5 steps for hosting a successful online event

Last week my colleague Colleen and I supported  a groundbreaking, education summit in New Mexico: “Unleashing Knowledge and Innovation for the Next Generation of Learning”, convened by the Stupski Foundation, West Wind Education Policy, and the Knowledge Alliance.  Besides making silly videos in our off-time, I had a bit of time to reflect about what makes an online component to a conference successful.  I came up with the following 5 steps, which I elaborated on over at Forum One’s “Influence” blog. I’d love to know what you think makes online events successful. Feel free to share your ideas in the comments.

1. Know your audience
This seems like a no-brainer, but oftentimes people omit this step and move straight to the technology.  Knowing your audience: what they want to get out of the online portion of the event, what you hope they do online during the event, and what their relative technical expertise is are critical pieces to this puzzle and all should ultimately inform your event web strategy.

2. Use media to your advantage
There are lots of great social media tools that can enhance an in-person event, but you don’t have to do everything! (And you shouldn’t try to!) Pick a few tools and use them well.

3. Be creative AND flexible
Don’t be afraid to try something different - there is no set recipe for success. Plan ahead and try out new techniques for online engagement, but don’t be afraid to switch direction mid-stream. You never know what you’ll find on-the-ground at a conference site and you may need to change your strategy depending on people’s access to the Internet, their comfort with the tools, etc.

4. Empower people, let them own the technology and the messages
You can’t do it all yourself, and you shouldn’t! Part of the fun of using online tools during an event is the way in which technology decentralizes communication and conversation across participants and presenters.

5. Have fun!
Just because an event is a professional activity doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Using online tools to explore the conference culture, the side conversations, the jokes, and the social experience is a great way to break up more dense content.

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