Virtual meetings require careful design to keep attendees engaged and deliver value for the hosts. But how do you translate the energy and insights from a face-to-face meeting through a computer screen? Marteen Vannest, senior consultant at Meeting Design Institute, which produces a free masterclass and certified training on producing online meetings, suggests starting with the “why” of the meeting.

1. Quality Eats Quantity for Lunch

One of the main reasons for business events or meetings is to deliver some kind of information. Attendees come to events to learn something. However, it is important to remember that content is just one part of the meeting paradigm. When designing an online event, content must be both engaging and relevant—and rightsized, not too much. The number of speakers at live events is constrained by travel and location, and while online events offer a solution to that problem, that doesn’t mean you should flood your event with too many speakers. Choose quality over quantity. This will also leave time for other important aspects of meetings.

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2. Give Them Space to Learn

Another valuable component in the business-meeting paradigm is networking. At live events, time is often set aside for networking, but participants can also make connections naturally by chatting to people during coffee breaks or discussing a presentation while in line for lunch. Therefore, making sure attendees have ample time for networking is important at online events. Vannest suggests scheduling break-out sessions of six to seven people frequently (think after every speaker or even every hour) In addition to pure networking opportunities, it will enhance the educational factor as attendees can learn just as much from discussions with other attendees as they can from a PowerPoint on stage. Learning in business isn’t linear; it often happen in the hallway. Your job is to give attendees the space to make those connections and enable that learning in a virtual environment.

3. Work Around Their Schedule

One of the benefits of online meetings is that they are more convenient than in-person meetings. Attendees do not have to travel, book hotels and take days off to attend an event. They can instead take three hours in their pajamas from anywhere in the world. That being said, it is important to make sure your online event is indeed convenient. One way to do that is to make sure attendees can attend your event regardless of what time zone they are in. This could mean asking speakers to hold repeat sessions or scheduling a multi-day event where attendees can log in whenever they like and view content on-demand.

4. Make a Profit

While COVID-19 has meant large revenue losses for many industries, online events can be profitable. Vannest said making money at online events comes primarily from opening the event up to more people. Without travel or venue occupancy constraints, online events can cater to many more people at once. Online events are also cheaper to plan, organize and carry out. While they should obviously not cost as much as traditional live events; Vannest says that he has seen online events make a bigger profit than their live counterparts due to a reduction in costs and increase in attendees.

5. Borrow Bonding Exercises from the Ballroom

Finally, people want to have fun at events! That is why planners spend so much time choosing great destinations, organizing after-meeting events and pampering attendees with great food and beverage options. While online fun might look a little different, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. To ensure your online meetings are unique and enjoyable, borrow bonding exercises from the ballroom. You could teach participants a few words in sign language to make communicating more fun, for example. Let your imagination be your guide.