How to avoid virtual event calamity
Key points to help you sidestep the pitfalls of internet-based fundraising
Don’t depend on wifi
Few things make your heart sink faster than your internet connection going wibbly in the middle of your virtual fundraiser, leaving your screen filled with frozen participants and the speaker’s voice doing a passable impression of R2D2. To make sure you get the best possible signal, ditch the wifi and plug your computer directly into the router: you just need an ethernet cable and, if your computer doesn’t have a special port, an adaptor. If your computer’s nowhere near the router don’t fear – bits of affordable tech like the TP Link power adaptor can turn your home’s electrical wiring into network cables through some sort of technical hocus-pocus which means you can get a strong, steady signal anywhere.
Get your timings straight
It’s really easy for virtual events to over-or under-run. Go too short and you risk leaving your punters feeling underwhelmed. Go too long and you’ll start to see their eyes glaze over and their knees jiggle as they yearn for an overdue wee-break. Guard against either scenario by having a full run-through with a stopwatch in advance, by giving speakers a five-minute warning that they need to wrap up and by building in some extra content which you can bring out if the scheduled half hour Q+A peters out after 30 seconds.
Check out the full range of features
It’s worth acquainting yourself with all the functions of your virtual event platform to see whether it’s got some useful lesser-known gimmicks that could help you. On Zoom, for example, there’s a little-used ‘breakout room’ button that enables you to split attendees into small groups in individual chat rooms, which is perfect for creating teams for your virtual pub quiz for example. On other platforms you can conduct real-time multiple choice questions - allowing you the full Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? experience. Do some googling and watch some YouTube explainer videos to make sure you’re getting the most out of your tech.
Mute yourself – and others
It’s an obvious lesson but one that bears repeating: unless you’re running an interactive session, you’ve got to hit the mute button – and make sure it’s hit – on everyone who’s not speaking. This is vital to make sure there are no feedback loops with background noise being amplified from a dozen different laptops. It also guards against one of those iced-water-in-the-bowel moments when you shout “Have you seen my clean pants?” to your partner during a boring bit of the proceedings and then realise everyone heard you. NB If this does happen to you, the only way forward is to style it out and pretend that ‘My clean pants’ is the name of your pet cat.
Beware children and animals
It’s not a proper virtual event without at least one unexpected entry from a cat / dog / small child dressed as Batman who urgently wants to show you their latest Lego creation, oblivious to the fact that you’re midway through a major bidding war in a virtual auction of promises. Wherever possible get another adult in your household to mind Mr Tiddles and to field all Lego-based enquiries for the duration. Also ask everyone else in the house to stay off the wifi for the duration of the call. A streamed Paw Patrol marathon may keep the younger members of your household occupied, but could also mean a return to frozen participants and that dreaded R2D2 impression.