Over the past 2 years, it is not a secret that events have changed. We have seen the rise of webinars, an increase in companies utilizing virtual spaces to host events, and the need to factor in a variety of safety measures for in-person events to name a few. Before the pandemic, there was an unwritten code of attendee etiquette for events that for the most part people followed. When the pandemic hit, we saw that code go out the window as we all attended our ZOOM meetings with our best sweats, shorts, PJ’s, etc. Now that virtual events and webinars have become part of the norm, we should take a look at some etiquette for attendees to practice when they take part in a virtual event or webinar. Event planners go out of their way to create one-of-a-kind virtual events as we have explored in previous posts, the least we can do as we plan to attend a virtual event is put our best foot forward.
You may feel like the information is not relevant since you already registered or purchased your ticket, so you may feel like the event organizer or marketer is simply ‘spamming you’. I am guilty of thinking the same thing as an attendee. Those emails, however, are a crucial part of the event as they usually contain ALL the information that you find yourself needing, such as time, date, and how to log on (always remember the email/password you used to register for the event), as well as other critical pieces of attending a virtual event.
From an event organizer’s perspective, it can be frustrating to send a well-thought-out attendee email with information and yet still receive phone calls or emails inquiring about the information that was already sent out, yes occasionally someone may slip through the cracks, but the argument of ‘I NEVER received that email’ can be easily verified by the organizer. So… DO NOT BE ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE.
Read the emails to stay up to date, especially as it has become common to see last-minute changes in events.
Along the same lines as reading your attendee emails, make sure that you review the agenda and materials in advance. Agenda and event programs are typically sent out in advance so that attendees can map out their days and identify what they want to see, activities they want to take part in, etc.
Although this should be something we do for any event we attend with virtual events it can really help navigate the platform much easier, as you will know what you are looking for or what to RSVP for to build your own itinerary. This will also allow you to take time in advance to note any speakers you want to see and any questions you want to ask, to ensure you get the most out of the event.
Many virtual event organizers ‘open’ the event early to allow for attendees to test their connections and troubleshoot any tech issues they may be experiencing. Before the event, as an attendee, you should check your internet connections, device setup, webcams, and microphones, as well as log on to the event platform so that you can check your browser.
Doing this before the event start will allow you to have a much more enjoyable attendee experience and not feel overwhelmed by avoidable tech issues. As someone who has planned virtual events, I am often surprised by the number of attendees who delay the start time because they are having technical difficulties that could have been avoided if they had just tested everything beforehand. Yes, some technical difficulties come up that take longer to troubleshoot or are completely unexpected, even as event organizers this can happen, but the majority of the time, tech issues are simple and can be easily fixed.
You should always have your event organizers’ information handy so that you can notify them if something serious is going on and you will be late or not able to attend. Quick things you can do to make sure your internet connection is strong:
- Check your internet modem and router for physical obstructions (are there dense walls and appliances that could obstruct the signal to your device?
- If you use satellite internet service, which is likely to experience latency, consider switching to a hotspot connection before joining the event or a hardwire, cable connection between your computer and modem.
This is a ‘code’ I have seen shift since the pandemic. When most events we attended were in person, arriving on time was a given. As we moved into more virtual events, start times started becoming more of a suggestion to many. If an event is listed to begin at 8:30 am DO NOT arrive at 9:15 am and express your irritation that you missed content. YOU were the one that was late, not the organizer, speaker, or other attendees.
Just because an event is virtual does not mean that you can arrive late and no one will notice. People notice. Arriving at an event on time or even 5-10 minutes early shows everyone involved in the event that you are present and you do care about the information. It is a sign of respect for other professionals and further demonstrates your stellar professionalism to arrive on time for an event.
Arriving on time is just the first step in actually being present. With virtual events, it is easy to log on and then go do what you need to do while still receiving your attendance certificate or webinar certificate of attendance. What does this sort of behavior say to other attendees or event organizers? When attending virtual events or webinars it is important to not only show up but to engage and be present during the event. Things that can help you be present as an attendee:
- Be transparent about any possible distractions: Being virtual may mean that there are children, pets, or even partners that create a possible distraction. Be upfront about it, especially if your event is one where you will be seen on camera or you will be heard by others. We are all human and have things that go on and happen, chances are the other attendees, organizers, or speakers will forgive and respect you for telling them ahead of time.
- Consider your background: Less is more. If you will be seen on camera, consider what you want other event attendees and organizers to see. Do you want them to see you laying in your bed with your hair a mess and in your PJs? (You might be giggling at this, as you think ‘this would never happen, but my friends, it does happen…OFTEN, and leaves speakers and organizers as well as other attendees baffled and distracted by that individual)
- Be nice to the speakers and organizers: The people who put together the virtual event you are attending have worked hard to organize something they believe you will enjoy and appreciate. It is easy to forget that there is a person or a team behind the scenes working hard to keep things running smoothly. Although we may all have attended our fair share of virtual events and feel like it is fairly simple, the complexities that go into every detail of it are endless, and to many organizers, virtual might still be fairly new. This means that there might be some misses or unexpected glitches. It is always important to remember that your experience is not everyone’s experience. Do not bring everyone down by using the interaction spaces to vent and talk about how crappy you feel the event or speaker is. Even if your point is valid, it may backfire and present you to the other attendees as petty and negative.
- React and engage with the speakers and sessions to show them you’re engaged: Most virtual events or webinars have interaction panels for chats, Q&A, and reactions. These are there so that attendees can engage in the session and let the speaker know they are there and present. Ask relevant and meaningful questions, share your thoughts about a certain message in the chat box, and send a heart or thumbs-up reaction when you hear something you like. There are many ways attendees can let others know they are present. This is especially important when attending an event or webinar when you will not be visible on screen.
With virtual events, organizers have access to amazing analytics that help them measure event success, but the only way to measure attendee satisfaction and feedback is the post-event survey questions for attendees. Many organizers require attendees to complete these surveys to receive their attendance certificates but all attendees in the corporate development meeting, event or webinar should complete these important surveys, even if they do not need a certificate. This provides information so that organizers can continue to create events that attendees want to attend and receive constructive feedback about glitches or things that did not work well. Attendees also can provide anecdotal feedback about their favorite parts or speakers as well as the overall event experience. These surveys make a tremendous impact on how we grow and improve to create the best attendee event experiences!
Attending a virtual event does not mean that all we have ever learned about professionalism and etiquette go out the window. Putting our best foot forward and engaging in the activities of the event, will enhance our experience as attendees and the experience of others!