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10 things we’ve learned from organizing online events

10 things we’ve learned from organizing online events

Fuckup Nights is a beautiful movement: more than 300 cities in 90 countries, creating unique meeting places for people to listen to  failure stories, reflect on their own, and feel simultaneously vulnerable and safe.

Before the pandemic, around 2 Fuckup Nights events were hosted each day,  somewhere on the globe. Obviously we couldn’t just wait for COVID to pass (will it anyway?), so we invited our communities and speakers online! How original, right?

However obvious and unavoidable this transition may seem, it still came with its fair share of fuckups. Looking back on the past 4 months, we wanted to share 10 things we’ve learned from organizing online events. May it inspire, and perhaps help you with hosting your next/first online event:

1.Make it FUN! 🎉
It’s already bad enough for your audience to have to watch an event on a screen, after spending all day on it, home officing, so grab their attention! Joking around, using images (preferably fun and eye-catching) rather than text on your slides, alternating between your presentation and human faces, leaving room for interaction, inviting a guest musician, … all of these things can make your event stand out!

2.Keep it simple and short 💥

Simple, as in:

  • Using a platform you might already know, vs. trying out an innovative and complex one that you haven’t mastered.
  • Adapting your regular in-person formats, going with something you know works.

That said, simple doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare your event. Even a casual live interview with some Q/A from the audience requires preparing your guest beforehand. Together, go over the topics you plan to discuss, prepare the event flow, and get some questions ready in case you end up with a quiet audience.

3.Choose your platform and format wisely 🧐
OK, we did say to keep it simple. Yet the choice of the right platform and event format is key. What do you want your event to look like? How much do you want to engage your audience?

If you want to see everyone’s video and enable them to turn on their microphone, then the “meeting” format is for you (on Zoom for example).

Or do you want to restrict your audience to a chat/comments/Q&A section? In that case, the “webinar” format, or a simple social media livestream might just work for you (directly on Facebook, Instagram, or through a platform like StreamYard or OBS for ex.). 

4.Set specific roles 🧢
Understanding what each person within your team is responsible for during, before, and after the event will help you work better as a team and deliver a great virtual experience. Some roles may include:

  • Moderator
  • Q&A responsible for reading and answering live questions
  • Technician responsible for solving any problems with the platform, audio, etc.
  • Social media interaction to keep the conversation going with the community

5.Take care of (technical) details 🔎
Let’s take the example of screen-sharing. Close all of your computer tabs and apps (especially the noisy ones), clean your desktop, open your presentation software in a specific window and make sure you know how to properly share your screen and/or your music, if needed. Oh, and try to have the best internet connection possible! Connect your computer to your modem via cable, if possible, or at least stay close to your router! 😉

These small things can actually make a difference, and make the whole thing flow nicely.

6.Test & rehearse 🧪
Testing will help you figure out these small things. Have a look at the platform you want to use, and try it out for yourself! If you’re using social media, what about creating a fake profile/page, without any followers, to test live streaming for real?

Also, have someone on the “other side”, watching the live, to give you feedback on the whole “look and feel”, post a comment, ask a question, etc.

Let’s say you have external guests during your event: set up a rehearsal with them. Go over the event flow, listen to their presentations, give them feedback if needed, and check technical details: does everyone have the software? Good internet connection? Do the speakers have high-quality video and sound? Is the screen sharing/ remote control of the slides working for them? etc.

Story time: one of us was supposed to host one of our very first online events, yet his Internet/computer had issues during the rehearsal, so we switched to someone else for the real event! Phew! 😅

Finally, on D-day, log in early with your speakers and go through all  the details one last time before going live!

9.Engage your audience! 🙌
Well, what’s the point of streaming live if you don’t engage them? You might as well pre-record something and take the time to edit it nicely. 🤷‍♂️

How to engage a virtual crowd? Have a chat/comment section, a dedicated Q&A moment, launch a poll, have some live music performance, host an icebreaker at the beginning (through smaller rooms like Breakout Rooms in Zoom Meetings for example, or using a third-party like Icebreaker), …

Our favorite/random moments during our “after-event parties” online were when the UK event turned into drinking games, or when we watched a full movie at the end of one South African edition!

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