Understanding the Buyer’s Journey in a Post COVID World

While much of the immediate post COVID-19 focus has been on disrupted marketing cycles and processes, it is also important to understand its impact on buyers. Audience-centric marketing and messaging is certainly a best practice now that marketers are through the immediate need to pivot and realign resources to accommodate in-person cancellations. Now, marketers need to dive in and understand how the buyer’s journey has changed overall.

Kicking off a massive persona project may not be in the cards for you right now, but there is data and research that we can learn from in order to better inform marketing strategies. As marketers increasingly switch to digital marketing tactics, they will need to know how to prioritize channels and act on the data that is captured through those interactions.

The way I see it, we’ll need to understand and think more strategically about three core areas of marketing:

  1. Buyers – We need to understand more about the “surviving” buyers and how they are making purchase decisions. We also need to think about what that means from a target market perspective if you market to a heavily impacted industry.
  2. Messaging – Certainly we must market with empathy, but there is a delicate balance between doing that and overloading “in these uncertain times.” Marketers must straddle this line while also providing differentiation.
  3. Content and Delivery Mechanisms – Marketers have more data than ever before, especially with more interactions moving digital. Teams need to figure out what is working well and then refocus efforts on those content types and interactions buyers are gravitating towards.

I’m hosting a webinar “The Evolution of the Buyer’s Journey: What’s Changed, What Hasn’t,”  with Barry Vasudevan, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester, on June 3 to talk about these areas. It’ll be a great conversation that’ll dive into each of these elements. Make sure to register today!

Webinar Design Tips to Enhance Your Events

If there’s one ubiquitous feature of conferences, trade shows and summits, it’s excellent branding. And it’s easy to understand why: branding experiences, like booths, provide fun, engaging and informative experiences for attendees — not to mention the excellent swag. But with in-person events postponed, canceled or adjusted to a virtual environment, marketers need to re-think how they bring their brand to life online.

To find out how you can bring your brand online in a digital-first world, we sat down with Chris Finneral, CEO and Co-Founder of SketchDeck, to learn what marketers can do to bring their brand energy to virtual events from anywhere in the world. All it takes is a little planning and a little brand-muscle stretching. Oh, and these free console backgrounds and icons can help, too.

Use Design to Generate Excitement

Webinerd guests

How you generate excitement around an event depends on how large you’re planning for your event to be. Take a step back and assess what your goal is for your upcoming webinar. Will it be a smaller virtual experience like a stand-alone event or a part of a monthly series? Or will it be a part of a large digital experience, like a summit or virtual conference?

Large virtual events, like a summit or virtual conference, ought to have their own distinct branding distinct from your company’s umbrella brand. This way, attendees and customers will know the event is unique.  This new design will need a virtual home as well, so incorporate it into a distinct event website. With the event website in place, your event’s brand will have a home you’ll have a centralized hub attendees and visitors can turn to for the latest event information.

Smaller events will still need the brand treatment to gin up excitement, but these events won’t necessarily need their own website. A simple asset page to register for the event will suffice and along with branded promotional assets — like email banners, social media posts and ads — in support of the event.

Be Consistent on Each Channel

Webinerd working on a webinar

A key element of modern webinar design is consistency. And that means providing a uniform design across every channel where your event may appear. In general, this means working with your designer or design team to assemble a range of assets, like social media images, email banners, blog images, ad banners and more, into an asset package for promotion across your preferred channels.

If you’re working with partners for an event — say, a summit, for example — an asset package is essential for a consistent event brand presence. Provide partners with asset packages that include typical assets plus material for any sessions they’re running or for any keynote speakers they’re providing — don’t forget to feature their logo in their asset package as well!

If you are running a summit or virtual event involving more than one presentation, don’t forget the smaller details. Provide your partners with branded slides and make sure each webinar console — down to the icons — are consistent with the event’s design. This will give your event a familiar feel for attendees and provide a professional touch to your events.

Incorporate Branding Into Each Touchpoint

Webinerd social media

Okay, so you have your event’s design built out for every channel, including, possibly, its own website. Now it’s time to take a step back and consider where your event’s brand will present itself to audiences before, during and after the event itself.

