How to create, promote, host, and make your virtual events more engaging?


  • How to create virtual events

  • How to promote virtual events

  • How to host virtual events

  • How to make virtual events more engaging

  • How to start your public presentation / virtual events

  • How to end your public presentation / virtual events

  • How to follow-up after your presentation / virtual events



Imagine a quick scenario with me today. Let’s imagine that you’re a fantastic singer and that amazing artists like Beyonce, Lizzo, Taylor Swift, Drake, and others have at one point come to you for vocal lessons. Yes, you’re that good.



Now, let’s pretend that you’re set to headline a show after COVID-19 has become a thing of the past. You have raving fans across all demographics and the crowd that once gathered for the Beatles was a walk in the park compared to the chaos your presence brings to an arena.


The cheers are so loud it’s hard to hear your own thoughts. Their excitement radiates to your room backstage and the vibration that’s caused by the screams starts rattling your wardrobe set. You can’t even put your glass of water down on the table without it spilling out. Chaos is an understatement.


You take a deep breath and the curtains open.


It’s incredibly blinding and there you are hoping you don’t trip your way to the microphone. Your vocal cords are warm and ready to sing!


And as you lunge into the microphone, belting your voice that’s coming up from your stomach to your cords, the screams that once rattled your wardrobe set, instead turned into millions of fans harmoniously booing you off the stage.




Now, let’s diagnose this scenario. Can you guess what happened?


Any ideas why your excited fans suddenly turned into an angry mob?


Any ideas why you disappointed so many people so quickly?


Okay, okay. No more rhetorical questions and let’s assess why this happened.


When you find yourself in a scenario where hundreds of people are anxiously waiting for an incredible performance and you deliver a catastrophic failure that becomes a worldwide meme, it’s usually due to 3 things:


  1. Fantasy: Your alarm starts ringing and you wake up from a horrific nightmare that you have to do something in front of an audience because you can’t fathom the idea of having a fraction of the influence it takes to create that type of atmosphere so you quickly realize that it was just a dream.

  2. Failed Expectations: The audience expected a crazy, energetic show and as soon as you stepped up, it went from a performance to a filibuster that’s sure to put even the fussiest babies to sleep.

  3. Fake: You didn't stray from your audience’s expectations, but your delivery as well as your timing was as miscalculated as the early astronomers who believed that the Earth was once at the center of the universe.


Now, if you haven’t made the connection yet between this hypothetical scenario and the way you think about virtual events, let’s make it abundantly clear.


When you find yourself in a scenario where hundreds of students are anxiously waiting for an incredible virtual event and you deliver a catastrophic failure that becomes a meme within their group chats, it’s usually due to three things:


  1. Fantasy: Your alarm starts ringing and you wake up from a horrific nightmare that you have to do something in front of students because you can’t fathom the idea of having a tenth of the influence it takes to create an atmosphere where you have hundreds of students joining your virtual event so you quickly realize that it was just a dream.

  2. Failed Expectations: The students expected a crazy, energetic show and as soon as you stepped up, it went from a performance to a filibuster that’s sure to put even the fussiest babies to sleep.

  3. Fake: You didn't stray from the student’s expectations, but your delivery as well as your timing was as miscalculated as the early astronomers who believed that the Earth was once at the center of the universe.


As you read this blog, my goals for you here are simple. It’s to:


  1. Develop a fundamental understanding of how to market and host virtual events that is not dependent on a platform you use; this strategy transcends needing a specific technology besides PowerPoint and an internet connection

  2. Execute my 6-step guide on how to generate a ton of buzz for your next recruitment marketing event

  3. Understand a 7 step-structure on how to execute an engaging event

  4. Learn the art of continuing to stay engaged with your attendees even after the event is over

  5. Get over the fears that are holding you and your company back from exponential success when hosting virtual events with my tactical plug and play examples


I put my heart and my soul into this blog.



I started writing this blog the day before Thanksgiving. I felt compelled to jot my thoughts down on paper to answer this important question -


“How do I host a virtual event without students falling asleep after I’ve finished?”


I’m also a firm believer that you should only take advice from people who already have what you want.


If I were in your shoes, I’d want to know that the advice I was implementing had actually worked in the past. My name is Rishav Khanal and here’s my LinkedIn “resume” (a.k.a. why I’m qualified to speak about this):


  • I co-authored a bestselling book on the college to career space, Experience Over Degrees that distributed over 1,000 copies in just 48 hours

  • I personally led a pilot initiative at LinkedIn to have sales representatives host events to educate HR professionals on the talent landscape and had attendees such as the VP of HR from Leo Burnett

  • I presented alongside my co-founder, Alex Strathdee at an Experience Leadership Institute across that received testimonials such as:




So, let's get started eh?


