Standout Virtual Events – How to create an experience that your audience will love

by | Sep 29, 2020 | Collaboration, Conferences, Digital workplace, Reviews


I have no idea how many blog posts, reports and webinars have been published on how to work effectively on Zoom and Teams. (Other tools are available – I think!) What I am certain is that there have been too many. Now we need to move on and start to work out how to run a virtual event. It seems likely that there are going to be few, if any, on-site events before perhaps late 2021 because of the lead time needed to set up an event with any element of on-site participation.

I’ve already had experience of the European Conference on Information Retrieval 2020 as a virtual event in April, a large scale Microsoft Research Event in August and am involved in the planning of a virtual  Search Solutions 2020 at the end of November. This has enabled me to assess the advice given in this book against both event scenarios, but first I need to say something about ‘Standout Virtual Events – How to create an experience that your audience will love’

There are nine chapters in this 100page trade paperback format. On the surface this might seem to be slim but then so is a Longines watch but I’ve never heard this as a reason for not buying one! What you quickly realise is that this book encapsulates the speaking and event management skills of David Meerman Scott and the journalistic skills of Michelle Manafy (@michellemanafy). Every word is crafted with care and obvious enthusiasm, but this is balanced by a critical assessment of the challenges as well of the benefits of virtual events.

What I especially liked was the balance between the business planning of virtual events and how the content needs to be delivered. When you listen to a poor speaker in a conference room you can let your eyes and brain glaze over for a while. My experience of virtual events is that for some reason I expect perfection, probably as a reasonable return for sitting on an office chair with headphones on for an extended period of time.

This book has a high AHF (Ah Ha Factor!) and at least once a page and more often several times a page a crucially important insight is presented with elegance and authority. I really enjoyed reading it and it has certainly made sure I think extra-carefully about some facets of a number of forthcoming events I am either participating in or organizing. As a result the return on the purchase investment for me (and for you listening to me) will be immense beyond calculation as it will stop me making a fool of myself.

I have two reflections. The first is that some organisers are considering a hybrid event format, with a mix of video and onsite participants and presenters. Although there are many references to hybrid events in the book I would have welcomed them being brought together. The second is that video technology may be of significant assistance with multi-lingual events where real-time interpretation could be offered. The Microsoft Research event mentioned above ran voice-to-text beneath each speaker, which I found distracting and unhelpful as all the presentations were in English. A brief consideration of the pros and cons would have been helpful in Europe where the language changes every 400 miles or so.

In the UK the paperback price is £9.99. Just put the title in the search bar and press Return. In fact, buy two and send one to the organizer of the next virtual event you are participating in.  

Martin White