Top Tips for Creating Successful Online Events

Social communication expert Natalie Koutia shares some tips to help you organize online events efficiently

Nathalie Koutia (@nathaliekoutia) is a freelance designer and social media enthusiast who is the communication director and social media manager of the international creativity event OFFF Festival. In her recent Domestika live, Nathalie tells us how a large live event was transported into a virtual world. She advises on how to ensure your online events, however small, are also successful.

Some of Nathalie Koutia's experience comes from the OFFF Festival.
Nathalie Koutia is a social media expert.
Nathalie Koutia is a social media expert.

When OFFF Barcelona 2020—due to celebrate its 20th anniversary last April,—could not go ahead as planned due to the pandemic, and was postponed to May 2021, the organizers decided to take immediate action. Showing resilience and determination, and inspired by one of Nathalie's favorite quotes by British essayist Walter Bagehot, they decided to transform one of their 'on tour' franchises— OFFF Sevilla—from a massive in-person experience to a successful online event.

'The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do'
Walter Bagehot.
William Bagehot's inspirational quote.
William Bagehot's inspirational quote.

It took a lot of imagination, but the organizers set to work immediately: they collated a book made up of over 100 artists' contributions, in celebration of a creative community still hard at work, and sent it to all who had signed up for the festival.

OFFF Sevilla was eventually brought to the public virtually. Ticket holders accessed a virtual platform: a retro-futuristic world inspired by graphics and video games that allowed interaction between users and participants. It gave the illusion of walking to a stage to attend a talk, access live chats, ask speakers questions, etc.

OFFF Sevilla 2020.
OFFF Sevilla 2020.
OFFF Sevilla 2020. Giorgia Lupi of Pentagram.
OFFF Sevilla 2020. Giorgia Lupi of Pentagram.

You don't have to be a big organization to create your own events, workshops, webinar, or anything that you've wanted to share with the whole world, thanks to endless online resources and platforms available today. Read on to learn some tips to ensure your online event goes smoothly, as presented by Nathalie in her talk:

1. Prepare

Do some tests with the speaker before the event. Make sure the audio, video, and internet connections are correctly functioning. It is also nice to have videos to show before the event that you can broadcast in high resolution.

2. Have a moderator

Ensure you have a moderator behind the scene collecting questions to ask the speakers, translating (if needed), and curating the chat rooms. They will bring people together and help them interact with each other despite not being physically together. It shows you are taking your audience seriously.

3. Promote on social media

Social media plays an integral part in your event. Promote your event before it goes live: get your audience excited about the event, make sure always to use social media to engage with your audience, and ask them to use hashtags or tag you in their stories. You need to be part of it as much as your audience: covering it online adds to the user experience.

Social media is a key tool for communication.
Social media is a key tool for communication.

4. Choose the right platform

Successful online events need to be supported by the right technology. You must consider what technology and what platform your audiences are using so that they can easily access your event.

Zoom has been used extensively worldwide over the past year, and many features have been optimized. To use the live stream feature, you will need a license, but once this is in place, you can then choose to live stream your conference via YouTube, Facebook, etc. Use the breakout rooms functionality to engage your attendees in activities if you are offering a workshop. If the idea of broadcasting live is still a bit daunting, you can pre-record a session on Zoom and upload it on Vimeo or YouTube. You can make your sessions exclusive by getting people to subscribe and access through a password.

Twitch has become a major platform for streamers choosing the platform to interact and host their own events, not merely gamers. Twitch became a hotspot for artists and musicians during the lockdown. A notable event was Quarantined, which showcased artists worldwide interacting, offering tutorials, showing their workflow, etc.

Twitch Quarantin3D. Clara Bacou.
Twitch Quarantin3D. Clara Bacou.

Instagram is a fantastic platform for live streams. Build a community and do the right promotion (when you go live, your profile appears in the stories banner, and users get notified) and connect with your followers in a straightforward, transparent, and unedited way, showcasing your most human and relatable side. Go to the Instagram stories page and swipe across to go live. You can see how many followers are active, and if you have a professional business account, the statistics can inform you on when your followers are more active and help you plan for the next online session.

Use Instagram to communicate your messages.
Use Instagram to communicate your messages.

5) Set the mood

When you go live, give your audience a few moments before you jump into the focus of your live session. Make some small talk, interact, and set the mood. Don't go off-topic, or your audience may become disengaged. Choose a good background and filter, if available.

6) Logistics

Just like real ones, online events need to have specific structures in place. You may want to sell tickets and make your workshop or webinar profitable. You can send out emails manually, but Nathalie suggests using Eventbrite, also recommended for free workshops or sessions, making it appealing as they take care of everything.

Prepare your event's logistics.
Prepare your event's logistics.

7) Focus on your community

Treat your community well, offer them an experience that they will learn from, get inspired by, and always remember. They will return to you.

8) No man is an island

The more support you can get from the people out there, the better: always support other artists and support other organizers. You are creating a community, and that community will help you and give you advice on your work. They are going to buy your sessions or your webinars. The more you get involved with an online audience, the better you gain their loyalty and trust.

Online events are only a complementary alternative to an in-person experience. We need to acknowledge their restrictions and respect their own mechanism and language. We now wait eagerly for

Nathalie Koutia recommends to create memorable experiences.
Nathalie Koutia recommends to create memorable experiences.

Watch now the full webinar with Nathalie Koutia and learn how to organize a successful event:

If you want to learn more about Nathalie's work and learn how to create a communication and social media plan for an event with a unique voice, sign up for her course Social Media Strategy for Events.

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