By: Felipe Rivas
2 min read April 2020 — The novel coronavirus forced a global halt to major international, regional and local events. From the NBA season to networking conferences, all gatherings of any size stopped abruptly in an effort to flatten the curve and prevent COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, from spreading further. However, as the population at large becomes accustomed to social distancing, stay at home orders and self quarantining, many events went from a hard stop to full speed ahead virtually. As the business community adjusts to the challenges of the disruption caused by the coronavirus, many institutions are building value and maintaining relationships with patrons by maximizing the use of webinars, online classes, video conferences and even virtual happy hours.
In its “Staying Connected” series, Invest: is talking to leaders in various markets about their efforts to, well … stay connected.
South Jersey institutions like the Burlington Regional Chamber of Commerce are shifting to video meetings to stay connected and provide value to members and nonmembers alike in the current landscape. “We are providing as much digital content and opportunities as possible to both members and nonmembers. Our goal is to be a partner and resource for the business community at large,” President and CEO Kristi M. Howell told Invest: South Jersey. “We are offering several different options. Networking at Noon takes place every Monday and it is strictly a virtual business card exchange. We are providing webinars, both live and recorded, on issues and benefits around COVID-19. Most importantly, we are providing educational webinars to strengthen professional development. It’s important that we keep our eye on the future and continue to educate our members on essential business tools so that we all pull out of this stronger.”
For the chamber, it’s all about doing “what we do best for our members on a different platform. We have moved everything that we can online and it’s business as usual for most things, but remotely. We have modified communications and have suspended normal newsletters in favor of those that are pertinent to this ever changing situation. We are focusing on highlighting five to seven members a week in our Meet Our Members series and we continue to make introductions for those who are doing business or modifying their business model for today’s climate,” Howell said.
The video conference platform, Zoom, has quickly become ubiquitous across the virtual events space. Across economic sectors, different institutions are taking advantage of Zoom and similar platforms. To host a successful virtual event, event planners must decide between hosting a virtual meeting or a webinar. “If you expect attendees to mostly just listen,” the best option is a webinar, Zoom advises as part of its digital event best practices. “When you need more back and forth between the audience and the host,” planners should choose a virtual meeting, the platform advises.
Once the type of digital event has been narrowed down, hosts should hardwire the internet connection to prevent any Wi-Fi-related hiccups or virtual lag. In terms of audio, hosts should test speakers and audio prior to the meeting and minimize any background noise, according to Zoom. Additionally, hosts should dress to impress and make sure to start the virtual event on time. It is important to set the tone of the event and encourage Q&A’s during the virtual meeting or webinar. As a best practice, Zoom recommends the use of the Chat function to keep track of questions and comments. For larger webinars, Zoom offers a Paypal integration to charge the registration fees seamlessly.
For the time being, social distancing will be part of the mainstream business landscape until at least May. However, many institutions are adjusting and pivoting more and more to the virtual hosting model to build value, share information and regain a sense of community in a time where residents are being asked to self-isolate as much as possible.