts. Test your internet speed, make sure your devices’ software is up to date, check your camera and microphone and, if at all possible, have a back-up device ready. Many online platforms will allow you to dial in on a phone line if your internet connection goes down, so you can have your phone on hand to quickly re-join the conversation in case of technical difficulties.

You might find it more challenging to engage in a meaningful way with other remote attendees, so make sure your sound and lighting are set up correctly to ensure every interaction is as smooth as possible, with no distractions.

2. Plan your time and allow for comfort breaks

You should plan your day as rigorously as if you were attending the event in person. Even though you’re not going to physically move between sessions, you should still allow time to check your emails, stretch your legs or make a cup of tea. There’s no value in leaving the speaker on your desk while you leave the room or losing focus after four hours of non-stop presentations.

Review the agenda carefully and don’t overwhelm yourself with more than you would normally take in at any conference or exhibition.

3. Go in with a positive and proactive attitude

Attending a virtual event requires as much mental effort as attending a physical one. It can be easy to give less importance to an event online, as you can simply turn it on in the background without having to physically show up. However, if you log in with your camera turned off, while watching TV, cleaning the kitchen or working on something else, you’re obviously not going to gain much from the experience.

If you give the speakers your undivided attention and engage as much through chat functions as you would in person, you might be surprised how much you take away. Simple things like dressing smartly and waking up early can put you in the right mindset – try to treat it as if you were actually going somewhere.

4. Block out your calendar

When giving an event your full attention for a large part of the day, it’s also important to let others know that you can’t be disturbed. Ensure your calendar is blocked out and that you’ve given yourself enough time on top of the speaking sessions to write up notes, flick through any content you’ve collected and add any new contacts, while it’s all still fresh in your mind.

5. Make the most of global networking

It seems to be a common flaw in virtual events to play down the networking aspect and focus instead on simply delivering information. One of the benefits of meeting online is that there are far fewer restrictions on those who can attend.

You may find that networking virtually allows you to connect with people usually too busy to attend events in person or to exchange ideas with people on the other side of the world that wouldn’t normally travel so far.

The most important thing to remember applies to live events as much as it does to virtual ones: you get out as much as you put in. If you turn up fully prepared and filled with enthusiasm, you’re a lot more likely to get the most value for your time.

To find out more about events relevant to your business, visit the HSBC Tomorrow Ready Hub here.

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