How to Move A Live Event Online

What do you do when a global pandemic forces the cancellation of a signature live event? In the wake of Covid-19, many organizations were faced with this question, often with little time to develop a new strategy. In this post, Kelly Kirkendoll of Thrive Public Relations, shares the lessons learned from helping clients to move large scale events online

Recreating a live event online is not an easy task. The challenges are numerous, compounded by a short time to plan and execute something none of us had ever done before.

The 3 most significant challenges were:

  • Technology and Platform. The first hurdle in recreating a live event online is HOW. How do you make this happen, with multiple stakeholders in various locations? Unlike a carefully planned in-person event, you have to manage logistics with everyone in their respective homes. Were there tools available within our budget and, if so, what were they? 
  • People. With live events, you get logistics and technical support from the organizer or venue. We realized that we needed to identify who could help us determine the best tool(s) and serve as our technical director? We also had to figure out who could still participate in this new virtual event as an emcee, entertainer, and participant? Communications and Marketing. Our live event was an annual fundraiser so we had to figure out how to get the word out and get people to tune-in and donate?

You can spend a year planning an in-person event, so it can seem daunting to take that process and pivot to an online strategy. We had to shift our perspective and come up with a new vision. However, while the circumstances we are in are new, you still use the same methodology for planning and executing an event. Below is my advice for anyone who is considering a live online event.

  • In the midst of a pandemic, look especially close at your messaging and your ask
  • Consider natural give-back options that fit your organization and event, in terms of content and, possibly, sharing a percentage of funds with an appropriate organization
  • Start ASAP — if you even think you MIGHT need to do something like this, start researching and planning NOW
  • If taking an event online expands or changes your target market, adjust the messaging to take your new target market into account
  • Create a running order for your event ahead of time
  • Make sure your technical director (and everyone appearing live) has a good internet connection; ideally, everyone will have a backup connection (especially your technical director)
  • Create a silent communication channel(s) ahead of time (i.e. Slack) that you can use during the event; practice with it ahead of time
  • Make sure each live participant has two devices set up and ready to go — i.e. a mobile phone and a computer (one for capturing their video/voice and another for the silent communication channel)
  • Practice with your technology tool — do a run-through with all the people who will be live on the front end (i.e., emcees, speakers, performers) and any support team members (i.e., Facebook moderators who will be posting and interacting during a Facebook Live event)
  • Practice again
  • If you’re going to use something like the Switcher Studio solution and are going to use pre-recorded video segments, realize that the live folks can only see the other live people and the technical director inside the app (unless they have a third device running and can pay attention to it). Have the emcee(s) watch some of the pre-recorded video ahead of time and/or direct them on what it is being said or happening in each segment, so they make appropriate remarks and transitions
  • If it’s a fundraising event, offer two or more ways to donate … for convenience and just in case one option experiences an unexpected glitch

With careful planning it is possible to pull off a successful live online event. 

For a real life example, watch a 265 second recap of a live Fundraising event that Kelly worked on at: https://www.facebook.com/kidswhocare/videos/2661263380824163/

Kelly Kirkendoll, President of Thrive PR, is an accomplished communications, public relations and marketing expert with more than 20 years of experience. Kelly is also a food blogger/influencer at Kitchen Gone Rogue, a food photographer and the food columnist at TheaterJones.com.

Kelly Kirkendoll

Kelly Kirkendoll, President of Thrive PR, is an accomplished communications, public relations and marketing expert with more than 20 years of experience. Kelly is also a food blogger/influencer at Kitchen Gone Rogue, a food photographer and the food columnist at TheaterJones.com.

Photo by Ambitious Creative Co. – Rick Barrett on Unsplash