Month: August 2020

6 Tips to Make Your Next Virtual Event Stand Out

As companies large and small look for ways to facilitate strategic growth, virtual events have emerged as a way to foster connections, build community and share information, bringing remote attendees together to discuss, engage, learn and re-energize.

Virtual events have also become the de facto replacement for live events, leaving many companies to grapple with the challenges of making a virtual gathering look and feel like a live, branded experience.

Consult the following tips to help you discover ways to make your next virtual event more engaging, memorable and fun. Sure, virtual events come with some constraints, but they also enable some exciting opportunities, too — fewer barriers to attendance, for example, which means larger audiences.

How to Make Your Next Virtual Event Stand Out

Make a plan.

Let’s say you have experience hosting recurring live events like annual meetings or conferences. It can be tempting to want to “flip the switch,” or simply transfer your live programming into a virtual realm.

First, take a step back to understand your virtual format and what content will perform best in a technology-focused environment. For example, let’s say your company is in the process of transforming a live annual conference into a virtual event. And that conference is known for its depth of programming: multiple keynote speakers and presentations coupled with several concurrent breakout sessions in several time slots. That breadth of learning opportunities, while valuable for a live event, doesn’t necessarily translate to the digital confines of a virtual event.

The solution? Make the technology work for you. Consider a virtual event as your brand’s highlight reel. What messages and insight do you want to showcase? How can you effectively do that in a virtual environment? And how do you keep your attendees engaged in an environment that can be more prone to distractions?

Go beyond the platform.

If you’re hosting an event with multi-faceted programming and want to encourage several methods of attendee interaction, a comprehensive digital platform is an ideal solution. Platforms put a variety of resources at your fingertips: live streaming, chat rooms, message boards, file repositories, polls, online stores and more.

Yet don’t forget the other resources you’ll need for a successful virtual event, namely audio/visual. You could argue that A/V quality is even more important in a virtual environment, especially if your audience or colleagues have expressed reluctance about the efficacy of virtual events. Speakers should be coached individually or in small groups to confirm optimal presentation and equipment settings. If your event or meeting includes multiple segments, you’ll likely want to enlist the help of an emcee or facilitator to establish a smooth and up-beat pace. And you’ll want people on hand to communicate on the back-end to stay ahead of possible glitches or other challenges, manage multiple streams and maintain an uninterrupted flow.

Design an experience.

When attendees walk into a live event, they often develop an impression of the brand that’s solidified throughout their time on-site. You can create a similar impression with a virtual event, especially if you think of it as an experience. It’s easy to dismiss a virtual event as just a video call or just a webinar. Sure, those may be elements of your event, but keep your eye on a more holistic, 50,000-foot view of what’s happening.

Consider these questions:

  • What mood or tone do you want to establish?

  • What do you want attendees to feel as they start and end the event?

  • How can you encourage attendees to create and build relationships, both with each other and with you?

  • Why should attendees prioritize this event over other opportunities?

  • How can you deliver maximum value in a virtual environment?

Here’s our tried and tested magic formula: combine experience design and strategy, then bring it to life in the virtual environment. By embracing the unique features of the virtual format, you can introduce a refined event framework, welcome more attendees and capitalize on other technology-enabled benefits. The result is a lasting impression that’s just as powerful as the one created by a live event.

Define attendee takeaways.

With the rapid rise in virtual events, you may also notice increasing virtual fatigue. Attendees may lose energy and focus more quickly in a virtual environment, which means a successful virtual event includes efficient time management as part of the attendee experience.

Consider these questions as you build your event logistics and programming:

  • What information and emotions do you want attendees to take away from the virtual event?

  • Do you want them to take any action in the days and weeks following the experience?

  • How can you help keep attendees connected and continue to foster any community building momentum that happens organically during the event?

Identifying these strategic elements can then help you work backward to ensure your event programming, technology and format support your goals.

Have fun!

If you feel like the year so far has been a giant ball of stress, you’re not alone! Yet as you plan your next virtual event, don’t forget to have fun. What sort of socializing and other activities would you include in a live event? And how can you modify those ideas for a virtual format?

