Why Virtual Event Rehearsals Matter [+ a Checklist to Do Them Right]

August 31, 2021
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Your virtual conference or hybrid event is right around the corner. What can you do to ensure everything runs smoothly on the event day? Run a virtual event rehearsal. 

A rehearsal session makes a huge difference in your guests’ experience. Live streaming always comes with some risk, but virtual event prep can set you up for success. 

Here’s everything you need to know about virtual event rehearsals: why they matter, who to invite, and everything necessary for a successful event. We’ve even got a rehearsal checklist so you can run your virtual event rehearsal with confidence.

virtual event prep guide

Why are Virtual Event Rehearsals so Important?

There are five key reasons everyone should host a virtual event rehearsal. 

1. Virtual Event Rehearsals Improve Participant Experience

The virtual event experience should be at the center of your planning process. It doesn’t matter how brilliant your speakers are or how informative your webinar is if your attendees have a terrible time. 

Rehearsals can go a long way towards assuring virtual event success because you’re ironing out all the issues that would negatively affect the attendee experience. Internet connections, transitions, and unmuted mics are common problems that are easier to avoid if you’ve had a rehearsal. 

Additionally, you can assign different people to play the role of event attendees during the virtual event rehearsal. Your mock audience can then give you perspective on what in your virtual experience feels intuitive vs. what could use more clarification. Then, your host and the panelists can be sure to provide clear guidance and clarification during the live session so that a virtual attendee knows what to do to have the best possible experience. 

Looking for new and innovative ways to engage your virtual audience? We know it can be difficult, so we collected 20 Interactive Conference Ideas To Increase Engagement With a Virtual or Hybrid Audience.

2. Rehearsals Reduce Presenter Anxiety

It can be nerve-wracking to stand up in front of an audience, and in some ways, that anxiety is even more intense when you can’t see the audience. If you’re hosting a live event (i.e., not pre-recording speaker sessions), a rehearsal can reduce your presenters’ anxiety so that they’re more relaxed and confident when it’s time to go live. 

3. Rehearsals Show Event Planners How to Manage Event Technology

No one would ever get a pilot’s license without first driving a plane. While event planning might not be quite as life or death (though it can certainly feel that way sometimes), your event planning and event production team will benefit enormously from getting behind the wheel before they have to fly the symbolic plane. Rehearsals allow your planning pros to test functionality and get to know your virtual event platform. 

4. It Gives You a Backup Plan

Event planning—whether virtual or in-person—comes with surprises. Ben Goldstein, the head of Content and Communications at Nutshell, talked about just that on The Event Marketing Show. “We’ve dealt with some crazy stuff,” Goldstein said of a time in 2020 when they had a speaker drop out on the day of the event. “We did then what we’ll probably do now. We had something in the can to air.” 

event marketing show

Savvy planners can use their virtual event rehearsals to record sessions. If a speaker can’t make a live session on the day of, your event is protected, and the audience experience remains consistent. 

5. It Prevents Unexpected Hiccups in Live Sessions

An unexpected technical issue can be incredibly distracting for virtual attendees, not to mention disorienting for a speaker or panelist. If you run into any technical problems during the rehearsal, you have a couple of different options. If it’s a user error, like a speaker’s internet connection or microphone, you have advanced notice and enough time to fix the problem before the event/conference. On the other hand, if you discover a limitation with your virtual platform, you might be able to request customer support to overcome the issue. At the very least, you’ll have a heads up so that you can better communicate with event participants. 

Still determining what tools to include in your event tech stack? Check out our Virtual Event Platform Comparison and Guide.

Who Should Be at Your Virtual Event Rehearsal

  • Event organizer: Your event organizer is like the CEO of your online event. They should be at your virtual event rehearsal to oversee the event experience. 
  • Your virtual event production team: Your virtual production team will be running the show, so they need to attend the rehearsal. If you’re just running a webinar for a small group, the event organizer or another individual might be enough. For conferences, you’ll likely want the virtual event production team or an event technologist to ensure the entire event runs smoothly. 
  • Emcee or host: Every online event needs a host. Make sure your host is at your virtual rehearsal, especially for more significant events like virtual conferences, to run through the event opening, closing, event interstitials, and to go over any housekeeping that needs to be addressed. 
  • Presenters and panelists: You can sidestep most technical issues and event pitfalls by inviting your speakers and presenters to your event rehearsal. This gives them a chance to get comfortable in front of the camera (or webcam), and it can help you iron out any technical hiccups, like a faulty microphone. 
  • Event audience: Designate at least one person (but ideally a small group of people) to play the role of event attendees during the dress rehearsal to test Q&As, event chats, breakout rooms, and other engagement activities. Your mock audience can also give you feedback on the user experience of your virtual event platform, so you know what to expect.

