08 Sep Reimagining Poster Sessions and Roundtables for Virtual Events
Like many industries, event planning has certainly been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. But that hasn’t stopped people from wanting to get together to make meaningful connections and develop actionable measures for creating change.
For event planners, at least for the time being, that means bringing people together in the virtual world. While there are challenges to doing so, today’s technologies provide great opportunities to enhance the online experience and make for impactful events.
Creating online events comes down to figuring out ways to translate the activities at physical events to the virtual world. Two activities that actually translate very well are poster presentations and roundtable discussions.
Poster presentations can offer plenty of opportunities for engagement. When it comes to presenting a poster, think more along the lines of an interactive infographic than simply a static PowerPoint slide. A colorful and informative presentation can include various “add-ons” available via a few clicks that allow participants to engage in more information or even interact with the presentation. For instance, graphic elements may call for participants to “click here” to view a video, obtain a download, or participate in an online poll. The poster presenter, meanwhile, may give a live presentation at a preset time. By recording the presentation, it can be made available to attendees at their leisure.
At a recent digital event for women owned/led businesses, JDC Events created a Thought Leadership Lounge for top sponsors as part of a poster presentation. Content on the virtual poster included a call-to-action for participants:
Welcome to a place where Thought Leaders prevail!
Click below to immerse yourself in wise perspectives from prestigious conference sponsor experts, focused on Reimagining Business. Then, move to the Exhibit Hall to for a chance to connect directly with these industry leaders in one-on-one conversations.
Sponsors of the lounge were allowed to post a 90-second to three-minute video on their interpretation of Reimagining Business. As part of their space, they could also include links to other resources.
Virtual roundtables are also opportunities for event participants to engage. In the virtual world, a roundtable may be a live-streaming event involving several speakers displayed onscreen at the same time, while a moderator manages the discussion and other event staff manage participant engagement.
In addition to the main roundtable, other ways to engage participants include creating opportunities for participants to branch off into smaller roundtables around more focused discussions. These smaller roundtables may be scheduled in advance to allow participants to prepare to engage, and are often only invitation-only events; virtual roundtables are ideal for discussions among executive-level decision-makers. For instance, at the women owned/led executive conference, JDC Events created a sponsor-led executive roundtable, an invitation-only session on the impact of seismic behavior change on retail and what’s next. Participants of the roundtable took part in a Q&A session and were invited to share their challenges, pivots, and wins with other business leaders. The roundtable was sponsored by an online retail delivery company.
In addition to scheduled roundtables, depending on your event, your team may also want to be prepared for any impromptu roundtable sessions that could occur in real time as topics arise that warrant further discussion by smaller groups of participants.
To ensure your event’s poster presentations and virtual roundtables go off without a hitch, consider these tips:
- Check the platform you intend to use for any limitations on capacity to ensure you can accommodate your community.
- In addition to pre-recorded materials strategically placed in a presentation as impactful “extras,” consider also pre-recording your speakers as a backup for any technical glitches that threaten to derail a presentation or for speakers who may be unable to connect on the day of the event.
- Ensure speakers have all their physical materials ready to go in advance, and have them uploaded or ready to upload (and, ideally, tested) in preparation for their presentation.
- Ensure your speakers are aware of what’s required of them. Do they need a bit of upfront training on the technology or in presenting online? Do they need to tighten up their presentation to accommodate shorter attention spans in the virtual world? Do they need to be available for a Q&A session?
With both poster presentations and virtual roundtables, test your platform in advance to ensure you are prepared to allow new participants to enter and exit without disrupting the session. Practice switching between moderators or screens and make sure you are prepared to for any live chat, Q&A, polling, or other interactive features that you choose to employ. These interactive features are ideal for breaking up a session into digestible parts to maintain engagement in the virtual world.
As with in-person events, planning is key for successful engagement in the virtual world. Understand the needs and wants of your event participants, and then spend some time preparing for your online sessions and interactions. Make the content interesting and relevant, and you’ll find that your pivot to virtual events will continue to provide meaningful connections and value.
Shafer Busch is JDC’s Senior Manager of Portfolio and Strategy. Her role is about listening, taking notes, and rapidly adapting to changing needs. That’s how she brings people together while working under tight deadlines—across states and nations.
After earning her Masters in Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs, Shafer spent seven years working on events in the U.S. and Middle East. As COO and director of events at an international nonprofit, she created events to entertain, inspire ideas, and empower voices. A specialist in working with policymakers, diplomats, and entertainers toward a common goal, Shafer’s accomplishments include bringing together an impressive list of who’s who. Her portfolio includes: an annual awards dinner for individuals and organizations that shape social and public policy, a dinner and conversation for U.S. government and intelligence leaders and creative minds from Showtime’s “Homeland” series, and a student discussion event about women in film with the Oscar-winning director of “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty.”