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How To Lead Successful Online Events

By Dana Kaye

In this age of pandemic and quarantine, we’ve seen cancelled conferences, festivals, and book tours around the world. But rather than giving up, many of us in publishing have gotten creative and have taken these events online.

As a book publicist and owner of an entirely virtual company, I’m no stranger to online events. Our team meets regularly over Google Hangouts and Zoom, and we’ve hosted virtual launch events for our clients who are unable to connect with their readers in person using Crowdcast. While it comes naturally to us, I remember that when we first started, it felt a bit overwhelming and cumbersome.

As many of you attempt to take your events online, here are a few best practices to keep in mind.

Understand the primary purpose of the event. The format and software you use for your online event is dependent on your goals. If you want to facilitate community and conversation, such as in an online book club, you may want a software where everyone is able to appear on camera. If the primary purpose is for you to discuss your book and answer questions, similar to a bookstore or library reading, then you may not need to have everyone on camera. If you’re teaching, it may be important for you to share a slide presentation or provide polls and quizzes. Take some time to think about the primary purpose, and then determine the format.

Practice with your platform. No matter which platform you choose, it will require some practice! If you’re hosting an event with multiple people, I recommend recruiting a few friends for a test run. If you’re leading a panel discussion or interview, schedule a quick test run with your speaker(s) ahead of time.

Promote often, but not too early. Like in-person events, online events are not a “if you build it, they will come” situation. Remember to share the event with your newsletter subscribers and social media followers, and to post the event on your website. You can even partner with a bookseller, writing organization, or fellow author to cross promote. The more people who know about your event, the more are likely to attend.

The timing for promotion is a bit tricky and may require some testing. I find that announcing these online events earlier than 10 days prior may result in people forgetting about it, but anything less than a week and you run the risk of people’s calendars already being booked up. I recommend sending an announcement to your newsletter list 7-10 days in advance, promoting on social media throughout the week, then sending a reminder the day before. Depending on what software you use, participants will receive a reminder right before the event, but you may need to schedule that email as well.

Use a mic and/or headphones. You don’t need anything too high tech; it can be as simple as using the headphones that came with your cell phone as long as they have a microphone built in. You can also purchase an inexpensive lavalier mic for around $20 on Amazon (see links below). If you’re going to be doing more podcasting and video recordings, you may consider upgrading your audio equipment, but there’s no reason to do so right away.

You may be thinking, can’t I just use the microphone and speakers that are built into my computer? Unfortunately, relying on the internal mic and speakers will result in an echoing, scratchy audio quality, which is a turn off for attendees.

Engage the Audience. When you’re hosting an online event, it’s sometimes easy to forget about the hundreds of people tuning in from around the world. The more you engage your audience, the more they’ll feel a part of the community. At the beginning of most events, I’ll invite participants to share where they’re tuning in from and I’ll read their responses aloud as they come in. Our preferred webinar platform, Crowdcast, allows you to create polls to not only engage your audience, but learn more about them. For example, you can ask them if they’ve read the new book in your series or not, so if necessary, you can avoid spoilers!

Like most things, the more online events you host, the easier it will be. Don’t be afraid to start small with an intimate book club or writing group, before creating a bigger launch event.

For more recommendations for launching your book during quarantine, I’m hosting a live training (online of course!) on Friday, April 3rd at noon ET. SinC members will receive 65% off when they use discount code SINC65. Click here to register and experience an online event first-hand!

A few helpful links as you research your options:

 


 

Dana Kaye is a veteran publicist, social media pro, and brand manager. In 2009, she founded Kaye Publicity, Inc., a boutique PR company specializing in publishing and entertainment. Known for her innovative ideas and knowledge of current trends, she coaches her clients on how to identify and establish their unique personal brands. Kaye is also the author of Your Book, Your Brand: The Step-by-Step Guide to Launching Your Book and Boosting Your Sales, and the creator of Branding Outside the Box, where she helps authors and entrepreneurs become more memorable.


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