Part of our Virtual Fundraising Event and Gala series, view more articles here – Virtual Fundraising Events
When it comes to virtual events there’s nothing more important to its success than the ability to effectively communicate with its attendees.
If a technical glitch occurs it could cause your message to be garbled or missed altogether. An experience like that may cause your audience to conclude that your nonprofit is a disorganized, unstructured organization who may not be able to control other areas of business, including the work your donors and sponsors want to support.
Having a general knowledge of the technical structure of your communications tools will help you see areas that could be problematic and head off disruptions before they occur. Your information technology guru is your first go-to person, but understanding what they are facing when an incident occurs will help you stay in the driver’s seat when decisions have to quickly be made and executed.
Technology that Supports Virtual Events
By its very nature, producing a virtual event is comparable to putting together a hundred-piece techno puzzle. Every microsecond of your presentation is either affected by or is reliant on the technology that enables it to get to viewers and create the feeling that everyone is in the same “room” as the production. With a great program, a dynamic production plan, and reliable technology—cameras, lighting, audio, virtual connections, etc.—you can bring the feeling of togetherness to life for your viewers, whether they are down the street, or across the world.
Let’s first discuss your audience. Knowing the size of your audience, their general locations, and the level of comfort they have with technology helps your IT professional guide you through rough spots that could occur. Will there be enough bandwidth available on their end? Are the tools available on your website and in your presentation at the right knowledge level for the viewer to easily use? These are a few of the questions that must be considered.
One of the biggest decisions you will have to work out with your IT professional is whether to produce a live broadcast through a streaming platform, a recorded presentation that can be uploaded for on-demand viewing, or a combination of the two. There are benefits to each option.
A live broadcast provides a more dynamic, “in the moment” feeling that can up the enthusiasm for your viewers and give you options on how you raise money (through a silent auction, for example), but disruptions in a live broadcast can lose valuable pieces of information.
The on-demand option makes the program available to people at their convenience and gives you the option of editing out sticky places in the program prior to putting it out to the masses. However, a pre-recorded broadcast can lose the feeling of connectedness that can bring about the feeling of community. Producing a live-streamed broadcast with the intention of recording it for access is a solution that encourages both the people who feel compelled to give during a live event, as well as those who want to view the program at their convenience.
Another area of consideration are the elements included in your program. Video presentations, audio recordings, polling questions, surveys, live streaming videos, documents, and other additional presentation features could require additional equipment to support a clean-running presentation from start to finish.
Make sure your website is ready for those donations to come rolling in with an easy-to-use donate button, social media icons, a countdown clock, and a goal measurement tool to encourage donors to contribute and spread the message for you.
Including your viewers in the program is key to making that personal touch come to life for the people at home. You can do this by including a chat room on your website. Your audience can ask questions, comment, start discussions, and provide immediate feedback through words, “Like” buttons, and emojis. Assign a vivacious team member to be the moderator who can keep the conversation lively and have an IT person ready to handle any issues the viewers have with the technology on their end.
Integrating a live event with additional platforms, such as social networks, a customer management platform, etc., will also require additional bandwidth and time. Your IT specialist will need to evaluate the location bandwidth needed to support these on both ends of the connection and research latency issues for downloading presentation elements and seamless streaming capabilities for your viewers.
Keep in mind the extra cost these extra features could add to your budget, including streaming rates.
Keep your program interesting with multiple cameras to provide a feeling of depth to your sets. Use one for a wide-angle perspective, another for a friendly mid-level shot focused on the host, and a close-up camera for a feeling of intimacy when a featured presenter is on camera to make an appeal.
Nothing can turn viewers off faster than incoherent audio when an important message is being conveyed. Your IT professional should be able to steer you in the right direction for quality audio equipment that can provide you with the proper sound capture.
Lighting can have a huge impact on the effectiveness of an on-screen event. Experiment with the placement of your lights to find the right positioning for your set and presenters. Look for shadows, shiny spots, and other glaring irregularities that will take the attention away from the message. Also, ask your presenters to arrive early so you can catch any issues with their clothing, jewelry, hair, or makeup.
Your set design could follow a range of examples; from casual coziness to a professional conference room. It’s all up to you! Adding in a few plants will make all the sets have a more welcoming feel and you might want to add a conversation area that is separated from the “main stage” to provide a more intimate feeling to the broadcast and provide a visual separation as you go through different parts of your program. Your technology team will help you with the logistics of arranging the cords effectively, leaving enough free space for their equipment, and providing a clean looking set.
Just like you would do during any production, you’ll want to schedule a series of rehearsals to ensure all your equipment is working just as it should. Check each aspect on the stage to see how it comes across on a computer. Assign your IT professional the task of making sure the correct digital connections are in place and working properly, and during the broadcast, you’ll want to have the IT team conducting real-time monitoring to make sure nothing goes awry.
Archiving the Event
After the event has concluded you’ll want to keep the broadcast to reuse in marketing materials, share on social media, and even re-broadcast as a pre-recorded event. Talk to your IT guru about the on-demand shelf life and setting up local and cloud-based data records, as well as adding captions to the recording for viewers who have hearing issues. Offering a written transcript of the presentation is also recommended so you can easily refer back to specific areas when promoting the event or for use in marketing later.