”I’ve been following your posts,” the message started, “and am working on organizing a summit for managers in my org. Could we talk?”
Fast forward to six weeks later.
The Fortune 100 company ended up hiring me in three capacities:
- Strategic advising: to optimize the experience design, timing, and approach.
- MC: as the Master of Ceremonies, I was the “face” and facilitator of the entire event, welcoming attendees, setting the scene, introducing and thanking speakers, keeping everything running on time, liaising with everyone to make sure everything ran smoothly, and helping attendees get the most out of the experience.
- Speaker/presenter: I presented an interactive session on (what else?) engaging virtual meetings! 😄
Although my presentation got a lot of positive comments from attendees, where I believe the company got the biggest bang for their buck was in deciding to hire me as a strategic advisor and MC.
Whereas my presentation was an important element of the day — just like all the other presentations —— the strategic recommendations I made to the event schedule and flow, along with my role as the MC, impacted the overall attendee experience of the event as a whole.
Let’s Talk Event Flow
If you’ve ever been to a virtual summit or conference, you may have had the rather mind-numbing experience of going from session to session, frequently without breaks.
It’s often a passive consumption experience, with no attempt at helping participants integrate what just happened.
There’s also no emotional peak. No build.
If you were to plot most summits or conferences out visually, it would be like a flat line.
A more effective experience design is like an arc, building to a peak, or pinnacle moment. (Hat tip to Jenny Sauer-Klein, who teaches this concept in her work.)
This is the moment that fulfills the promise of your event. It’s an experiential moment of high intensity, usually about 3/4 of the way through.
My clients had, thankfully, built a number of breaks into their draft schedule. They also had a naturally pinnacle moment already built in at about the 3/4 mark.
More Tips for Optimizing Virtual Summits
I recommended they also add:
- An “Unofficial Start” that I facilitated as MC, during which I welcomed attendees as they entered the room, and engaged them in an activity before the official content started.
- Time for brief “integration moments” after each segment, where I, as MC, could invite attendees to share (in chat) their takeaways from the keynote or presentation.
- An event “wrap-up,” also facilitated by me, to invite attendees to share their biggest insights, and tie a bow on the event as a whole.
In addition, I made a different, fun slide for each of the breaks, inspired by the summit theme, which I shared using Ecamm Live while streaming upbeat music I’d put together in a playlist.
And one of my favorite little fun details is to have upbeat music playing when everyone comes back into the main room from breakout rooms. That always adds a festive feel. 😄
Plus, of course, I brought my personality and presence to the proceedings.
(Since I’m “just being me,” I tend to take it for granted that playing this role surely comes naturally to everyone! But the closing speaker reminded me that being an MC does NOT come naturally to everyone when he typed in the backchannel chat:
“Melissa, you are an exceptional host. Thanks again for doing this!”)
All together, these seemingly small adjustments lent a cohesiveness to the event that attendees really appreciated, if their lively chat engagement was any gauge!
It was gratifying to help turn the goals of the organizers into a reality.
I look forward to doing more events like this. It was a lot of fun!
Interested to learn more? Message me to chat about how I can help you design and produce a virtual event that attendees will rave about.
Want to experience some brain-friendly exercises that activate learning while building connection? Come to my next Non-Boring Virtual Meetings Learning Lab.
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