5 Lessons from converting an in-person company event to a virtual one
Every year, Hotwire employees from around the globe meet in one destination to connect, receive business updates and celebrate achievements from the last year. We call this ‘Bootcamp’. This year we were meant to meet in New York but due to COVID-19, this couldn’t happen.
In what would usually be 6 months of planning, we had to rethink and develop a virtual alternative in just 3 months. Many businesses are facing the same challenges with their events, so we thought we’d document our key learnings from the planning and execution of Bootcamp 2020.
- It’s all about the content
Content is key in successfully engaging your audience for a significant length of time. Test out speaker ideas with employees or use a committee, like we did, to crowd source diverse and inspirational speakers. Mix up your content to keep things interesting – use panels, keynotes, breakouts roundtables and interactive sessions. Most importantly, make sure you’ve test run all of your content prior to the big day, and thought about how your transitions will work. Will you need a moderator to sync the sessions? Or would holding slides suffice? We developed a full run of show to account for each moment of the event and would encourage you to script your transitions in advance.
- Use music to keep up momentum
We have a wealth of talented people at Hotwire and have set up our own in-house band called ‘The Borderless Thinkers.’ Our post-event survey showed them to be one of the most popular elements of the day, as music can really bring people together and drive emotion. We used them as a ‘welcome back’ after each break to draw people back into the event.
We also have two in-house DJs who got the party started with a ‘morning rave’ to hype up the audience and kick off our two day event. This generated a lot of chat around the event, through our multi-channel engagement outlined below.
- Interactivity is key
It’s so hard to have a two way conversation with 300 people globally from their homes. It was important that our colleagues felt part of the event and could engage with us throughout the day. To achieve this we sent goodie boxes with branded items they could use throughout the event (for example: glow sticks and face paints for the morning rave!) and attendees shared images of on our designated event chat (in slack) and social media using our designated hashtag. You can check these out using #HWReWired.
We gamified some of the event, by adding a word scavenger hunt and photo/caption competition, with prizes to incentivise attendees to remain engaged.
We also utilised polling, Q&A and an event app to create a two-way conversation. Finally, we created smaller breakout masterclasses where delegates could join/learn a new skill in baking and mixology or work together to overcome an escape room!
- Plan separate networking/meet-ups
At the end of the first day, our colleagues had enjoyed the experience so much, they didn’t want it to end and organised their own ‘meet ups’. For similar events in the future, we’ll facilitate these to ensure all attendees have visibility and can be a part of it.
- Embrace the digital glitches – it makes it human
As with any live event, things can and will go wrong. Whilst you must plan for the worst, if you have back-up ideas (holding slides, a live moderator to jump in, a technician on hand), your attendees will understand and support you. By communicating openly, and being light-hearted about any issues you can humanise a digital experience.