Besides the obvious stay at home orders and a global pandemic, in my opinion, if done right, virtual events give companies the ability to cut costs drastically since you don’t have to travel 500+ miles to speak to your target audience and it can open you up to talent pools you may not have considered before.


This sounds great in theory, but we recently surveyed college students, and close to 60% of those participants said that they found the information shared at a virtual event to be useless.


If the goal of the event is to promote your company as an employer of choice, right now, 6 out of 10 students from our survey indicated that they’re quite disinterested in your event and in turn, the way you market your company.


Check out our infographic that highlights these findings:





So, how do you fix this? How do provide an experience for your potential employees to have a rare and memorable experience?


For the remainder of this blog, we’re going to focus on one specific scenario to bring the tactical examples to life. Now, just because your situation may not fit into this example doesn’t mean that the steps shared here aren’t relevant for you. In fact, it may mean that you’re a few steps ahead of others, but in order to take the next leap, fine-tuning your craft from the advice shared here can elevate your employer brand.


The scenario: Janet works for a 3,000 person company. Her company has primarily attended college fairs and her time for the past few years during September-December was primarily spent in hotels, airports, and stuffy college gymnasiums to potentially meet hundreds of students. Due to the fact that she was attending fairs and building a few relationships with student leaders, she never had the exposure to “proactive sourcing” and “digital recruitment marketing.” Needless to say, the transition to virtual recruitment for her has been met with technical challenges on learning new platforms every few days and strategic challenges due to a lack of engagement from students.


Her company spent the majority of their university recruiting budget on travel therefore, she doesn’t have a premium LinkedIn or a Handshake membership. It’s a recruiting model where she has been assigned core schools that she travels to every fall instead.


If you’re an HR leader and this perfectly describes your situation, great! Keep reading as we dig into the strategies.


If you’re an HR leader and this is the opposite, keep reading as well. While some of the strategies may not be as applicable to your situation, the contents shared during the “During” section will be right for you!


Now, that we’ve outlined a specific scenario, it might be assumed that we’re going to want to talk about marketing the event and discussing the logistics of delivering a great presentation, but if you’re catching on at this point, we’re not going to skip any steps here!


A mistake I want you to avoid from here on out is to operate your early talent strategy as a “feelings industry.”


Let’s face it, campus recruiting is such a “feelings” industry sometimes. Recruiters doing what they “feel” is right, or what they were told to do, almost always without a lot of data points


I’m all for gut instinct, but at a certain point, you have to measure and assess the impact of your activities. This starts by properly aligning on the “why” of your strategy and by answering just 2 fundamental questions about your virtual events.


  1. What is your goal when hosting virtual events? Look I get it. Every event will have its own sets of goals and objectives, but failing to document why your organization specifically hosts virtual events will leave a lot of room for interpretation especially from full-time employees you invite to the event since they’re not recruiting like you 24/7. Even if it’s implied that your goal is to use virtual events as a way to recruit more candidates, document it! Share it! Get aligned with your organization on your objectives.


  1. What is the single most important thing you want the audience to remember after every single one of your events? Again, the answer may change a bit depending on the type of event you’re hosting, but for the most part, what do you want the students to always keep in mind after they’ve attended the event. Get together as a university recruiting team and document this answer. Whatever answer you all come up with, share it with any external full-time employees or executives that co-host the event alongside you and your team. Use this answer as a way to prep those employees and what you want them to share in order to get to your desired end result.


After you’ve defined the broad goals around hosting virtual events and what you want your audience to remember, the next step is to determine the logistics of how you’ll get an event scheduled in the first place.


Remember our scenario?


Janet’s company has assigned her a list of schools that she oversees and therefore, she’s planning to host events at all of her schools to substitute for her inability to travel to these colleges.


One of the colleges Janet oversees is our alma mater, Virginia Tech (Go Hokies!). Before she would either just attend a virtual fair hosted by the Career Services department or she would find a way to post the event on Handshake and just wait for students to join the event.


Just like I would share with her if she were asking me these questions today, I would advise you to do the following.


Step 1


Check your ATS for students who already accepted your offer that come from Virginia Tech and tap into their expertise as well as their relationships on campus to find out about highly engaged student clubs and organizations. (This is one of the many benefits of formalizing a campus ambassador program so you can harness the power of your returning interns as opposed to ignoring them for 7+ months). In addition to this, seek out any recent full-time employees who attended Virginia Tech so you can simply ask, “When you were a student last year, what clubs were you aware of or involved in that had a lot of enthusiastic students?”


