It’s your first time planning a virtual event, and there’s so much to do. From picking and customizing a virtual event platform, to finding speakers and attendees to sign up, the To Do list just keeps getting longer and longer.
And on top of that, there’s the pressure that comes with having a very specific, unchangeable deadline looming, and a steep learning curve.
It’s up to you to get everything done that needs to be done, all in time for your virtual event.
And if all of that is squarely on our shoulders, it can feel overwhelming and isolating. But there’s hope. Even if you don’t have a team of employees standing by to help you, you have more resources than you know. People who can help you share that burden.
That’s what we’re talking about in today’s episode of The Virtual Event Strategist podcast.
In the Spring of 2018, I left the CMO role I’d held for a number of years, and joined Agorapulse to run the influencer marketing program. While I’d been in the marketing industry for nearly a decade, I was joining a new company and a new team and found myself feeling extremely isolated. I had a terrific boss at Agorapulse but who’s expertise was in sales and revenue, and to whom social media influencers were unknown, and I didn’t have a team of my own. When I was tasked with creating a virtual event strategy for the company to leverage our influencers, it was all on me to build. I didn’t have much in terms of resources to rally, and certainly didn’t have people around me that I knew I could unload on.
This is the fourth and final episode in our series on Virtual Event Strategy, all of which have been designed to help you deal with the largest challenges facing first time virtual event planners. Our first episode helped you establish your purpose for your virtual event so that you have clarity in your goals. The second episode encouraged you to narrow the focus of your event so that you can resonate more with your audience. And the third episode walked you through a process for getting organized and planning your virtual event so that you aren’t overwhelmed by the sheer number of tasks on your plate.
By the end of today’s episode, you will feel relieved. Relieved that you do not have to do everything yourself, and relieved that you aren’t the only one thinking about and working on this virtual event project. You will also be even more successful, because once you are able to offload certain tasks, that will free your mind to focus time and energy on those other remaining tasks.
Get Help With Your Virtual Event Strategy
And that’s the first important point that I want to make today. If you’re anything like me, a part of you prefers and perhaps even enjoys being responsible for every aspect of a project because then it’s easier to control the outcome. I can decide for myself what I’m going to work on and how long I’m going to work on it and when I feel as though a particular task or aspect of the virtual event has been completed to my satisfaction.
When it’s just me making decisions, the decision making process is easier and faster, isn’t it? I don’t need to discuss it in committee.
However, Miller’s Law states that the number of objects the average person can hold in working memory is seven plus or minus two.
What does that mean?
The cognitive psychologist George A. Miller of Harvard University’s Department of Psychology published an article in 1956 in Psychological Review. In it, he posed the theory that our short term memory is limited in capacity and duration and, as a result, can only handle about seven items at any given time. Because the capacity of each slot is undetermined, the practice of chunking things we need to know or do into larger segments is extremely helpful, and that was one of the exercises we went through in episode 3.
But what’s even more relevant now is the fact that, even though we’re bombarded with incredible amounts of information constantly, and even if we chunk down and focus on a specific project like a virtual event, there’s still too much for our brain to easily process and retain constantly. We can only really think about seven, plus or minus two, tasks at once.
Our ability to remember and focus on short term tasks is limited.
Therefore, if we try to assume control and ownership over every single task needed for a virtual event at once, we’ll fail. It’s as simple as that.
Multitasking has limits.
Instead, we must recognize that we will be at peak performance if we strive to focus on a limited number of tasks at once. If we’re able to offload or delegate some parts of the virtual event plan we’ve assembled, that will leave us free to focus on only the remaining tasks.
All Help Is Helpful
The second point I want to make is that, while we’re talking about virtual event planning and strategy, our minds do not distinguish between event-related inputs and non event-related inputs. Meaning, our limits to what we can focus on at any given moment extend to every single thing that’s competing for our attention, not just this project.
Slack. Work emails. Instant messages. Social media notifications. Deliveries to the front door. Dinner plans. Doctor’s appointments. Kid’s activities. News.
These are all inputs, personal and professional, that are pulling at our attention and pulling us away from focusing on planning our virtual event. Some of these are inevitable and some cannot be ignored or delegated or postponed. But some can.
As we work through this series of ideas on where and how you can get help, keep in mind that help can come from anywhere, and for anything, and it will be of help. If your partner can handle dropping your kids off at school for a week during your busiest time, that’s a task you don’t have to devote time and energy to completing, leaving you free to focus on something else instead.
