A question came up about what makes for a successful online event on one of the many WhatsApp groups of which I’m a member. Here are my thoughts…

First off, what’s really of value to participants at an event? Maybe for some it’s the content, but for many the content is just an excuse to get together to meet other people and network.

Secondly, think about how you can use the media available to your advantage, rather than trying to lift and shift other formats into the media.

Three things that work (mostly based on my experience with the ongoing #GlobalCanteen project, which is essentially a long-running networking event)>

  • events can be spread out over time – create a destination that people can go to rather than a time when they need to all be there
  • small groups work better for networking online. Everyone is getting really excited about how many faces can be seen on a single Zoom screen, but I’m not sure that’s particularly valuable over the novelty factor.
  • you can span media (text, video, screen sharing, discussion groups) in a way that a physical world generally doesn’t.

What doesn’t work well:

  • Big audiences for streaming are online presentations, not “events” IMO. Nothing wrong with that, but zero networking opportunity
  • If you are going to do something that you need people to be in the same “place” at the same time, don’t compromise it by also trying to make that work later for others. Make it so you had to be there.
  • Don’t just lift and shift. Design for the media (repeating this point because it’s important).

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