Sit down and consider every touchpoint your event will have with your audience and think about the opportunities where you can leave a lasting impression. For example, will your audience be able to download resources, like e-books and infographics? If so, are those assets branded with your event? On-demand events, too, ought to continue your event’s theme.

Finally, if you’re running a virtual summit or trade conference, consider sending attendees swag, either before or after the event, they can keep as a souvenir. While swag sends may be difficult to organize for a virtual event, they add that little extra zest and excitement attendees look for in events.

Email Best Practices for Virtual Events

With social distancing orders in place around the world, physical events are canceled for the foreseeable future. However, businesses are still operating, and many are choosing to shift in-person conferences and conventions online.

There are a lot of things to consider when making this decision, but one of the biggest is how to communicate you’re hosting a virtual conference instead of a physical one. Let’s take a look at a few email best practices for communicating your move to a virtual event.

The Day-of Agenda Email

With in-person conferences, it’s easy to focus on nothing but the event: your out-of-office message is on, you travel to the event, walk the vendor maze and track down a branded stress ball to take home. In essence, you’re eating, breathing and sleeping the conference.

Virtual conferences are different. It’s not as easy to simply turn everything off and focus solely on the topics of the day.

With that in mind, we recommend sending day-of agenda emails to participants. This gives participants a quick and easy snapshot of the day’s events, allowing them to see what topics are up for discussion and identify the topics that mean the most to them. This helps facilitate participants getting the most out of your virtual event.

Communicating Breakout Tracks Email

Most conferences have a few hours of breakout sessions after lunch. These are usually run concurrently, and participants have to choose one or the other.

In your daily agenda email, give participants a small preview of the topics so they can decide which ones they want to participate live. And, most importantly, remind participants that other tracks and sessions will be made available on-demand, if applicable.

One of the best ways to run a virtual event is to make use of simulive presentations, which allows presenters to pre-record an event while attending and responding to attendees in real-time through chat engagement tools. Participants get the best of both worlds because they don’t really have to choose between one topic track or the other.

Here is an example from Best of B2BMX:

Providing for Sponsors

One major consideration when digitizing your physical event is how to keep your sponsors in the loop and happy. In a physical event space, sponsors’ logos can be put anywhere, from programs and daily agenda handouts to banners and signs.

Getting a sponsor’s name out there for a virtual event requires a different approach. And one of the best approaches is to include your sponsors in your event emails. That way, your sponsors get the exposure they want.

Email Body

Let’s take a look at what Demand Generation Report did for its Best of #B2BMX event as a prime example. In its emails, the company included sponsors by providing a grid of logos throughout each email send. As you scroll through the message to see what topics are available to you today, you end with a collage of sponsors at the end of the email.

The company logos are placed just below the link that takes participants to the full conference agenda. Take a look:

Event Website

Best of #B2BMX took it one step further and included sponsors on the homepage of the event. When participants click on the link to the event agenda, a sidebar on the right of the screen highlighting sponsors. This sidebar remains throughout the entire event site, so sponsors are prominently displayed and broadcast to each attendee.

MarTech Today’s event, Discover MarTech, provides another great example by taking things one step further and displayed sponsors by categories:

Short Emails, Great Content

Emails — even comprehensive ones for virtual events — should be short, to the point and have a single focus that’s immediately clear to the reader. The goal is to share necessary information while keeping your reader’s attention and we have a few tips on how to do that.

Keep Paragraphs Short

Readers scan emails, before reading them. So, to capture both aspects of the reading experiences, keep paragraphs short. If you have a lot of content to share, break each element down into small paragraphs of no more than two to three sentences. You can also provide links on your different topics that allow people to click for more information if they want.

Stick to One Main Idea

Try to keep one main idea per paragraph. This will help keep your paragraphs short and to the point for your readers. It will also keep readers from getting lost in your message.

Organize Content Logically

Lastly, try to organize your content logically within an email. For example, a virtual summit email could present topics and events of the summit chronologically by the hour, by importance or by what’s going on by the day.

Write Relevant Subject Lines

Probably the most important — and most confounding — part of writing an email is coming up with a compelling subject line. This is your hook to get participants to open the email, it’s important and you need to make it count. No pressure.

