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Planning a Virtual Event: FAQs

Steven Bond

Strategy Director, Forum One

In our recent webinar on planning an engaging virtual event, we shared how to create a clearly defined virtual event strategy, the elements of a successful virtual event, levels of production and investment, and contingency planning.

Participants asked so many great questions! Below, we’ve shared a few that help build on what we covered in the webinar. 

You talked about a few different platforms that you could use for larger, more interactive conferences. What are they and how much do those types of tools cost?

For speeches, presentations, and webinars, there’s an abundance of free and affordable options, including Zoom, GoToMeeting, WebEx, BlueJeans, and Skype. In our experience, Zoom is the easiest to use for both presenters and attendees. However, that ease can present security issues, which Zoom has addressed here

Fundraisers, concerts, or events with multiple sessions or tracks, should explore ON24, Hopin, Remo, Run The World, or BigMarker. These tools require more configuration but will create a full digital presence for your event, including a schedule, presenter directory, and the ability for attendees to navigate upcoming, live, and recordings of past events.

For conferences and conventions, vFAIRS, Social27, AltspaceVR, and Cvent are great options. Again, these tools require more configuration, but they can recreate in-person experiences like sponsor signage and exhibitor booths at a trade show.

Tool pricing ranges dramatically from free to tens of thousands of dollars. The good news is many offer discounts to nonprofits and governments. We recommended checking TechSoup and directly with the tool to see what discounts may be available to your organization.

Do any tools provide remote simultaneous interpretation?

At Forum One, we’re passionate about working with organizations to improve accessibility, be it the translation of information to additional languages or solutions for vision or hearing impaired audiences. There’s a range of paid options that can be used in combination with your event software, including Ai-Media, Interprefy, InterpretCloud, Interactio, to provide simultaneous interpretation.

For live broadcasts, YouTube and Facebook both support the EIA-608/CEA-608 standard for closed captioning, and if your event will be broadcast on U.S. television with captions, the FCC may require that you caption your online broadcast. Zoom also allows a user to type closed captions in real-time as the meeting occurs. Additional information on FCC requirements, as well as live captions on YouTube and Facebook, are linked.

For pre-recorded video, YouTube and Facebook both support SRT files, which allow you to add time-stamped captions to your videos. You can upload multiple SRT files to a single video in different languages, allowing a single video to be captioned for various languages.

Can you recommend a specific headset or microphone for presenters?

You can easily and affordably improve the sound quality of your virtual events by using an external microphone. For broadcasts from a laptop like a Zoom meeting, the RØDE NT-USB or RØDE NT-USB Mini are excellent options. We’ve tested a number of wired and wireless headsets and unfortunately, have yet to find an option that provides good sound and works consistently.

If you’ll be capturing video using a DSLR camera or cell phone, the RØDE VideoMicro or Saramonic SmartMixer both connect via the 3.5mm headphone port and provide fantastic audio quality. Alternatively, if you’ll need to attach a microphone to a speaker’s lapel, the BOYA M1 is a great inexpensive option, or if you need a wireless lapel mic, consider the RØDE Filmmaker Kit.

Can you recommend an ideal length for a livestream event. Also, do you recommend weekdays or weekends, and what time of day?

We’ve found preferences about time, length, and format vary widely based on attendee demographics, topic, and ticket price. We often use a tool like SurveyMonkey to ask past and potential employees about their preferences. If that’s not possible, we typically research the format of other successful events reaching a similar audience. That information gives us the rough outlines and must-have elements of an event, the final decisions are then often driven by working with the organizer to ask ourselves, “what’s the most compelling format to tell the story?” and “what would I find interesting and exciting to watch?” Our experience is that it’s always best to focus on making content compelling or interactive rather than feeling constrained by what length or format might have been successful for other events.

Written By

Steven Bond

Strategy Director, Forum One

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