Virtual events can be great: The convenience! The low overhead! The countless ways to connect with people around the world!
But if you’ve ever sat through a painful video call or a boring online class, you know that virtual events can also be a drag if they’re not executed properly.
The key to creating engaging online events is moderation. A good host moderates their events to ensure guests are having a great time and staying engaged. That means interacting in the comments, answering questions, and creating a two-way experience rather than just lecturing at attendees.
Before you start your next online event, make sure you’re following these tips for successful moderating.
Moderating: Why does it matter?
Have you ever been on a webinar where the speaker never looks at the questions in the chat box (or worse, disables chat altogether)? A one-sided event is unengaging. When there’s no way to participate or interact, attendees may as well be watching a recording.
Some virtual event hosts choose to disable live comments and chats out of fear that the comments will get out of hand. But by designating a moderator and creating a plan for interacting, it’s easy to keep the conversation flowing and on-track.
Ultimately, it’s a good business move to moderate your online events: The more you engage with your audience and help keep the conversation moving, the more likely attendees are to show up to your next event.
Tools for moderating your event
Moderating virtual events doesn’t require expensive software or specialized equipment. Here’s what you need to get started.
- A chat function within your event platform. Whether you’re livestreaming on social media, meeting over Zoom, or broadcasting on webinar software, you probably have a built-in chat feature on your event platform that participants can use to ask questions and talk amongst themselves.
- A separate chat or participant forum. If you don’t have a built-in chat feature, or if your event needs a place where participants can also connect before and after your event, create an online gathering spot using Slack or a private Facebook group. This gives attendees a place to convene during your event and a place to stay in touch and ask questions afterwards.
- Reminder: Test your tech. Nothing is worse than showing up on time for a live event and the presenter spends 20 minutes struggling with video or audio settings. Test ahead of time to make sure all your video, audio, screen sharing and other tech is working.
A moderating play-by-play
Before your event
- Give an extra buffer for networking. It’s a good idea to build in about 15 minutes at the beginning of your event for an icebreaker. Give participants a chance to get to know each other and establish rapport before you launch into the main event.
- Prep your audience. Be direct about your expectations: Should participants have video on or off? Should microphones be muted? This is also a great time to set expectations about how you’ll interact with the audience. Will you be pausing to answer questions, or are you saving questions until the end?
During your event
- Show up prepared. Virtual events happen online, but they’re no less “real” than in-person events. You still need to come prepared, which means rehearsing your presentation in advance; if you wing it and fail, your audience will know.
- Use your tools. Some online meeting platforms let moderators mute everyone but the event host, which is an easy way to cut out unwanted background noise during a presentation. You can also use breakout rooms in Zoom to split your call into separate sessions.
- Keep the conversation going. Encourage participants to chime in either in the chat box or on video. Call on people by name to create a more personalized experience.
- Read the room. This can be a challenge when you’re connecting over a screen, but it’s not impossible. Watch for facial cues to see if your attendees are engaged, distracted, or bored. You can also ask your audience to weigh in throughout the event using chat.
After your event
- Guide your audience to another space to connect. Right after your event, share a link to a Slack channel, Facebook group, or another venue where participants can get in touch with you and each other. You may want to create a landing page with links to relevant resources and materials from your event.
- Follow up. Send a quick email to your audience to gather feedback and to say thanks. Post-event communication is crucial for fine-tuning your future events with help from audience feedback; it’s also a great time to express your gratitude.
- Have a strong call to action. When you follow up with attendees, include a strong call to action to keep them engaged, whether you direct them to a post-event landing page or to a forum where they can stay in touch with each other.