Your best bet: make it short, to the point and, if at all possible, catchy.

If your email details the day’s topics and schedule, then your subject line should say something like “Today’s Awesome Marketing Summit Agenda” or “Your Daily Schedule for Awesome Marketing Summit.”

Because the subject line is the enticer to get people to open your email, try to make it relevant to the overall theme of your event. An email from the MarTech Conference is a good example of this.

B2BMX also did a good job of keeping its subject line short and representative of the email content.

When creating emails and their content for your virtual summit, keep these tips in mind. You have important information to share and you want readers to be able to digest that content quickly and easily.

How Webinerds Are Running Webinars From Home

Adjusting to a new work environment isn’t easy. Hopefully we’ve all been able to find our groove and figure out a system and routine that works for us now that many of us have been working from home for several weeks.

On top of setting up a workspace, webinerds also need a place to film and participate in webinars. Whether you participate in daily video conferencing or you host a webinar a few times a quarter, you need a home setup that allows you to go live.

To that end, we thought we’d share a few examples of how some from our webinerd community have recreated their webinar setup at home.

How Miles Szkoda Runs Webinars from His Dining Room Table

Miles Szkoda, Web Content Specialist at VertMarketers, brought his work set up home with him and hit the ground running. With two external monitors and a laptop, Miles set up camp at the dining room table to keep his webinar program rolling.

But what about background noise with loud pets? Simple: Miles creatively deployed baby gates to keep his dogs out of the room and a note taped to the back of his computer tells his family that he’s on a live program — blissful silence!

How Danielle Gilstrap Makes Her Virtual Life Look Glamorous

Not all webinar presenters want to display their home turf for all to see. The solution? Well, Danielle Gilstrap, Content Manager for Events at Laserfiche, got creative. Using features built into her smart TV (and expert use of camera angles), Danielle created high-tech greenscreen that can change backgrounds at the press of a button. She even created a calm outdoor background for her webinar!

How Sander Buitelaar Hosts Webinars from home

As a Marketing Campaign Coordinator at tray.io, Sander Buitelaar knows working remotely isn’t an excuse for poor webinar engagement. That’s why Sander broke out a second screen at home. With the additional screen, Sander can easily watch audience engagement during his events and respond to questions as they pop up.  He and his team are working hard, and they’ve been able to achieve an increase in webinar attendance in the past few weeks.

How Sathish Sakthivel Shifts Physical Events Online

Sathish Sakthivel, Business Intelligence Associate at athenahealth, spends much of his remote work time transitioning his organization’s physical, in-person events to virtualized digital experiences. Sathish’s home setup includes a laptop and an extra monitor that helps him manage the transition.

WebinarFH Tips: 

Recording Space

There’s a lot that goes into recording quality webinars, but the biggest challenge is simply finding a quiet space to record or go live without interruptions. When it comes to recording from home, that means finding a spare room or isolated space that people don’t often walk through.

As you’re deciding on a space that works for you, also consider how you can cordon off pets, toddlers or partners that can absentmindedly walk into your background or distract you while you’re on camera.

Finally, check the strength of your Wi-Fi connection in your chosen area — that may be the determining factor in whether that space will work for you or not.

Find or create good light

Once you’ve found a space or two that you think will work for your webinars, look at the lighting. Are you near a window with natural light? Are there overhead fluorescent lights?

Try a few different lighting options and see what looks best.  Keep your webcam or video feed open so you can see how the lighting changes as you face a window or adjust a lamp.

If you’re looking to invest in professional lights, there are basic and advanced lighting kits online.  They are fairly easy to set up and some even come with reflectors. Check out our recommended #WebinarFH gear here.

Have fun with backgrounds

There are tons of fun backgrounds available for you to use on video conferencing calls or webinars. Danielle got creative with her home setup by positioning herself in front of her tv that was able to display a beautiful nature scene.

There are several websites and apps that can create backgrounds for a multitude of video conferencing platforms. You can also hack your scenery by positioning yourself in front of a background of your choice. For example, a SmartTV (or any TV that can display photos) can let you swap out backgrounds on the fly. Just remember to have fun!

