Category Video Communications

5 Keys to a Successful Virtual Event

AVI-SPL wants to help your teams stay connected and productive during this difficult time as most of us are working, collaborating, and leading from home. Our Together We Can series offers helpful ideas and resources. Below is this week’s edition. Read all Together We Can posts.

While the COVID-19 pandemic response has sent everyone home to work, companies are also seeing their in-person employee and customer events canceled or indefinitely postponed. However, there is an alternative that can keep communication and revenue flowing in these uncertain times. Turn your all-hands meetings and customer seminars and gatherings into virtual events.

Virtual events let you stay in touch with employees through live-streaming Town Halls, and host customer seminars to showcase strategies and solutions. Before you get started, though, consider these five keys to a successful virtual event.

1. Make your virtual event interactive

Start by building choosing your presenters and building your agenda. Try to select a host who is comfortable using online tools and can engage a virtual audience. For example, someone with experience leading webinars is a desirable choice for your virtual events. If your team hasn’t presented online in the past, just allow time for practice so they can get comfortable with the technology and engaging the audience online.

Since your attendees will be remote, it’s essential to work interactive elements into your virtual event agenda to encourage participation. You’ll also discourage participants from attending in listen-only mode while multitasking. Some ideas include:

  • Allow attendees to ask or submit questions on the materials
  • Take polls about activities related to the presentation
    • The presenter can ask the question and ask attendees to respond in the chatbox
  • Include an open Q&A Session
  • Share downloadable content via the chat window
  • Add a mix of material such as a live speaker with slides, and recorded video

For smaller events, include a live Q&A session where you can turn the audience’s mics on. For larger meetings, ask participants to submit written questions in the chat or Q&A boxes. Allow the presenter to focus on presenting while another team member monitors the chat and Q&A window and passes questions on to the host. Add a few minutes at the beginning of the session for the host or event coordinator to review the question procedure with attendees.

End your session by thanking everyone for attending and reviewing how you will follow up with the audience. 

2. Encourage virtual event or Town Hall attendance

Once you have your virtual event plan, it’s time to invite guests to register and attend your event. Your plan can include sending out regular communications, ensuring invites have your contact information, and offering incentives to attendees.

Schedule a regular cadence of invitation and reminders emails

While everyone has good intentions to attend your event, they may forget or lose motivation when other issues consume their day. It’s helpful to build an email invite and reminder schedule to encourage people to attend your virtual event. It may look something like this:

  • Invite 1: four weeks prior
  • Invite 2: one week prior
  • Invite last chance: one week prior
  • Confirmation email with session instructions: ongoing upon registration
  • Reminder to attend 1: one week prior
  • Reminder to attend 2: one day prior

Include contact information

Potential attendees may have questions about your event content or technical issues with the online registration. Include a contact email and phone number in all your email communications. Assign a team member to answer calls and check emails to respond to questions quickly. Be prepared to take phone registrations if need.

Office incentives to participate

If your budget allows, consider offering an incentive to attend the event. Use items that are easy to deliver electronically after the event. Some ideas include:

  • e-gift cards for coffee or online shop
  • Long-form, value-added content such as an eBook or White Paper

3. Choose your virtual event solution

For complex sessions, such as an all-hands virtual Town Hall live stream, you may want to enlist the help of a video production partner such as VideoLink. Your partner can manage the production and quickly resolve any technical issues.

You can host smaller events on your preferred meeting platform like Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, or Zoom. Be sure to activate all privacy features for your meeting, such as requiring a meeting password and restricting who can share content on the screen. Also, check your app subscription to ensure you can host the expected number of attendees and record the event. Upgrade your platform if needed.

4. Hold a dress rehearsal

It’s helpful to do a complete run-through of the presentation before your live virtual event. Have all presenters and staff ensure all technical elements are working. A dress rehearsal will help you:

  • Show the host and presenters know how to log on, take control of the session, and share content and video
  • Learn how to mute and unmute all attendees to avoid noise
  • Test everyone’s mics, cameras, speakers, and Internet connections
  • Time each part of the session to see if you need to streamline your content, and ensure you allow time for audience Q&A

5. Follow up after the online seminar or live stream

As with any event, it’s essential to follow up with attendees after the session to keep the conversation flowing. Town Hall virtual events can include a survey or an email with the recording. Customer event follow-up can be managed by marketing or by sending qualified leads to your sales team.

Provide email templates with any slides and content that the host shared during the event. Offer attendees the option to subscribe to your e-newsletter program and send content relevant to the event presentations. If your virtual event promoted a solution, consider adding an incentive to purchase in your follow-up communications.

