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.
In Palm Beach, a region known for its daily community outdoor events and weekend parties, institutions have had to shift to online platforms to preserve the community feel and give people an escape from social distancing. The West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority did just that by hosting a party with musicians online. “This past saturday, we hosted what was to have been an outdoor event called ‘the Saturday Soiree’ with musicians and we streamed it throughout social media and let each one of them have their set,” Executive Director Raphael Clemente told Invest: Palm Beach. “It was a big success and gave us ideas on how to keep Downtown top of mind,” he said.
The authority is focusing on being a support system for residents and Downtown business leaders in this period of economic uncertainty. “We meet with a lot of stakeholders, and internally. I am loving Skype and Zoom. We have gone to these platforms as everyone else has. As a team, a big part of our conversation was how we can do our job of marketing and sharing information, but keeping top of mind the sensitivity of people right now to their business issues,” Clemente said. “It is not just what we are saying, but how we are saying it. Also, just picking up the phone, versus using only email, is an important thing to do.”
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.