We’ll revisit how else we can lean on personal connections in a moment. Just bear in mind that anything that requires your time and attention is something that you could potentially get help with.
Virtual Event Strategy Sources For Help
And you can start by helping yourself. The first idea is take stock of anything you have scheduled or planned, or which could potentially interrupt and distract, and consider how you can postpone, turn off, cancel or delegate those things.
Think about meetings, lower priority projects, or other tasks that you’re doing. Can any of that wait? What can you clear off your calendar or Asana? Also be proactive. If other people can schedule time with you, maybe you have a Calendly link others can use to book meetings, think ahead to the week of your event and other dates between then and now, and calendar-block the time you think you’ll need to focus on your work.
For instance, I know that if I have a dozen or more pre-recorded sessions from speakers due for a virtual event, that all need to be reviewed, uploaded, and connected to the virtual event platform, most of those are going to be delivered the day before the event. I might give those speakers an earlier deadline but, come on, let’s face it… they’ll all be late. Which means I need to block off the day before my virtual event to handle those recordings. That’s definitely not the day to allow a budget planning meeting for the next quarter.
Take a moment to assess your use of social media, and how much you allow all of the various apps to generate notifications that draw your attention. If you can disable some or all notifications, do it. If you aren’t active on a particular network, perhaps consider uninstalling the app from your device.
When it comes to Slack or email or even social media, consider having designated times of the day when you check those channels and respond to messages, leaving the rest of your day free to focus on higher priority tasks. During these other times, you can disable notifications so you’re not distracted. I love that when I turn on Focus on my iPhone, it automatically enables it for my MacBook as well, and ensures I’m notification-free until I’m ready to resume. While I typically use this when I’m doing live video interviews or podcast recordings like this one, it’s also incredibly convenient when I know I really need to focus on a high priority task and cannot afford to sacrifice any of my seven bits.
Next, start talking to the people around you. Co-workers and colleagues, friends and family. Start by letting them know what you’re working on and planning, and the scope of your project.
Certainly if you have a team, start working with them immediately to communicate your virtual event plan and delegate tasks accordingly. And if you’re a part of a team or larger company, communicate laterally and to your boss what your plan is and solicit ideas on how others can help.
But what if you don’t have a team, or aren’t part of a larger company where you at least have co-workers who can chip in?
Start with your friends and family, particularly if you have a spouse, and let them know what you have coming up. Explain to them the scope of the project and what it means to you, and how busy you’re going to be in the coming weeks and months. Treat your upcoming virtual event like a launch plan and communicate that to your loved ones so that they will understand where your attention is going and volunteer ways they can help.
Like a I mentioned a moment ago, getting help with the kids or with meal planning or anything else you might have on your plate at home, or in other areas of your life, will be of just as much help. As long as you communicate to the other people in your life what you have planned for your event, they’ll understand the context and be more willing to assist.
The reverse is also true. If we don’t communicate and do not help the people in our lives understand what we’re working on, how can we expect them to know how to help us? I know it can be challenging sometimes to explain what we’re working on, particularly to family and friends who perhaps aren’t in the industry and need more explanation and context to be able to understand the scope of our projects. But it’s worth taking the time now to explain. You will save yourself time and stress later on when you’re in a rush and need some last-minute help.
This next idea is the one that will not only help you with your virtual event, but perhaps be one of the most impactful steps you take in your personal journey, so write this down and make a plan to do this.
Form a mastermind group.
Unlike some of the paid masterminds you might see advertised, where you’re paying a fee to be a part of someone else’s community and learn from them, a true mastermind group is a small group of likeminded people who come together for common purpose: helping each other.
The best mastermind groups combine people who are on similar journeys, are not too far off from each other in terms of progress, and have varying similarity in some specific traits. In your case, you’ll want to think about other people in your industry, friends and colleagues whom you are already connected with, and with whom you share some other traits in common. Maybe you have three or four friends in the industry and you all live in the same city, or you’re all parents… something like that.
Approach the people you have in mind and suggest a regular meeting where you can each share what you’re working on and what you’re struggling with and allow everyone else in the group to weigh in. Believe me, the simple act of talking about and sharing our burdens with others is, in itself, a relief. And often when we do so, the people we’re talking to will be able to offer advice, suggestions, assistance, or even referrals to others, to help ease the burdens we’re carrying.
If you’d like to learn more about how to form and structure a mastermind group, I have a free course you can go through at bloggingbrute.thinkific.com.