Follow these ideas to hosting successful virtual events that help you connect with remote staff and drive customer revenue. If you need assistance with a company Town Hall or another virtual event, the AVI-SPL team is ready to help. Contact us now or call your local AVI-SPL office to get started today.

Don’t forget to check our Together We Can web page for updated work-from-home resources.

Microsoft Teams and Surface Hub 2S: Collaboration Tools for Today and Tomorrow

Today, nearly five million people in the U.S. are working remotely. Well before the coronavirus disrupted work as we know it, we were being told that remote work was an essential part of doing our jobs and that remote workers would dominate the workforce. The proliferation of remote work articles popping up in the wake of COVID-19 have made this an even more salient feature of our work lives. Millions of people around the world have had to adjust to a new way of working — a way that requires them to be at home but perform as if they were in the office. 

One of the tools getting high-profile coverage is Microsoft Teams. Whether I’m in the office or working from home, I use Teams many times a day. It’s how colleagues chat me up with ideas and suggestions. It’s how I share editable documents that a specific work group can view and edit. It’s where I can scroll through a conversation to refresh my memory about where we left off a certain project or deliverable. And it’s where I attend video meetings with colleagues to brainstorm, share ideas, and get work done in real time. Let’s look in greater detail at how Microsoft Teams helps me — and can help you — work from home and anywhere else.

How to Work Remotely With Microsoft Teams

For the past couple of weeks, Microsoft Teams has taken on more prominence and importance as my colleagues and I work outside the office. Working remotely doesn’t have much meaning or benefit unless we’re being productive. And Microsoft Teams is supporting that productivity. Since so much of the work we produce is the result of collaboration, it’s easy to see why Microsoft calls Teams its “hub for teamwork.” You could click a link and see the kind of features and capabilities it offers. But for me — I hope for you as well — the best way to share what Microsoft Teams can do is to speak from experience.

Like you, I work on a lot of projects that involve collaboration with a wide range of colleagues. Within Microsoft Teams, I can create (or be added to) a group that is named for a particular project. For example, we formed one project to gather content for our forthcoming podcast. Within these dedicated virtual spaces, we can add files that anyone can edit and download. We also added a section for conversation topics. To those topics we can attach our names and notes so that we know who has responsibility for recruiting guests and scheduling their appearances. It’s a great way for me to remind myself what I’ve done, still have to do, and my deadline. 

Another great reminder is the Posts tab, which includes the typed chats we’ve had about a topic. I frequently reference these conversations if I need to refresh my memory about what was discussed so that I know to work on a task or follow up with someone about theirs. This persistent chat is visual proof of our brainstorming, questions we’ve asked and answered, and announcements we’ve made to each other.

And speaking of visuals: It’s easy to jump into a video call with anyone in my contact list, which includes everyone in the company and anyone that I add. Once in a call, I’m two clicks away from recording the session, an essential tool when I’m interviewing a partner for one of AVI-SPL’s white papers. For most of these meetings, at least one attendee needs to share their content in the Teams window for all to see and understand. Another great feature: how easy it is schedule a Teams meeting from Outlook. I can schedule meetings from within the Microsoft Teams window, but I’m a creature of habit and I’m used to using the Outlook calendar. Whichever way you prefer, know that Teams accommodates your work style.

It’s worth noting that I’ve used only a fraction of Microsoft Teams’ capabilities. There’s plenty of apps that you may find helpful to support your work style or needs, including Stream, Wiki, OneNote, and a host of other built-in Office 365 applications.

I know I’ve given only a taste of what Microsoft Teams can do. Talk to one of AVI-SPL’s experts and you can ask about a host of other features like third-party solutions, the ability to integrate workflows, and the Teams developer platform that works with your business apps. If you choose, we can also take a deep dive with you into important benefits like security, manageability, and compliance, along with the room devices from our manufacturer partners that bring Microsoft Teams into the meeting space. With all I’ve shared, I’d be remiss to not include this overview of its key features:

  • Works across desktop, mobile, browser and a wide range of devices
  • A digital whiteboard (which I’ve never used til I started writing this post. It was a breeze to start.)
  • AI capabilities
  • Interoperability with other video systems
  • The features that ensure a quality audio and video experience
  • Actionable IT analytics

There’s much more to cover, but here’s the takeaway that I hope resonates with you: whatever industry you’re in, Microsoft Teams can improve your operations and processes when it comes to work and collaboration.