Consider investing in mobile gear

It never hurts to be prepared for unexpected situations. If you’re contemplating upgrading your webinar setup, consider tools that have the potential to go where you go, like a portable monitor or a mobile hotspot. Doing so makes it easier for you to produce webinars from wherever you are.

Check out this article on recording professional webinars at home for more tips and suggestions.

Feature Friday: Facilitating Multi-Presenter Webinars

When it comes to presenting webinars, sometimes more is merrier — especially when a subject requires multiple perspectives or explanations. To that end, ON24 Webcast Elite makes it easy to host up to eight presenters in one webinar. That’s up to eight presenters bouncing off each other, making the content fun, conversational and engaging.

If you have multiple presenters, not only does presenting with webcam or video allow audiences to follow who is speaking but also creates a more “human” connection to each presenter. To facilitate this, Webcast Elite offers multiple presenter layouts and audio connection types to support each type of webinar and presenter.

Flexible Webcam Layouts

The Media Player can show all presenters who are attending the webinar via webcam simultaneously. Voice-activated switching highlights whoever’s presenting and seamlessly switches to a new speaker when it’s their turn to present.

But say you want a webinar layout that doesn’t need voice-activated switching. No worries. You choose from three different presenter layout options and even change the layout during the webinar. To select your layout, log into the presenter tool, navigate to Control Panel and then Layout. From there, you can choose to display:

One Presenter at Time: This layout is ideal to showcase presenters in sequential order. Voice-activated switching will display only who is actively speaking.

Four Presenters Simultaneously: This layout will display four presenters simultaneously, each with their own equally-sized window. All presenters can be heard and seen at the same time. This layout is ideal for four or fewer presenters using a webcam. This layout is particularly great for panel discussions, with panelists continuing to bounce off each other!

All Presenters Shown: With this layout, up to eight presenters can be shown at once, with all presenters able to be heard and seen at the same time. The presenter who is actively speaking will be shown in a larger view while the remaining presenters will be shown below. We recommend this layout if there is a moderator with a group of subject matter experts or panelists.

Multiple Audio Connection Types

While we encourage leveraging video to make your webinars more engaging, we understand that presenters can have different comfort levels. In a panel discussion, maybe one presenter is great on camera but another strongly prefers to not be seen. This doesn’t mean you are limited to audio-only for the entire webinar.

When using live video and audio, presenters can choose to connect via dial-in, webcam or PC microphone. Accounts can also be set up to connect via video conferencing units. Each presenter can choose which connection type is better for them. For example, one presenter can connect via webcam and computer mic while another presenter can choose to use the dial-in number. This way, you can alleviate any presenter nerves while still using video.

Whether you’re hosting a fireside chat, roundtable or moderated panel, ON24 Webcast Elite offers the flexibility needed to support any type of event to ensure increased engagement and connection between audience members and presenters.

If you’d like to learn more about ON24 Webcast Elite and building engaging digital experiences, watch our demo. If you’re an ON24 customer, contact your CSM to learn more on how to leverage best practices to engage audiences.

How to Manage Webinar Questions in an Event with 1,000+ Attendees

According to our 2020 Webinar Benchmarks Report, 41% of all webinars in 2019 hosted at least 100 attendees. And while that’s a lot of curious professionals and audience interaction, that attendance rate is about to boom in 2020 given the massive shift from physical to digital events in the wake of COVID-19.

As a consequence, webinar practitioners are moving away from the question of “How do I drive more registrations and attendance?” to “How can I manage this influx of attendees and their waves of questions?”

The Attendee Boom

We recently had to figure out how to answer this question ourselves during a recent edition of our Webinar Best Practices Series. The event, focused on how marketers can pivot from physical events to digital, saw registration increase by more than 300% our average monthly goals for the series.

To put this in perspective, ON24’s Webinar Best Practices Series generated about 1,500  registrants on average before the COVID-19 outbreak and we’d normally see about a 25% live attendee conversion rate. The particular webinar being discussed here, How to Bring Physical Events into the Digital World, had 4,682 registrants the day of the live event and a 51% conversion rate with a total of 652 questions. WHEW!

How We Organized for Audience Success

We anticipated a high turn out, but nothing like what we saw.

Our response to this exponential increase in registration was to prepare for an all hands on deck Q&A session during the live airing, consisting of three SDRs and five people from the marketing team.

