The COVID-19 pandemic has made it likely that most events for 2020 will take place online - and it may not stop there. Online events offer huge opportunities: they are more sustainable both financially and environmentally, they are more accessible and make it easier to connect with people across the world, and they offer new advantages in terms of format and programming.
In the recruitment industry, online career events are a particularly useful innovation, because companies and talents shouldn’t need to be in the same locale to link up with one another. Job seekers might be trying to decide on the perfect place to work, while companies might be struggling to find the right person for a role and need to expand their search. Some experts are also predicting that our widespread turn to remote working will extend past the coronavirus pandemic, as companies and employees discover the advantages and pleasures of working from home.
But that doesn’t make online events a no brainer. Online events present their own unique set of challenges that organizers need to grapple with when hosting them. It might be tempting to think that once you have your tech set-up sorted, you’ll be ready to host an online event any day, any time. In reality, online events also require careful thought, preparation, and an understanding of the challenges you might face.
To get you started, here are our tips on some of the best things to remember when hosting an online career event.
Don’t make sessions too long
It’s harder to hold the attention span of someone sitting in front of a laptop than someone in a quiet auditorium. There’s much less social pressure for your attendees to sit quietly and listen when their kitchen is right next door, and their laptop is both the gateway to your event and full of other distractions: social media, emails, music, Netflix. That means you have to work extra hard to make sure their focus stays with you and your event.
Of course, your event itself should be as interesting as possible. But another good tip is to reduce the length of your sessions. Consider reducing talking time by a third, or even a half. If your keynote speeches typically last forty minutes, try making them thirty minutes. If you have an AMA session that would normally last half an hour, try making it just fifteen minutes.
You will require your audience to pay close attention for a shorter amount of time, making it less likely that they will wander away, and the reduced length also has a psychological effect. Attendees will have less time to get all the information they want from the session, and so they are more likely to pay close attention, aware that they could miss a large portion of useful content very easily.
Enable different forms of interaction
In real life, different people prefer different ways of connecting, and online, this is only magnified. People might have different accessibility requirements and it’s also likely that your attendees will have differing levels of comfort with online interaction. Someone might be a slow typer and happy to jump on a video chat; someone else might be shy, and prefer to hide behind their keyboard.
A successful event platform will make different forms of interaction available. Video and text chats should both be instinctive parts of your event. On the Talentspace platform, we’ve also found upvoting in the Q&A section an extremely useful tool, giving attendees the option to boost questions they find particularly relevant, as it allows your audience to work together to shape a communal direction for any session.
Increase your commitment efforts
It’s easy to pat yourself on the back and call it a day when 1000 people sign up for an event. But while online events are generally easier to convince people to attend (they don’t even have to get out of bed!), it’s also typically harder to make sure people actually show up. Attendees might not have the same sense of having to leave their house and attend the event, and there’s often a lesser sense of FOMO for an online event than an offline one. Getting signs up for an online event is great, but it’s only the first step in making sure people actually attend.
Before hosting an online event, put a plan into place to increase your audience’s commitment. Some good tips are to ask audience members to sign up for individual sessions, which will give you more of a chance to remind them of each session as well as giving them a sense of excitement about individual parts of the event. You could also ask an attendee to submit at least one question for each session in advance: it sparks their curiosity and makes them want to attend to hear their personal question being answered. Finally, while people are less likely to pay money for an online event than an offline one, you could also consider adding some form of fee. People don’t like to feel they’ve wasted money, so even a nominal ticket fee (say, €3) could increase your audience’s commitment.
Organizers need to put more thought into how to make space for the connections and conversations that can happen more spontaneously offline.
Consolidate your archiving
On the one hand, an online event seems at once much easier to archive. There are any number of apps and tools you can use to record your laptop screen, and when all else fails, a simple screenshot will do the trick. Online events are also usually cheaper to record than an offline event, as you’ll rarely have to pay a professional filmographer or photographer to capture the moment.
Consider the atmosphere
Let’s not dance around the issue: it’s hard to build an atmosphere for an online event the same way you would an offline one. Obviously, there’s less of a chance for chit-chat, spontaneous jokes, handshaking, chance encounters, and more. But that doesn’t mean online events have to necessarily be sterile and segmented affairs. It just means that organizers need to put more thought into how to make space for the connections and conversations that can happen more spontaneously offline.
There are many ways you can approach this issue. The most important thing is to think it through and create a plan. You might want to create a general chat room that people can connect in throughout the day or more specific chat rooms dedicated to people with the same interests, creating specialized spaces for networking. You could have some fun by creating a “speed dating” style round of conversations. At the end of our Online Talent Space, we even had a live DJ streaming from his apartment! Connections online will always be different, but that doesn’t mean they have to be worse.
Need help hosting your own online careers event? Get in touch.