The show must go on… virtually

Post by Jayne Murphy and Neil Lands, Home Office Events team

Tuesday 16 June 2020

a generic image of a cup of coffee and laptop on a table with the legend 'The IC Space'

Coronavirus has changed all our lives, from home schooling to social distancing, and things rightly look different today compared to six months ago.  However, for event professionals the show must go on, albeit with different tools and resources at our fingertips.

The Home Office Excellence Awards have been a flagship event in our staff engagement calendar for the past nine years and recognise the outstanding work undertaken by our colleagues. These successes are usually celebrated at an annual ‘live’ event, where colleagues from across the organisation spend time in each other’s company, catch up with friends from the past and hear about the great work going on across the organisation. Now with the current government measures in place we’re facing a problem. How do we celebrate these achievements without seeing these people in person?

The virtual reality

This summer, for the very first time, we will be delivering our Excellence Awards over Skype for Business. There are seven categories, each ‘sponsored’ by a Permanent Secretary or Director General, who oversee the judging of their category and, at the award ceremony, will make the presentation to the winners.

Are we worried that doing the awards online won’t feel like as much of a celebration? At first, certainly, but we have had numerous conversations with colleagues in the Internal Comms team, and we have some exciting things up our collective sleeve (and no we can’t tell you here, we don’t want to ruin any surprises, but email either of us directly and we can fill you in!)

Do we have concerns about delivering this online? Perhaps, but we will work with our colleagues in the Home Office technology team and practise, practise, practise! In fact, we have watched several online awards and undertaken a fair bit of research to settle any nerves and here is what we have uncovered about online events in general:

  • If you have any connectivity concerns and are worried about presenters losing connection, you can pre-record them and play at the appropriate time. Remember though, if you are doing a Q&A session with the speaker, make sure they don’t answer questions while the recording is playing or wear something different to the day they were recorded!
  • Have several dress rehearsals to uncover anything that could go wrong, make sure everyone knows exactly what button they should be pressing and when.
  • Presenting online is different to presenting at an actual event. Make sure speakers are comfortable and if not, there are plenty of hints and tips online.
  • Events generally take longer online, ensure you factor that in when preparing the agenda and briefing notes.
  • If you can, have a WhatsApp group or use another communication tool with your event colleagues during the event in case anything goes wrong with the technology you are using.

Finally, learn from the masters. Ted Talks generally don’t last for longer than 18 minutes and it has been shown that our attention span for listening to one speaker online starts to wane at this point. So don’t have one speaker hogging the limelight.

Events specialists have seen their ways of working change dramatically since March and embracing technology will allow us to continue to deliver these important colleague engagement events. Now, excuse us please, we are off to test our home broadband connections….

Jayne Murphy and Neil Lands work in the Home Office Internal Events team