The questions that came through were categorized in folders as follows:

SDR Folder

    • Any questions showing interest in purchasing or asking for a price quote was added to this folder where SDRs responded by asking if they’d like to speak to a rep and getting their contact info to schedule them right away.

Marketing Folder

    • Between sorting through all of the questions, a team of five would answer as many questions as possible relating to the general product capabilities, marketing best practices and directing said attendee to the resource that could help answer their questions.

Tech Q’s

    • This folder is dedicated to any technical difficulties the audience is having. These were positioned as high-priority and the team would work diligently to alleviate as many tech issues as possible so individuals can enjoy the experience.

Granted, not all questions were answered. After all, there were only eight of us against 653 questions. But to make sure attendees got the answers they sought, our team hosted an office hour follow-up webinar. During this event, our speaker, Mark Bornstein, and two other guests answered FAQs.

In sum, if your webinar program is facing a potential flood of attendees and anticipates a lot of questions, just remember to sit down, catch your breath and organize. Set up a meeting with your sales and marketing peers and create a plan before the event. Good luck!

Four Tips for Transitioning to a Digital-First World

Marketers are waking up to the fact that we now live in a digital-first world. And you know what? They’re pretty okay with that. After all, B2B marketers have been touting the digital revolution for some time now.

So how are digital-ready marketers adapting to our new virtual workspace? By being ready to make the switch to digital. In fact, the #webinerd community is expert at driving these digital-first initiatives. Here are three examples of how:

D&H Distributing Takes Tech Conference Digital

 

D&H Distributing’s George Gunnett, a Multimedia Designer and Video Producer, and David Labagh, a Creative Strategist, transitioned their physical #DHThread tech conference into a digital #ThreadCast experience in less than three weeks.

How did they make the transition so fast? By breaking down what they already had done and translating it to a digital environment they’re familiar with. For example, the team decided that vendors could replicate physical booths as unique channels that attendees could visit for an overview of a vendor’s services.

D&H’s virtual program also featured five hours of live discussions with 31 supplemental on-demand vendor and solutions channels. D&H even took advantage of ON24’s Facebook Live Connector to livestream its event to its Facebook audience.

The BARBRI Group Leverages Digital Events to Reach Goals

As Director of Operations for The BARBRI Group, Peter Bruce, is a huge fan of digital events. With social distancing orders in place, he and his colleagues have transitioned many of their usual physical events, such as chapter meetings, lunch-and-learns and moderated panels, into digital experiences.

What’s more, The BARBRI Group can now empower its global roster of experts to participate in its digital experiences, helping the group to connect with its community and further its legal education goals.

Robyn Hatfield Shares #WebinarFH Network Tips

Robyn Hatfield feels your webinaring from home pain. She also knows how you can overcome it. Quickly realizing the trend for meetings and events, Robyn is sharing network and connection tips for fellow webinerds. As a marketing automation and CRM professional for Accruent, Robyn knows how to work around the frustrations of spotty Wi-Fi and has highlighted ways marketers and other work-from-homers can get the most out of their bandwidth.

Four Tips for a Digital-First Approach

1) Adapt Events, Don’t Cancel

You and your colleagues have spent hours planning your event. The venue is reserved, the attendees are registered, the speakers are prepped and the equipment has been tested.

But then you get a call and the venue has to cancel.

You are still ready to go! Take a page from D&H Distributing and translate your physical event into a digital experience so audiences can stay informed and your messages can stay top-of-mind.

2) Open Up Your Experiences

Physical events have — by nature — limited attendance capabilities. Now that your event has shifted online, consider lifting attendance restrictions to reach a broader audience.

Special topic discussions or sessions may encourage audiences to participate — especially those who are interested in your brand but lack the time or resources necessary to attend an in-person event. Unless there is a reason to restrict access (and there can be), open your sessions!

3) Activate on-demand viewing

With on-demand webinars, attendees can get so much more out of your event than they originally expected. Not only does on-demand viewing give your attendees the option of engaging with more content, you may also find that more people attend and thoroughly digest more content from a dedicated virtual event because it’s convenient.

