You have successfully scheduled your next virtual event using Microsoft Teams and are wondering what’s next? In this blog post I’d like to share my experiences with you as well as useful tips on how to successfully host an online event using Microsoft Teams Live Events. I will show you how we hosted public online knowledge-sharing sessions with our company, how we divided roles and responsibilities and our actions prior, during and after the live event.
Define the basics
First, we started with confirming the speakers (internal from our company). Who will present at the live event and on what day and time is everyone available? We also checked not to overlap with any other (major) online events. We started brainstorming about different topics within Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365 – which is the expertise and knowledge of our team. Instead of us deciding on the actual topics of the session, we ran a poll on our social media channels to let the audience decide what topic they would like us to cover. This is a great way to engage your audience from the very beginning and give your followers the opportunity to choose what you will talk about in your session.
Schedule the Teams Live Event
Once the speakers, the date, time and topics are defined, we scheduled the online event using Microsoft Teams Live Events. In case you haven’t set up a Microsoft Teams Live Event before, this explanatory video from Microsoft Cloud Advocate Sarah Lean gives you a step-by-step walkthrough on how to configure a live event using Microsoft Teams. I personally find the platform very user-friendly and within just a few clicks you can easily set-up your own event. (To host/produce a live event using Microsoft Teams, you need a Microsoft or Office 365 Enterprise E1, E3, or E5 license or an Office 365 Education A3 or A5 license, find out more here)
Spread the Word
Now that the event is scheduled, we can start getting the word out there. First, we create a page on our company website with all the event details such as speaker information, session titles, session abstracts as well as the registration button for attendees to sign up using Microsoft Forms. We can then share the link to our website via our social media channels as well as via an email invite to our database inviting our network to join the live event. As you would like to reach a bigger audience than your own database / social media followers only, it can be very helpful to look for relevant social media groups around your topic(s) to announce your event in dedicated groups. When you post about your event on social media, make sure you use hashtags on your event topics to make your posts better visible inside and outside of your network to a relevant audience following that certain hashtag. For example, our session is about Windows Virtual Desktop, so we include hashtags #WindowsVirtualDesktop and #WVD so the event post appears on the timeline for people interested in these topics. If you’re hosting a community event, you can also add your online event to the Microsoft Tech Community by going to events -> community events -> submit event. Your event will then be visible (after approval) within the Microsoft Tech Community and will show up in the list of upcoming events including the URL to your own website / registration form.
Tip: use a URL shortener for your Microsoft Teams “Join Live Event link” which you share with your attendees, so in case you need to change something – you can simply take care of this without having to send out a brand new URL to your participants.
Make sure you run a test
Now that the registration process is flowing and our event is being announced through different ways, we can work on our next steps to prepare for the live event. What I believe is very important is to test the Microsoft Teams Live Event with your team ahead of time prior to the event. You don’t want to be testing for the first time in your actual live session and run into any issues or unclarities. We therefore schedule a test Teams Live Event using the exact same set-up as if it would be the actual live event. We test everything; if everyone (from the producers/presenters) knows how to share a screen, turn on/off the camera, mute/unmute the mic, how we push content to the live stream, how we switch between sessions and breaks, how to jump from slides to live demos, as well as how the Microsoft Teams Live Event Q&A feature works. You want everything to run as smooth as possible in the backend and your audience to experience a well-prepared event once you go live. I find it’s very easy to “be in control of the buttons” as everything you need to do (e.g. send content live, mute/unmute speakers), is clearly shown on your screen in Microsoft Teams.
Divide roles and responsibilities for the live event
Ideally, you are not a single person presenting during the event and at the same time ensuring all logistics are running smoothly and monitoring the Q&A. If you have the possibility, assign the “producer” role to a person who doesn't need to present a session at the same time, so this person can fully focus on controlling the buttons, e.g. welcoming attendees, monitoring the Q&A and ensuring all technicalities are running smooth for your event. It’s also a good idea to have a back-up channel (for example a Microsoft Teams chat outside of the live event or a WhatsApp group chat) where you can communicate just in case you would run into any issues during the live event. In our live online sessions, I took care of the producer role taking the lead of the logistics of the event as well as welcoming our attendees and sharing basic house rules e.g. how participants can ask questions, how the agenda of the event looks like and relevant information like: if the session is being recorded, how to get in touch with the speakers afterwards and other relevant info to the participants. This way, the speakers can fully focus on their presentation parts without having to worry about the other of the event. However, as it’s so easy to operate Microsoft Teams Live Events, you could handle it on your own in case you are hosting the event alone and doing the presentation(s). In this case not to be distracted during your session presenting and monitoring questions at the same time, you can keep the Q&A for the end of your session to browse through the questions from the Q&A chat and answer them in the end.
We're going live in 3...2...1.....!
It’s the day of the online event and I have to admit, that I did feel a little bit nervous hosting the virtual event using Microsoft Teams Live Events for the first time. Would I be able to control everything, will I not run into any technical issues? We agreed with our team to call into the Microsoft Teams Live Event 30 minutes prior to the event starts, so that we can ensure we are in on time, and once more check that everything is working properly. Once we are ready with the final test, we click “start the live event” (approx. 15 minutes before the event starts) showing a welcome slide as attendees drop in. Include the name of your event as well as the starting time and any other additional information you would like to show for attendees who "arrive at your event". For example, your Twitter handle or the hashtag you’d like your participants to use when posting about your event on social media.
Once your event is running and your speakers are presenting, there’s not much you need to do anymore in Microsoft Teams itself as a producer in terms of controlling buttons. Everything should run smoothly so you can focus for example on monitoring and answering the questions in the Q&A.
If you are hosting multiple sessions during the live event, allow a short break in between the presentations so you can switch between speakers, as well as give your audience a short break before the next presentation starts.
Presentation tip: As it might feel unusual to present in front of a camera during a live online event where you can’t see your audience, I recommend to read this blog post by Microsoft Cloud Advocate Sonia Cuff where she shares useful tips and tricks when presenting online.
After the live event
Once we are finished with our sessions, we can now focus on our follow-up activities. With Microsoft Teams Live Events you can download the recording, export the attendees and Q&A report (if enabled during the initial set-up of your live event) and use this to further engage with your audience. We send out a thank you email to the participants with call to actions, including a link to the session recordings or session slide decks. You might want to collect feedback from your attendees on the presentations (e.g. on the content and speakers) and also here we use Microsoft Forms to create a feedback form and gather that data. I highly recommend you do this first follow-up shortly after the live event when the experience is still fresh in the attendees’ memories. Lastly, we internally re-cap on the event, what went well, what not and learn what we can do better next time.
Plan your next event
If you are looking to host your own virtual sessions, I can recommend using Microsoft Teams Live Events: it’s easy to set-up the event, as well as to operate during the live session and export the data you need afterwards.
For technical documentation and trainings on how to use Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Teams Live Events, you can always check out the official Microsoft documentation at Microsoft Docs and Microsoft Learn or the community conversations around Microsoft Teams here in the Microsoft Tech Community. In case you have any questions about my experiences using Microsoft Teams Live Events, feel free to let me know in the comments below.
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