Do you remember April 1, 2020? The entire world was in lockdown and at Objective Management Group (OMG) we had just ten days to figure out how to convert our annual four-day international conference for sales experts to a three-day virtual event over Zoom. The 200 in attendance loved it and right after the conference I posted this article with 15 lessons we learned about the transition from a face-to-face conference to a virtual conference.
By late last summer, we knew full well that our 2021 conference would also be virtual. The difference was that we would have 7 months to prepare and we wanted to optimize the conference specifically for a virtual event. How was it different from what we accomplished a year earlier? Let me share some of the things we did that worked so well.
Shorter Days - Last year we crammed four days into three days and with nobody having anywhere else they needed to be, we presented for 8-9 hours each day! We knew that was an awfully long time for everyone to stay engaged so this year we planned two four-hour days. Much better!
Shorter Presentations - In prior years, including last year, conference presentations were typically 45-90 minutes each. This year our average presentation ran just 8 minutes! That allowed us to present on 50 topics instead of 18!
Chat Q& A - At traditional conferences, questions come up throughout the duration of most presentations and the presenter must stop to answer both the good questions and the stupid questions, those that have already been asked as well as those that should have never been asked. Inevitably there is a person who wants to pound their chest and brag for a while. The questions and the posturing disturbs the natural flow of presentations and makes them unnecessarily long. This year we handled questions as they arose, in real-time, via chat and Q&A tools within Zoom. When there was a question that required a longer answer we answered it live at the end of each presentation. Result? Fast-paced, uninterrupted sessions that kept everyone engaged.
More Video - Last year we learned just how much everyone loved our choice of videos. So this year, we had PENTA Marketing produce a conference teaser, unique 5-minute openings for each day, two different versions of a 5-minute break video with product and company-specific trivia, and six segment-specific 10-second videos to introduce each session. On top of that we carefully chose inspiring videos to play at the top of each hour as we brought the audience back from their five-minute breaks. This is an example of a 10-second segment intro.
Better Video - Using video is one thing but getting video to play smoothly on the viewer's computer is quite another. In the end, we settled on three hacks to make the video play beautifully:
- Zoom has a new video feature where you click share, then click the advanced tab, click video and select from your file folder the video you want to share. The video opens and you click the play icon. That's it. Regardless of the size of the window on your computer screen, it plays full screen for your audience. But the frame rate may still be too low to eliminate the choppiness which brings us to hack #2.
- Zoom automatically places a checkmark in the "Optimize for Video" checkbox but OMG's COO, John Pattison, discovered that if you uncheck that box the video plays at a higher frame rate.
- John contributed one more hack when he discovered that if you lower your screen resolution so it's the same as the standard 720p resolution Zoom uses to stream, the frame rates are higher.
Better Backgrounds - Not everyone had a green screen, enhanced lighting, and a high-end camera so our virtual backgrounds needed to be dark enough to eliminate the swimming and bleeding that occurs when the lighting isn't good and a green screen isn't present. In addition, we had PENTA create a common background for each presenter and they customized each background with the presenters's name, company and title as you can see below.
Better Slide Decks - To complete the professional, "optimized for virtual" look, each presenter was required to use the exact same professional slide templates that we asked PENTA to prepare for us. Our slides rocked!
Of course, OMG introduced new features and enhancements to our already best-in-class sales force evaluations and sales candidate assessments and that's one of the main reasons for us having an annual conference.
Virtual events may be with us to stay as part of our new normal so we must step up our game and make virtual desirable, exciting and feature-rich instead of a compromise. You may not be able to offer face-to-face networking and dinners, but you can offer your clients, customers, users and prospects an unforgettable experience.
Image copyright 123RF