5 Tips for Your Virtual Event Prep

If you want to get the most out of your virtual event rehearsal. Make sure to cover these five areas.

  1. Educate presenters and speakers on the technology.
  2. Define everyone’s role and outline their responsibilities. 
  3. Make sure your internet connection is solid (ditto for speakers if they’re remote). 
  4. Rehearse in the same location and with the same equipment you intend to use during the event. 
  5. Prepare for the worst and have an emergency plan. 
virtual event rehearsal checklist

Your Go-To Virtual Event Rehearsal Checklist

Here’s the complete rehearsal checklist to ensure a successful virtual event or conference. If you’re hosting a hybrid event, this checklist should be completed in addition to any in-person rehearsals. 

    • Test key functions and features of your virtual event platform. It’s important that everyone on your virtual event production team knows how the platform functions. Test the following:
      • Starting the broadcast.
      • Any necessary transition slides. 
      • Transitioning to speakers. 
      • Transitioning to individual events (applicable if it’s a conference).
      • Any hybrid event features. 
    • Run through vital information with each speaker:
      • Technology QA
        • Test microphones, live or digital backgrounds, screen share, videos.
        • If sharing video or screen, test video quality. 
      • Timekeeping: Ensure speakers know how they’ll need to keep track of time. 
      • If it’s a multi-speaker event/session, make sure speakers know how you plan to transition between speakers. Will you have a transition slide? Will they have a certain sound or visual cue to look out for?
    • Personalize your virtual event settings.
      • Customize Q&A settings for your desired attendee engagement approach.
        • Disable or allow anonymous comments.
        • Allow the audience to see all questions or only answered questions.
        • Prepare backup questions in case there is a lull in audience questions. Assign a colleague to ask the questions if needed.
        • Assign someone to respond to any admin-based questions. 
      • Customize chat settings. Consider adjusting chat settings by event types. 
        • Meetings: Allow chat for all participants.
        • Webinars: Disable chat for participants. Allow speakers to chat privately during the webinar. 
      • Choose whether or not to let attendees “raise their hands.” If you’re not planning to use this feature for a specific purpose, it’s recommended that “raise your hand” be disabled for the event. 
      • Adjust screen share settings. Ensure presenters are able to share their screens if they need to. 
      • Set the event view. Gallery view is recommended for panel discussions, roundtables, and breakout rooms. Speaker view is recommended for keynotes, emcees, and other individual speakers.
      • Create and schedule polls. Polls should be pre-written and scheduled. Test functionality with your virtual event platform. 
      • Schedule breakout sessions (this only applies to a Zoom meeting). If you’re using Zoom for breakout sessions, they should be scheduled in advance. 
    • Coach presenters for optimal presentation.
      • Microphones and cameras should be switched off when a presenter is not speaking. (In the case of some panel discussions, you may want panelists to leave their camera on when they’re not speaking. They should still mute themselves to avoid background noise disruptions.)
      • If the presenter is using notes, position them as closely as possible to the camera, so it looks like they’re looking at the camera. 
    • Run a dress rehearsal with your emcee. 
      • Rehearse introductions and event opening and closing.
      • Rehearse presenter and event introductions.
      • Cover important housekeeping items at the top of the event or conference.
        • How long you’ll wait for other participants to join before the event will start.
        • How participants can engage: Let them know what features you’ll be using and how to access them. 
  • If you’re doing a Q&A session: Set expectations. You may want to let attendees know that while you will try to answer as many questions as possible during the session, you may not get to all of them. (If you’ll be following up with unanswered questions after the event, let attendees know where they’ll be able to find that.)

 

Still figuring out this whole virtual event space? Hear what the experts have to say on The Event Marketing Show.

Find a Virtual Platform That Sets You Up for Success

Virtual event rehearsals and planning is a lot easier when you have the technology you can rely on. SpotMe has the tools and production capabilities to make your next digital or hybrid event unforgettable. 

Contact us to start your free trial, and learn why G2 called us “the complete engagement platform.”

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