Over the last 6 months, Beetroot held over 30 events with the goal of forming tech communities in 6 cities throughout Ukraine. We were aiming for offline meetings and networking, but had to quickly adjust to online in March when the nationwide lockdown brought us a new reality.

Like many others, we use Zoom and Google Meet for work cases, but organizing a webinar for 100+ people was something we had to figure out on the go. Just a few weeks later, we hosted 10 webinars in 7 days for more than 500 participants. What lessons were learned and how online events can improve your company brand – our PR and Event Coordinator, Tanya Nityagina, would like to share.

Goals

Organizing an online event, starts with having a goal in mind. Determine the needs of your audience and your business, as the webinar topic should cover both of them.

At Beetroot, we use webinars to attract new developers for open vacancies. For example, we organize a Full-Stack related event when we are looking for Full-Stack devs. The same goes for keeping our tech communities rolling – .NET event for a .NET community.

Online is a field for experiments

To support the activities of our tech communities, we often held a series of events called beetups: 2 or 3 speakers in a row, 20 minutes each , using a short, precise, and useful format. What we loved is that the Q&A section usually took twice as long as the speech itself. We found the more people wanted to discuss the topic or interact with the speaker, the better our meeting went.

Since the fall of 2019, beetups have been our main format for tech events. When the lockdown began in March, beetups were first to go online and they were just as good as before.

Beetup at Beetroot

In order to share more of our tech experience, social and environmental initiatives, culture, and values, we needed to attract a new audience to Beetroot. This was our first reason for implementing online workshops and lectures. Before this need, we believed offline communication and interaction were more valuable and rarely organized online events.

Beetroot lectures usually last around 1.5 hours, but we chose to cut the time in half for our online format. First, it’s difficult to keep someone’s attention for so long while sitting in front of a monitor, and second, 1.5 hours of peace and quiet are surreal for people who have their entire family at home.

One of Beetroot’s first online beetups, focusing on React development, received 120 registrations in a week and gathered 85 online participants.

To better connect with the audience, we also requested the speakers adjust their speeches to be interactive. By the way, this interactive approach became a great motivator for joining the online stream with everyone else, instead of watching the recorded stream later (all our online events are recorded and available to all participants).

Making mistakes is also part of the experience, as is getting lots of feedback about the events. We suggest you experiment with new ideas, find the formats that work best for you, and be determined to make them better each time. Do all you can to help your audience fall in love with your events (and your brand).

Love is all you need

So simple and so important. People will not only remember how good the talk was, but how well it was organized and your personal approach. It can be a make-or-break experience for people when deciding if they will join you again. Always be loyal and patient, listen, and show that you care.

After a month of online events and constant communication with participants, we are already seeing a 50% return of attendees to future events and more open communication.

Usually, there aren’t many expectations for a free online event. But, in quarantine, even “so-so” content is a fail. With many brands fighting for the attention of the audience, any public event should be indicative of the quality you offer.

We don’t use ticket aggregators, but communicate with all participants personally (even when there are more than 100) by mail or in messenger. This gives a slight feeling of human contact, which is especially important if your brand is not as known and you need to leave a good first impression. Accept all comments and mixed reactions, even the negative ones. Take them as advice and adapt to your audience.

Get ready

Often, organizers do not work with their speaker as much as they should before the event. This is why the pre-event phase is so important. Never end your planning time without agreeing on the topic and date of the speech (especially if it is an online event and the speaker has never worked with this format).

What can be done to guide your speaker?

  1. Help your speaker choose the right format and topic.
  2. Share more about your audience and past experiences on relevant events: what went wrong, what worked well. If necessary, offer to help with the presentation design.
  3. Arrange a test call. Show how the streaming service works, run the presentation, and if needed, listen to the talk itself and give feedback.
  4. Be present and attentive during the event. If something goes wrong, you should know how to fix it.

Online Beetups

Moderation is important

Just as your speaker, you also should be prepared for the event. I write an advanced plan – what I need to say or do during every part of the event (especially if something goes wrong). It helps me to remain calm and have less stress while the event is running. Here are some other tips I use for Beetroot online events:

  • I connect to the stream 30 minutes in advance while participants are welcome to join 15 minutes before the start. I recommend them to be early to check the connection, the mic or simply chat with others. Also, it’s better for the speaker to start when everyone is present and paying attention.
  • We recorded each stream and sent it to participants for free.
  • 10, 5 and 3 minutes before the stream, I remind attendees about the start time and what our topics are for the current event.
  • I make a short, warm greeting and talk a little about Beetroot. This part is very important and shouldn’t sound like you’re advertising.
  • I remind participants of the program, timing, technical features of the stream and that I will help the speaker with moderation.
  • At the end, I remind everyone they will receive the recording and presentation the following day.
  • I’m the last person to exit the stream, after saying goodbye to all attendees.
  • Last but not least: do not forget to say “thank you!” People have devoted a piece of their personal time to you and your event.

Communication is key in everything you do!

You can track the following online and offline events from Beetroot in the Events section of our Facebook page – click here to learn more.

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