Step 2


As you get these insights, simultaneously go to Google and type in “Virginia Tech Student Organization Directory.” Depending on the university, you should have access to oversee a list of student organizations and find ones that appeal to the goals you have for your virtual event.


Step 3


If there were any organizations that caught your eye from this directory, ask your returning interns or candidates who accepted your offer to see if they can introduce you to their executive members.


Side note: Whenever you ask for an introduction, always send the person who is making the introduction a sample email that they can use to introduce you and the point of contact that you want to get in touch with. This will save them the hassle of having to write an email and will increase your chances of getting an email sent.


Here’s a sample template:


[Insert the name of the person making the introduction]- thanks so much for this! Warm introductions are almost always better so I appreciate your help. Feel free to edit the blurb however you'd like.

----------------------------------

[insert the name of the person you’re being introduced to]- hope you're having a great week!

This week, I connected with [insert your name], campus recruiting lead at [insert your company name] (on copy). We met after my experience with [insert your company’s name]. [insert your name] oversees all the recruitment marketing efforts and is responsible for connecting with leaders like you in a relevant way.

Since you lead some efforts at [insert the organization name], I figure a conversation might spur an interesting dialogue between you two regardless of whether or not you choose to bring them in for an event since the way they provide value to student organizations like yours is a bit unusual.

I will leave you two to connect!

Thanks,

[Insert Your Name]

Step 4

In order to diversify your connections, ask your returning interns, candidates who accepted your offer, or employees who recently graduated from that university to introduce you to their professors or career center directors. You can use the email above as a template that you can send to them to facilitate the introduction.


If these individuals respond, try and carve 30 minutes on their calendar to genuinely build a relationship with them where you can learn about their goals and ways that you can provide value to them.


The tactics of how to do this will be saved for another blog since it’s a separate topic, but once introduced, ask them if they would be open to sharing your event with their students. A simple ask such as,


“[Insert the administrator’s name]- feel free to say no, but would you be against the idea of sharing an event we’re hosting where we’re hoping to talk to students about [insert topics]? Happy to make things easy and send over a quick blurb that you can either email or talk to your students about if that’s okay?”


Step 5


In order for the next steps and the following sections to work, make sure you’re connecting with a student organization leader about possibly hosting an event.


Now, many companies will either deliver a virtual info-session that turns into a virtual “info-session” or speak with the organization for 20 minutes without having any understanding of what the student organization does. You’d never show up to a meeting with your CHRO unprepared so why should a fundamental aspect of your job be any different?


Instead of showing up on the day of the event or just corresponding via email, ask to set up a 30-minute conversation to align expectations. In addition to the time you’re allotted for the event, you should also be able to answer the following questions about the organization:


  • What does the student organization do and what does the student organization care about the most?


  • When it comes to having companies speak at an event, what do the students want to learn more about?


  • When it comes to having companies speak at an event, what type of events are the students tired of attending?


  • How many members are in the student organization and how is it broken down by class and major?


  • When companies have hosted an event with the student organization before, what type of events have yielded the biggest turnout, and why?


After the 30 minutes are up, you may not have the opportunity to solidify an event right away. If that is the case, that is perfectly okay. Schedule another 30-minute chat to present your ideas to the student organization leader so that they can vote on an event that they prefer the most.


To make the brainstorming session productive, here are the questions you need to ask yourself:


  • What is your goal for this event?


  • Based on your previous conversations, what can you teach the members of this student organization in order to add value to them?


  • From that event, what is the single most important thing you want the audience to remember besides just your company’s hiring plans?


  • What are the one, two, or three points you’d like to make to help the audience remember that single thing?


  • If you’re successful, what will the audience think/feel/do after your speech?


These questions should help you come up with some unique ideas that are relevant to the student organization so you can get a great turn-out. Afterward, this is the easy part. It’s answering questions like:


  • How will you open your talk?


  • How will you close your talk?


  • What is your call to action?


  • Will you use visuals to accompany your speech?


  • If yes, what types? (e.g. PowerPoint, video clips, testimonials)


Step 6


Before we dive into conducting the event, let’s not forget about marketing the event. You’ve spent all this time getting the event secured, but there’s no guarantee that the 100+ members will show up for your event so you have to market it effectively in order to get the return you’re seeking for.


A great place to start is to solidify your event with the student organization that this is an event that can be open to other students from that university as well. Once you’ve confirmed this, here are a few things you need to do in order to market your event successfully.