Host a virtual wine tasting or happy hour, for example. Many wineries and distilleries are now offering drink packages (sometimes with food) that you can send attendees prior to the event. After a bit of education from the winery or distillery owner, give attendees a chance to kick back, sip and catch up with each other.

Other ideas include virtual live music performances, virtual tours of destinations near or far, a cooking demonstration or a creative project. Impromptu giveaways can keep attendees excited and engaged. Or consider opportunities to focus on health and wellness — a virtual yoga class or guided meditation session can provide welcome physical and mental relief.

Embrace these two attributes.

These two mindsets can make all the difference in gracefully navigating virtual event planning: be flexible and be creative. You try to be prepared for multiple scenarios during live events, right? You’ll want to adopt that same attitude for virtual gatherings. The reliance on technology to host a successful event can be nerve-wracking, so prepare to be flexible and change things on the fly, just as you would in a live scenario.

As you go into a virtual event, especially if it’s your first one, know that something may go awry. Do what you can to get the event back on track and don’t let it derail your momentum. We’re all forging a new path together, and showing yourself and your team leniency — especially in a time of high stress — can make a big difference.

In addition, don’t be afraid to experiment a little. It’s true: your live event likely can’t perfectly transition to a virtual environment. But how can you play on the strengths of a virtual gathering and technology? What elements can you add that were out-of-reach for your live event? With so much change in the air, now’s the time to step outside of the box and try something new. Just think: accumulating experience with both live and virtual events gives you valuable insight to guide your future event planning. Now that virtual events are more widely used, companies will increasingly have more options at their disposal. More than ever, the question boils down to the format and capabilities that will deliver the best attendee experience, which you can assess on a case-by-case basis.

We hope these tips have helped get the ideas flowing! If you want to chat through anything, or get more examples of how we’ve helped clients plan and launch successful virtual events, please reach out for a no-charge discovery session, good for both current and prospective clients. It’s a new frontier, but we’ll brave it together!

Applying Exposure Science to a COVID-19 World to Guide Our Return to Work and School

Take it from the experts: An interview between Wellington CEO Joan Wells and client ISES President Paloma Beamer.

We all want to get back to the way things used to be, but is that possible? And if returns to in-person environments are realistic, what does this look like?

We wanted to get the answers straight from the experts. Enter ISES, the International Society of Exposure Science. We’re proud to partner with a client whose mission is to “better our world, its ecosystems, and inhabitants.”

Returning to school and work safely is top of mind for many people right now. Only 1 in 10 Americans think schools should open this fall without restrictions, according to a recent poll. Parents and teachers are concerned about student safety and the potential rapid spread of COVID-19, should an outbreak at their school happen.

Workplace environments are facing similar challenges. Nearly 6 in 10 Americans who are working outside their homes are concerned about exposure to COVID-19. If employees do have to work–whether they’re essential workers or leaving their work from home status–they should feel safe and protected by their employers.

Colliding the mission of ISES and our day-to-day work of crafting authentic, safe experiences in spite of a pandemic, Wellington CEO, Joan Wells, sat down for a video interview with ISES President, Paloma Beamer, to discuss how we should all be addressing COVID-19 as we continue to work to find normalcy in school and work environments.

Q&A

Joan: What does exposure science mean to you and how would you describe the discipline to those not in this field?
Paloma: We’re the people who study the relationship between the source of the exposure and how people are actually exposed. And so, because of that, we also study how to stop those exposures. So, like one of our members said, “Until there’s a vaccine, exposure science is the only thing protecting us and our families.

Joan: That is so interesting. What made you choose this field and career? What areas are you most interested in and passionate about?
Paloma: I came to this field as an engineer. My Ph.D. is in engineering, as well as my bachelor’s and my master’s. As an engineer, we’re very goal-oriented and very focused on solving problems. But I wasn’t sure if the problems we were designing interventions for, were addressing the most important issues for protecting people’s health from the environment. I didn’t have the language yet, but I knew I wanted to understand how contaminants went through the environment. More so, how that led to people coming into contact with them, how that differs across different communities and cultures, and by your occupation. One of our Emeritus faculty members at the University of Arizona says it best, “I can be in a room with a giant piece of chocolate cake, but it’s not gonna make me fat until I decide to eat that piece of chocolate cake.” And that is the difference between there being an environmental concentration or something in the environment and somebody actually being exposed, is through our own behaviors and actions and things that we do.

