Zoom or Bust? 3 Lessons Learned to Improve Your Virtual Events Experience

By Scott E. Pacheco, marketing and communications manager at Lerch, Early & Brewer

I cursed Zoom right about the time I was trying to share a presentation on my computer, but the webinar attendees were somehow seeing a different set of slides. As if the confused face of the presenter wasn’t enough, I didn’t figure out exactly what had gone wrong until 20 minutes later.

Of course, three weeks later I ran another meeting to (near) perfection, learning from my previous mistakes, with the result being very satisfied attorneys and event partners.

So has gone the great digital adventure of 2020. As we approach the end of the year, there are a few main lessons I’ve learned about driving attendance and engagement.

(Disclaimer: most of what I’m writing about are straightforward, 60-90 minute webinars without a lot of elements or speaker changes. If your firm has the resources to produce multi-day conferences with the production quality of this summer’s political party conventions, then this may not apply to your efforts.)

Zoom Fatigue Can Be Real

I’ve learned I have a hard time sitting through most virtual calls that extend more than an hour when I’m not a primary presenter or organizer – and I don’t think I’m alone.

Now, think about someone who isn’t involved in the production of your virtual event and has their own day job to worry about. Add on that nearly 100 percent of their social interaction at work is relegated to Zoom (or Teams or WebEx or Skype), and there may be little you can do to get them on the line.

Zoom Fatigue Can Be Mitigated

While fatigue is real, I’ve found it’s often not the direct result of actually being on a virtual event, but has to do more with content and other controllable factors.

Here are three things to consider when planning your upcoming virtual events:

  1. Don’t overschedule. The best part about virtual events is you can turn them around very quickly – no caterer, venue staff, or service providers to coordinate with – just a topic and speakers. The worst part about virtual events is you can turn them around very quickly – just a topic and speakers with none of the aforementioned logistics to stop you from doing more than your contacts demand or worse, offering a topic they don’t care about.

  2. Choose your topics wisely (particularly if you ignore the first point). Don’t schedule virtual events just because you can. Over the past nine months, I’ve heard of virtual events experiencing drop-off rates up to 75 percent. That’s significant, and it can partially be explained by too-frequent events or topics that just don’t appeal to your contacts. Think about how you can maximize your virtual events. If you want to engage and have another touch point with your contacts, there’s going to need to be an element of give the people what they want.

    The best virtual events I’ve run almost always have good audience participation, whether that’s filling out a poll, answering questions via chat, or sharing their personal situation as part of their question to the presenter. Those people are more likely to fill out your post-event survey, sign up for your next event, or, perhaps even more importantly, speak positively to others about your firm.

  3. Send reminders. More than one. This reminds me of the old Ronco Showtime Rotisserie & BBQ infomercial tagline, “set it and forget it.” Except when it comes to virtual events, it’s “sign up for it and forget it.” In addition to the standard confirmation email, send a reminder the day before, the morning of, or even five minutes before an event just letting them know you’re starting and they should jump on. Unlike in-person events where the pre-event schmoozing is sometimes more valuable than the content, it’s much easier to sign up for a virtual event (especially if there’s a recording) and feel that it’s ok if you don’t attend.

Ultimately, all firms have their own unique circumstances, but at its core, putting on successful virtual events comes down to knowing your audience’s appetite for content and delivering what they want to learn.

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