Another idea for you to consider to help plan and organize your virtual event is to bring on one or more partners. These partners would be full share partners, meaning, they’d be expected to carry equal share of the load for planning the event, while also sharing equally the benefits, whether that’s revenue or registrations or exposure.
This works particularly well when you’re able to identify another brand in your industry that is targeting the same audience as you, but does not have any competing products or services. If, for instance, I wanted to host my own virtual event on virtual events, I could easily partner with a virtual event platform to help plan and organize a virtual summit and we would both benefit from the partnership.
I’m sure you can think of several brands or other consultants in your niche who would benefit from such an arrangement!
The next few ideas require that you allocate some budget and just keep in mind that for every dollar you invest, that’s a transference of energy and an opportunity to focus your attention elsewhere once you’ve made that investment.
Start by reviewing all of the tasks that you have determined in your virtual event plan and note those that could be easily outsourced. Need a bunch of graphics designed and created in bulk? Of course you do. But unless you are a graphic designer or a wiz at using Easil, get someone from Fiverr to help you with that. You’ll also find experts on Fiverr who can help with building registration forms and landing pages, copywriting, emails, social promotion, and more.
You can also turn to a virtual assistant (VA) to help with repetitive tasks like entering speaker and session info into your virtual event platform from a spreadsheet, or putting together speaker kits once you have all of their graphics, sharing links, and other details. Ideally, each speaker should get a personalized email from you that has everything they need to know, and all the ways they can help promote the event, already put together and formatted for them. A VA can handle that for you!
The larger your event – the more speakers and sessions and sponsors you have – the more useful a VA will be.
Speaking of large events… at some point, the size and scope of the event will simply require additional production staff.
Will you live stream sessions? If so, will you need a remote live producer? If that’s not something you have experience at doing, get help. If you’re planning on live streaming multiple sessions simultaneously for a multi-track virtual event, you will absolutely need additional remote live production assistance.
While it’s possible to leverage volunteer moderators and hosts, do not depend too much on volunteer staff when it comes to the critical production elements of your event. There’s no substitute for professional live streaming experience.
If you aren’t interested in learning all of the in’s and out’s of producing a virtual event, and have the budget, there are agencies and virtual event consultants who can produce the event for you. Meet with them to discuss your needs and determine how they can best be of assistance.
Finally, you can save yourself a lot of time and effort by hiring a virtual event strategist to train and guide you through the initial planning stages. A strategist will be of immense value to you and help you think through all of the tasks that need to be done, help you prioritize and schedule and delegate those tasks, and give you confidence in your direction.
Sometimes the help we need is for someone to do something for us. Other times, the help we need is a mentor who can answer our questions and help us in how we think about and approach a particular project. If that’s the kind of help you’d like with your next virtual event, let’s talk. I’d love to explore with you how a VIP Strategy Day might relieve some of your burden and help make your next virtual event a sold out summit.
But you know, sometimes the help we need is even deeper than that. Sometimes what we need is for someone to listen to us and be there for us when we need to really unload.
Like when my 360 mastermind started to meet in 2018 and we were there for each other. Jenn Herman, Amanda Robinson and Stephanie Liu, the four of us started meeting that summer, just once a month, and started to lean on each other. We built a private Facebook Group and Messenger Chat and before long, we were sharing and commenting on each other’s wins and struggles each and every day.
When I started organizing virtual events, they offered ideas and encouragement and support, which was vital at the time since I didn’t have a team. As a virtual event planner, I was definitely a one-man show, and deeply appreciated having that mastermind group to help me.
Years later, we remain the best of friends and colleagues and partners. We’ve built membership groups, published a book together, and continue to lean on each other daily. I hope you’ll take my advice and form a mastermind group of your own. Already have one? Leave a comment on the show notes, I’d love to hear about what your mastermind group means to you.
And this wraps up our initial series on virtual event strategy. We will certainly revisit some of these points and I will touch on other aspects of virtual event strategy in future episodes, but for now, go back and re-listen to these first four episodes again, now that you’ve made it through them once. Determining your Why, narrowing your Focus, building your virtual event plan, and identifying who can help you, will all resonate even more now that you have familiarity with the concepts.
Our next few episodes will dive into some specific tactics that you need to keep in mind as you’re moving toward your next virtual event, starting with a critical consideration that too many first-time virtual event planners overlook: having a backup plan.
Talk again soon.