For example, breakout sessions may end up with a larger audience because registrants can now attend every session they want instead of having to pick between topics that may have been scheduled for the same time. Now, they can participate in one live session and the other on-demand.

4) Don’t forget the data

Don’t forget to check out the metrics after your event is over. Digital events and online engagement statistics give you much more data than physical events ever could.

For example, not only can you see who actually attended and engaged with each session while it was happening, but you also get a long-tail, on-demand audience that wouldn’t get from a physical event.

Don’t squander those opportunities. Make sure you capture as much data from your online event as possible and be sure to get that information to the appropriate people to follow up. Consider giving someone a special assignment to guarantee attendees are contacted in a timely fashion and with accurate information.

For more tips, suggestions and guidelines on moving physical events online, check out our other resources:

Digital Alternatives to Cancelling In-Person Events

Taking In-Person Events Virtual? Five Things to Consider

Four Steps to Communicate You’re Moving an Event Online

Jack’s Hacks: Moving a Planned Event to a Webinar

Three Webinar Lessons Learned from The Learning Network’s Study Session

In response to COVID-19, schools across the United States have shuttered their buildings for the remaining 2019-2020 school year. But that doesn’t mean students and teachers have to give up on learning. In fact, many teachers are looking for ways to connect with classes and promote distance learning.

But before those remote classes can truly hit their stride, teachers need to study up on how to run virtual classes. Enter The Learning Network, a New York Times-created resource focused on helping people teach and learn online.

Recently, The Learning Network held an event explaining its Lesson of the Day program. The premise of the webinar was to both show how educators can integrate Lesson of the Day in classes and how teachers can adjust the Lesson of the Day format to fit their students and curriculum.

But The Learning Network also provided some lessons webinar practitioners can use in their day-to-day events. Let’s take a look:

Widen Your Audience

Though most of the participants were teachers or other types of educators, a few parents and life-long learners also joined the broadcast. The hosts from The Learning Network encourage this for two reasons:

  1. When learning is incorporated into everyday activities, students see that it can be fun and doesn’t have to have negative feelings and associations, which they hope helps students see learning as a positive experience and something they want to continue.
  2. Everyone should feel encouraged to learn throughout life because it keeps the mind sharp — especially as we age.

Create A Unique Format (And Stick to It)


The Learning Network’s overall demo and its Lesson of the Day process are entirely unique to The Learning Network’s services. And these two elements both dictate the format of the webinar and its content. This means The Learning Network has a powerful format it can use to address a specified audience.

The Learning Network’s three-person panel introduced participants to Lesson of the Day, its basic formula and its guiding philosophy throughout the hour-long webinar. Participants saw a few example lesson plans and learned how to incorporate Lesson of the Day’s fundamentals into a larger lesson topic.

For example, all of the Lessons of the Day are based on an intriguing article recently published in The New York Times. Each lesson opens with an overview outlining the goals of the lesson and previews the activities within the plan.

Then, it moves on to a short warmup activity asking students to do some pre-thinking and to activate any prior knowledge on the topic. After the warmup, students read the article and then have questions for writing and discussions. These are meant to check for understanding and ask students to think critically and more in-depth about the topic.

Every Lesson of the Day concludes with “Going Further.” This is a 15-20 minute activity that extends learning beyond the single article. It may ask students to read a related article, watch a short video or complete a mini-project related to the topic. Finally, The Learning Network encourages educators to pick and choose the parts of the lessons that work for them.

Encourage Participation

Finally, each Lesson of the Day makes use of its comments section. For The Learning Network’s purposes, the comment section provides teachers with the opportunity to share how they used the lesson in their classroom and provide feedback, tips or suggestions to help others.

During the webinar presentation, attendees were able to participate in a short example warmup activity that asked participants to analyze an image. The exercise asked them what they noticed, wondered about and inferred from the photo. The topic for this webinar: Katherine the Shark’s Twitter Account!

Participants were asked to post their thoughts and comments to the group chat feed. Comments included noticing that she’s swimming close to shore, that she’s smiling in her profile picture, wondering why she’s misunderstood and inferring that she’s looking to change how people think about her.

