A New World for Events

garyorenstein
3 min readMay 9, 2020

Yesterday I had the chance to join hundreds of people for a relatively impromptu event put together by Alistair Croll. I say impromptu because Alistair had only announced the event four days earlier!

It is abundantly clear that we are in a new world for events from small to large to expanded community gatherings. Working at a distributed company since late last year has allowed me to participate in plans for regular company meetings, replacing a 3 day in-person company get together with an online event, and arranging online customer forums.

Here are a few takeaways I’ve assimilated. Not everything is always possible, but you should never stop striving.

For general online meetings

  • Aim for video on as much as possible, even if you are presenting, try a format that keeps your face visible. We are hard-wired to look at each others faces, so do everything you can to keep others’ attention.
  • Aim for online collaboration. That could be simultaneously editing a real-time doc, or using a whiteboard app, or building a mind-map together. When we don’t know exactly what is going to appear, we remain engaged.
  • Aim to look good. One of the best things about video and photography is that lighting can always be do-it-yourself. Get as fancy as you want, but at a minimum make sure your face is well lit.

For interactive meetings of 10 to 20

We experimented with customer forums meetings using Zoom. It worked well for some of the following reasons

  • We had multiple moderators, including folks who could watch the chat and take real-time notes, visible to everyone. This was critical to keep things moving and organized. With larger and externally facing meetings, over-invest in moderators.
  • Be clear up front on how you are hoping to use some of the webcast tools, but let the chat run free. We had humor and clean jokes going quickly and it was fun.
  • Pausing for feedback and using the hand raising feature worked well. We could solicit input from the larger group and stagger responses without tripping over each other

For larger community wide events

I learned the most from the event Alistair held last week, which he delivered on the crowdcast.io platform. A few takeaways

  • Coupling real-time chat is awesome for energy. As mentioned above, over-invest in moderators to cover all the communications channels.
  • Alistair was able to bring guests in live similar to an interview/talk show format. It adds dynamism and leaves an opening for everyone.
  • There was mention of continuing the conversations after the event. Some of the broadcast platforms may not allow tons of customization and ways to steer post-event traffic. Have a plan to direct your event participants to continue engaging.

A note on the tech

I’ve been fascinated by a big gap in the market ever since we chose Zoom a few months ago to host webcasts. I wrote about Zoom last month in A simplified synopsis of Zoom.

There is no default choice for any of the online event platforms we need today. Perhaps that is most evident by the Virtual event tech cheat sheet by Alistair.

Virtual event tech cheat sheet by Alistair Croll

Several folks online have pointed me to jitsi.org which was acquired last year by 8x8 via Atlassian in later 2018. But Jitsi is more developer platform than video webcast or online event product. I’m watching and waiting within that ecosystem.

Until then I’ll be keeping an eye on Crowdcast and others mentioned in the cheat sheet to see where we are headed next.

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