Carefully Crafted on June 16

HOW TO: Execute a Virtual, 24-Hour Event

At Geben, we’ve had the opportunity to plan and host a wide variety of events (physical and digital) for clients, but we’ve never done an event that lasted for a full 24 hours, nor have we done an event with a major international emphasis. So, of course I was intrigued when my friend Shonali Burke explained that she’s planning a 24-hour virtual birthday party for  Milaap (pronounced “mill-aahp,” meaning “unity”), a micro-lending platform that enables everyday individuals to lend—not donate—to projects started by India’s working poor. I asked Shonali to share some thoughts about executing a virtual event of this scale with all of us. You can read her tips and lessons below. And, if you want to get in on the fun, the all-day (and night!) celebration takes place today (Monday). Just check out the #Milaap4Hope hashtag.
From Shonali:
  1. First, what is the overall theme of your event? While we tied the 24-hour programming to Milaap’s 4th birthday, making it a round-the-clock “Happy Birthday” show would have been self-serving and gratuitous. Instead, we focused on fleshing out events – one for each hour, on a different, or concurrent, social networks – that tie into its core mission of changing the nature of giving. This immediately makes it much more interesting and likely that guests you try to bring on will be more inclined to participate.
  2. Planning an online event with just as much detail as an offline one is critical. Draw up a detailed schedule of events or “run of show,” and think of all your “actors” who need to participate. What will their tasks and action items be? Do they know how to carry them out? If any training will be required, build in some buffer time for that. The last thing you want to see happen is for an online event to fall apart because those staffing it aren’t well-prepared.
  3. If you’re working across locations and time zones, program that will be appealing to your potential audience in each location or time zone. Use as many local assets as you can to make the content appealing and relevant, and don’t be afraid of repeating interesting or unusual content later during the day. Especially for a global event, it could be very interesting for a whole new audience.
  4. With an online event, you can often plug in scheduled content. However, this does not mean you can avoid “staffing” that time. What if someone has a query, or something goes wrong? Who will be on hand to answer questions? What happens if your hashtag – the way you will curate your cross-platform event – gets hijacked? Make sure you plan for this ahead of time. Just as you would for an offline event, have your contact list and chain of communication handy. Equally important, make sure that everyone involved – whether planners, staffers, guests or Champions – know what that chain of communication is.
  5. Content is key to any event. So make sure you have great content, not just in terms of programming the event, but for event promotion. Milaap commissioned a gorgeous infographic that shows the journey of a Devadasi – hereditary Indian temple dancers who are often forced into trafficking, and who are becoming self-reliant women entrepreneurs thanks to its #HopeProject campaign – from oppression to opportunity. We have been encouraging Champions to use and share this, as well as hoping it will be used in wonderful blog posts (like this one!) near and far.
  6. Finally – and most importantly – if you’re involving your community to get this event off the ground, as we are, give them absolutely everything they could need, and be with them every step of the way. We have created social media-friendly content for each hour of programming, which they can use as they help generate this global conversation on sustainable change. We’ve kept them posted as event details have been fleshed out. And we’re trying to highlight them as much as possible through this event – because without them, it would truly be nothing.

Thanks to Shonli for sharing her insights with us. If you’re thinking about planning a virtual event, keep this list handy and reference it! And, don’t forget to with Milapp a very happy birthday. Just add the #Milaap4Hope hashtag.

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