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 South Florida, a region known for its events and conferences, different institutions have embraced virtual meetings to build value and maintain close relationships with clients in the midst of social distancing. For the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, a chamber known for its networking events focused on covering top-of-mind issues for its members, virtual meetings and webinars have become the go-to instrument to stay connected to its members and coach them through this new business landscape. “At this point in time, in an era of social distancing, we are gearing our efforts toward creating webinars that give our membership and beyond a chance to find out what resources are available to them, how to maintain their business in this socially disconnected economy and coaching them on how to bounce back when that time comes,” Spokeswoman Morgan Mongelia told Invest: Miami. “All our regularly scheduled monthly programming had to be moved to a virtual platform and format,” she said. As part of its virtual offerings, the chamber has a full slate of virtual webinars, in addition to industry-specific teleconferences. “We are also using this time to support fellow community organizations and businesses via personal phone follow-ups to ensure the long-term success of the Coral Gables business community as a whole,” Mongelia 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.
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.