Joan: Tell me about the International Society of Exposure Science and why it was important for you to be involved and hold such a prominent leadership role.
Paloma: I was recruited to do my graduate studies at Stanford and worked with an amazing research group there that focused on farmworkers and exposure. A couple of members of this group were already involved with ISES and laid some of the initial groundwork for the Society and wrote some of those first definitions of exposure. When I attended my first ISES conference, I felt like I was finally around people who cared about the same things that I did! It just made sense to me to be a part of an organization like ISES.

Joan: It sounds like exposure science can really help us understand COVID-19. How would you describe the connection between exposure science and the pandemic?
Paloma: In the beginning of the pandemic, we took our time to get our role right because we know how hard it is to deliver health communication and we didn’t want to cloud the messaging that was coming out from government agencies. However, we are a group of scientists that are accustomed to looking at different scenarios, both at work and in the community, and thinking about how people are exposed and how those exposures can be reduced. We also understand that there may be risk associated with most scenarios, but that risk can be minimized by some sort of control or ideally, multiple controls working together.

Joan: What is the importance of wearing a mask and how does that relate specifically to exposure science?
Paloma: You can control things at the source, you can control the person or you control things along the path and the best way to control something is at the source. Right now, the source of coronavirus is infectious people. So, the mask basically puts a barrier over those infectious people. However, one big problem is that you are infectious before you have symptoms and we don’t even know we’re sick before we’re sick. This makes everything a bit confusing, which is why it is always important to where a mask when around others or in public

Joan: Wellington recently moved into a new office space and we are continuing to understand the procedures required for a proper return-to-work plan. What are the top things Wellington and other businesses can do to keep their employees safe?
Paloma: There is a hierarchy of controls that we use that is published on NIOSH’s website and other government websites and is actually written into federal code. The hierarchy details the different controls in which you should consider, the order of the controls and those that you should overlay. So, the first step is to eliminate the hazard. Obviously, we can’t get rid of Coronavirus, but we can eliminate how close people are to each other, how many people are in the space, and controlling who is within your 6 feet bubble. You also want to try to reduce the number of people you have in the workplace. You can ask questions like:

  • Do they really need to be here and be in person with each other to get the work done effectively?

  • If people are going to be in the space, what can you do to minimize the number of people who are within six feet of each other?

  • Can you do different work rotations?

  • Can you sit people in different places?

You will want to make sure your ventilation is as good as possible. If there are doors and windows that can be opened, try to keep them open. Have your HVAC system set to as much fresh outdoor air as possible. You also have administrative controls that you should be implementing in the workplace. That would be the use of surface disinfectants, hand hygiene, and guidelines for how you enter and leave the workspace. It’s important to make these habitual tasks for employees: use hand sanitizer, wipe down your work station when you arrive and leave, clean shared work areas like conference rooms. The more you post and repeat this throughout your office, employees are more likely to take part in this on a regular basis. You can also consider having people work staggered schedules to minimize the total number of people in the workplace at one time.

Joan: As a mom and scientist, what are some of the things that are fore-front on your mind as it relates to returning your children to school?
Paloma: I think we are all trying to understand the different alert levels at both a University and public school level. So an example of this could be the number of new cases in your state. A potential alert could be if there was a spike recently. Personally, I was in the mindset that maybe if there were 14 days of decreasing case counts in the state, I would take my child back to daycare. We got to 10 days before the number spiked, so I haven’t taken him back yet. I do think there are ways to get kids back to school in a safe way, we just have to get all of the other controls in place first.

Joan: Should schools be doing the same types of things that we’re asking businesses to do?
Paloma: I spoke with my son’s principal about this recently and we actually discussed practicing certain things at home. Encouraging kids to wear face masks at home and washing hands every hour are a couple of the things parents can do to prepare for their children’s return to the classroom. The principal also encouraged parents to try to minimize trips and other non-socially distanced activities.

Joan: Thank you for sitting down with me today, we’re so thrilled to have ISES as a partner!

Are you interested in learning more about ISES and how they contribute to the world around us? Visit their website or follow them on Facebook or Twitter for updates as they continue to navigate an ever-changing environment.