  1. Re-connect with professors, academic advisors, or career center directors that you developed a relationship with on Step 4 to market your event. Send them an email to make it easier for them

  2. Source candidates either on LinkedIn or Handshake and send them a personalized invitation to your upcoming events

  3. When executing the strategy above, ruthlessly prioritize personalization. A RippleMatch survey showed that the main reason why some students hesitate to attend virtual recruitment events is that they fear that online events will not be effective for making personalized connections. Targeted LinkedIn outreach and personalized email messages (“Dear John- noticed that you are in XYZ” rather than “Dear Student”) are a few tactics that show students that you care about them specifically.

How to make virtual events more engaging


If you follow the steps outlined above, this process becomes extremely easy. It’s because you have developed such a keen understanding of how you can provide value that your event will automatically answer the question in the audience’s eyes of “what’s in it for me?”


However, there are still a few factors to consider when executing an online event in order to keep it engaging and light-hearted for the candidates that are joining your event.


In this section, we’ll focus on your delivery and the framework you need to consider in order to deliver an engaging presentation.



Step One: Leave the boring introductions at home


“Good evening everyone, thanks for joining us”


“I know these are unusual times….”


“Thanks, everyone for joining us…”


**YAWN**


People’s attention spans are getting incredibly short and you can’t waste these precious moments on empty statements. Instead, open up your presentation with either a fact (Did you know that 60% of students don’t know what they want to do after college - I made this up, but you get the point), a quote, a story, or a question.


You must always keep in mind and ask yourself, “How can I break the student’s expectations of how a normal presentation begins?”


Step Two: Connect on the “why”


After many presenters open up their event with a boring introduction, they dive right into the content without getting their audience emotionally invested.


Instead, after you defy the student’s expectations with your engaging introduction, tell your students why this content and this presentation is important to them. This part becomes easier to answer because you have already connected with the student organization leader and have asked, “What does the student organization do and what does the student organization care about the most?” even before the event.


Essentially, during this part, you need to become vulnerable.


Example: “Now, I’m sure this isn’t the first time you’re attending a presentation like this and I’m sure the ones you’ve attended before might not have been engaging. When I was a student, I was half haphazardly going to class, barely making time for the things that would teach me useful skills, but instead, I procrastinated every chance I got. I don’t like to live my life with a lot of regrets, but if I could go back and change my experience professionally during college, I wish I attended more of these events.”


It doesn’t have to be those exact words, but you need to get your audience emotionally invested in you and your presentation.


Step Three: Tell them what they’ll gain from listening to your presentation


If you haven’t noticed already, we’re spending a bit more time on the “lead-up” to the event and that’s because if you go straight into giving an agenda, you’re going to lose people a lot sooner than you think. Once you have them emotionally invested, this is your chance to tell the students what they can expect from you by the end of the presentation.


Are they going to have a better understanding of your topic? Are they going to be inspired to take action? Will you give them some simple how-to’s to practice?


As soon as you do so, then you want to introduce yourself and your role.


Example: “In order to make today’s topic relevant, I have this bucketed into 3 parts. We’ll break this industry down so you can speak eloquently about it moving forward, we’ll teach you how to manipulate data sets using a simple framework so you can tell a story with numbers for any presentation, and lastly, we’ll have an honest discussion about how these things tie into what we do at our company so you can learn a bit more about us and decide if applying here would be of interest to you. But before we do so, I’m a firm believer that you should only take advice from people that have what you want, and to give you some context, my name is Rishav Khanal. I’m a former Virginia Tech graduate and a best-selling author on the college to career space. I know this space pretty well given my experience (insert reasons why you’re qualified to speak on this topic)


Step Four: Dive into it


Now, your audience will be engaged and will want to know more about the “what.” This is where we’ll get roundabout answers, people wanting to talk just to hear themselves speak or they lose themselves in their thoughts.


You need to be concise. Less is more.


Select 3-5 key points you want to make. Avoid making more than 5 points. You’re better off picking fewer points and having your audience remember them, rather than making so many they can’t absorb them.


For each point, you’re going to utilize the PREP framework to deliver your message.


Point: Think of this as another mini introduction. Use a quote, fact, or a question to state your case. Afterward, articulate your hypothesis.


Reasons: Explain your reasoning. Data points or external research can go a long way in establishing your credibility in this section.


Example: Illustrate your point by sharing stories or providing a testimonial.


Point: Conclude your “mini introduction” that you made at the beginning and quickly summarize the point you made.