In addition to doing the example warmup with Katherine The Shark, the staff from The Learning Network also took participants through warm-up activities about technology Easter Eggs (the kind hidden in software, not around the house during Easter) and the intro video to the Syrian version of Sesame Street. Participants were asked to try an Easter Egg connected to Google, and to infer about the values, lifestyles and points of view in the Syrian Sesame Street video.

These are great ways to encourage attendees to participate in the webinar and interact with one another. These activities also underscore both The Learning Network’s unique offering and ways participants can interact with material over a digital medium.

See The Learning Network for Yourself

The Learning Network provides free current classroom resources for every school day since they began in 1998. These resources contain lesson plans, writing prompts, activities, news quizzes and educational contests based on New York Times journalism.

Having received plenty of feedback throughout the years, The Learning Network resources are most commonly used in three ways:

  • Connect the classroom to the world: One of the main goals of The Learning Network is to help students be aware of current events and understand how they’re relevant to them in their own lives. To do this, The Learning Network produces materials in five different areas: Current Events Lessons, News Quizzes, Geography Quizzes, Lesson Plans and Teenagers in The Times.
  • Give students a voice – and strengthen literacy skills along the way: Through the writing prompts and contests, staff at The Learning Network hear from students often and they highlight the best submissions on the site. Topics in this area include Student Opinion Questions, Picture Prompts, Word of the Day, Current Events Conversation, Contests, Our Writing Curriculum and Crosswords.
  • Promote critical and creative thinking through multimedia: Because The New York Times is no longer just a black and white hard copy newspaper, the staff at The Learning Network leverage the many types of multimedia available and find ways to build them into their topics. These prompts include What’s Going On in This Picture?, What’s Going On in This Graph? and Film Club.

The Learning Network can be accessed through The New York Times website or by clicking here. You can also check out their many professional development videos and past webinars on its YouTube channel.

Jack’s Hacks: Virtual Summits, Interactivity and You

One of the biggest challenges of running a virtual summit is emulating the interactions that happen at in-person events. They’re usually organic and causal and can be a powerful resource for attendees.

But just because an event is taking place online doesn’t mean you can’t replicate that in-person feeling. Here are a few things to consider if you want to add a more in-person element to your virtual events:

Group Chat

A webinerd and her coworkers discuss optimization

Group chat is the tried and true method of getting strangers on the internet to interact with one another. In virtual business settings, like webinars, it’s a pretty pleasant experience and a great way to get folks to network as they would in person.

There are a few ways you can do this. First, if you’re an ON24 customer, you can simply enable the chat engagement tool when setting up your event. Second, if you’re a fan of Slack, you can create a free slack group with specific channels aligned to presentations and breakout sessions.

Social Media

Let’s be honest: if people are attending a virtual event, they likely have at least a half dozen browser tabs open to various social media networks. That’s an opportunity to engage! Assess the various social channels where your audiences live and identify the top two or three. Then, during the run-up to your event, share the hashtags, pages and channels where your event will be active with your audience.

If you want to take things to the next level, set up social media pushes like Twitter chats ahead of specific sessions. Keynote speeches are a good candidate for these. All you have to do is communicate a hashtag to your audience over time and, at the appointed time, use the hashtag as the presenter works their way through their session.

Virtual Happy Hours

One of the nicer things about in-person events is the opportunity to relax and share a conversation over a drink or two at an appointed happy hour. But if hosting an in-person happy hour isn’t in the cards, a virtual one will have to suffice. Fortunately, it’s really easy to organize.

One of the best methods is to set up a room in a group conferencing tool like Zoom. All you have to do is share the room name and passcode ahead of time. Oh, and let folks know that it’s BYOB.

Get creative!

Virtual events, webinars and other digital tools are simply mediums for your message. Meaning, if you want to associate an “in-person” feel to your virtual event, all you have to do is get creative!

Drift’s recent virtual summit, RevGrowth, is a great example. During this event, Drift brought the physical experience to virtual events with lunch workout classes and even an afterparty featuring a live DJ.

Replicating the feeling of an in-person event during a virtual summit isn’t easy. But it does provide attendees with a much-needed opportunity to relax and get the most out of the virtual events in a way that’s familiar to them. So, when you’re planning for your next virtual summit, take the time to identify opportunities to replicate that in-person feeling.