Rinse and repeat for 3-5 times depending on the time that’s allocated.


After each points is made, engage the audience by asking them a question. Call them out by name, ask them to unmute their mic and get their take on how they feel about the point you just brought up, and get them to provide their own commentary on the topic.


Step Five: Address your doubters


Students are increasingly skeptical about a lot of things these days, but can you blame them? It’s no secret that a percentage of your audience will start to ask “But if what X happens?” What about Y?” “Yeah, that won’t work.”


Before getting into the conclusion, address any and all doubts around your topic by addressing the objections people may have proactively.


For example: “Some of you may be thinking ‘Yeah, but isn’t just full of boring people?’ It’s ok, we’ve heard that before, but even though we may bias, we like to think we’re different because…. Etc.”


Take a few minutes to address these objections so you can proactively retract the power that they hold with your audience. If you do this, you’ll certainly earn a lot of their trust.


Step Six: Drop the mic!


After all this hard work you’ve put in to engage your audience, don’t let it go to waste with a weak, floppy ending! Similar to the PREP framework, here’s a separate framework to follow for your introductions:


Remind them of the goals you outlined at the beginning of the presentation. Tie it back.


Summarise what you’ve talked about by only sharing the big takeaways.


Give your call to action by clearly answering the question, ”What should my audience do after listening? Sign up for something? Go to your website?” Make this very clear.


End with a punchy closing line. Preferably make it optimistic and uplifting so your audience walks away feeling good!


Don’t lose the connections you made


You’ve probably spent hours trying to create this presentation so the last thing you want to have happened is for students to forget who you are and what you do.


Express your gratitude. Remind them about you and your company.


Step Seven: Follow-up!!


Since this is a dense topic, I reserved another section that outlines the proper ways to follow up with an audience after the presentation.


Segment. Segment. Segment.


Look at your list of the total students that RSVP’d to the event. Batch them into two groups:


  • Ones that attended the event

  • Ones that didn’t attend the event


First, for the ones that didn’t attend the event, send a casual email to them asking if everything was okay?


Next, attached a brief description of what you talked about as well as your clearly defined call to action that you gave to the students that attended your event.


In the same email, attach a recording of the event if your company doesn’t have any restrictions at the bottom for them to watch as well as any supporting documentation.


Example:



Now for the students that attended, send them an EXCEPTIONAL email thanking them for attending the event.


Here’s how:


  1. Gather the list of attendees

  2. Find their LinkedIn profile

  3. Create a Google sheet that looks like this



Fill those cells and as you do, it should look like this:



4. If you’re using Excel, find the instructions to mail merge so you can send a massive email that is also personalized here.


If you’re using Google sheets, find the instructions to mail merge so you can send a massive email that is also personalized here.


5. If you do it right, you should have an email that looks something like:



And now, you’ve got a couple of testimonials that you can use on your website, share on LinkedIn as well as other mediums!


Outro & Conclusions


Conclusion!


4,000+ words later you made it! Round of applause for yourself!


These 4,000 or so words are a lot to take in so here is a quick summary of what we covered.


The questions we answered are as follows:


  • How to create virtual events

  • How to promote virtual events

  • How to host virtual events

  • How to make virtual events more engaging

  • How to start your public presentation / virtual events

  • How to end your public presentation / virtual events

  • How to follow-up after your presentation / virtual events


Here’s a quick overview of what we covered:


  • It starts by answering the questions, “What is your goal when hosting virtual events?” and “What is the single most important thing you want the audience to remember after every single one of your events?”


  • Next, check your ATS for students who already accepted your offer that comes from the university you’re planning to host an event for and tap into their expertise as well as their relationships on campus to find out about highly engaged student clubs and organizations.


  • Search the university student organization directory and depending on the university, you should have access to oversee a list of student organizations and find ones that appeal to the goals you have for your virtual event.


  • If there were any organizations that caught your eye from this directory, ask your returning interns or candidates who accepted your offer to see if they can introduce you to their executive members.


  • In order to diversify your connections, ask your returning interns, candidates who accepted your offer, or employees who recently graduated from that university to introduce you to their professors or career center directors.


  • Instead of showing up on the day of the event or just corresponding via email, ask to set up a 30-minute conversation to align expectations and answer all the questions listed above.


  • Source candidates either on LinkedIn or Handshake and send them a personalized invitation to your upcoming events.


  • When you’re executing the event, you leave the boring introductions at home, align on the why, tell them what they’ll gain, dive into the content, address your doubters, practice your concluding remarks, and follow-up!


And with that, you’re off! Happy presenting!!



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