How to Be Productive in the Office With Surface Hub 2S

As we get back into the flow of on-site meetings and collaboration sessions, we’ll want to be in the same conference rooms and huddle spaces to connect with people who are in those areas or working from other locations. I don’t have the personal experience with Surface Hub 2S that I have with Microsoft Teams, but I’ve seen the demos — enough to know that it’s the kind of tool that you want in your office when it’s time for groups in and out of the workplace to get together on a shared, high-resolution canvas. And it’s not just any digital canvas, but one that has all the power of the Windows 10 operating system and has the great Microsoft Teams software built in. Going back to what I said earlier about the value of familiarity and comfort in the way we work: This is another way that Microsoft is delivering that kind of experience.

Surface Hub 2S is an interactive device that acts as a meeting platform, digital whiteboard, and so much more. Bring it into a conference room, huddle room or open area and you’ve created a space for teamwork. That includes the ability to use Microsoft Teams to collaborate with remote workers, replicating the great experience you’re used to from your PC. It also includes video conferencing so you can see your teammates while working on shared content in real time. Here are just a handful of the features that make the Surface Hub 2S so valuable:Surface Hub 2S image

  • 4K camera and 4K screen
  • Wireless content sharing
  • Microsoft Whiteboard
  • Window 10 OS
  • 50-inch display size
  • Cart or wall-mount installation

The Surface Hub 2S is the tool you’ll want to have to bring your remote teams together, work from anywhere in the office, and have an easy, fluid collaboration experience among the talent that drives your company’s success.

Talk to AVI-SPL’s Advocates About Microsoft Teams and Surface Hub 2S

If you’re new to Microsoft Teams or Surface Hub 2S, or you’re new to remote collaboration, there are experts at AVI-SPL who are ready to answer your questions and give you guidance. Whatever questions you have, ask them, as our representatives can discuss:

  • Product demos
  • How to migrate from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams
  • Planning and designing an enterprise-wide Teams launch (including network assessment, device strategy and migration planning)
  • Microsoft Teams meeting-room configuration with certified devices (Crestron, Poly, Yealink, Logitech, and others)
  • Training and adoption services
  • Room system and device management
  • How Microsoft Teams can help your specific industry
  • Integrating the Surface Hub 2S into areas across your enterprise

It can seem like a lot to take in, but keep in mind that all of these features and benefits are meant to serve your clear goals: better team collaboration and a better way of organizing you and your teams’ work. I would venture that a lot of us are looking forward to the day we can get back into the office and have that in-person experience. But for those of us who are set up to collaborate from home, we know how easy it is to be just as productive and contribute just as much from wherever we choose to set up our personal devices. Our current circumstances will pass; what will remain is the freedom, flexibility, and support that tools like Microsoft Teams and Surface Hub 2S bring to our work lives.

How to Choose the Right AV-over-IP Solution

Find out why AV-over-IP technology is becoming the new standard for distributing AV signals within the workplace.

AVI-SPL and Crestron collaborated on this guide, which helps you understand AV-over-IP and its advantages over traditional ways of sending audio and video signals. After reading this succinct, informative paper, you’ll understand:

  • Why AV-over-IP matters
  • Its ability to interact with your existing infrastructure
  • How to choose an AV-over-IP solution
  • Why Crestron DM NVX is an outstanding network AV solution 

Download your copy of “Choosing the Right AV over IP Solution” >

InfoComm 2019: Take AVI-SPL’s Guided Tour of New Solutions

Make the most of your time at InfoComm 2019 by taking AVI-SPL’s Guided Technology Tours of select partner booths, where we’ll highlight prominent digital workplace video and UCC solutions. Each of our five tours is curated by AVI-SPL and features the guidance of subject matter experts from our leading vendor partners as well as your AVI-SPL hosts.
 
We’ll begin the tours at AVI-SPL booth 3852 in the Orange County Convention Center. From there, we’ll spend about 15 minutes at each partner booth to learn about solutions that improve collaboration, engagement, productivity, and talent attraction/retention in your workplace. At the conclusion of each tour, we’ll raffle prizes at our booth. 
 
Register early to reserve your space. Registration will also be available prior to each tour at our booth. Tours include:

  • How to Optimize Your Huddle Rooms
  • Enterprise Video Production and Management
  • Connected Smart Spaces
  • Wow-factor displays and projection
  • AV over IP

Our tours will visit the booths for Barco, Biamp, Cisco, Crestron, Exterity, HARMAN, Legrand, LG, Mersive, MultiTaction, NEC Display, Onelan, Poly, Samsung, Shure, Sonic Foundry, and Sony. There will be plenty to learn from these vendor partners, and taking our guided tours is a great way to efficiently allocate your time while at the show.

Register for AVI-SPL’s Guided Technology Tours at InfoComm 2019 >

Poly’s “Power of Many” Message for Businesses

Poly made noise in the AV and workplace collaboration industry this week as it became the new face of the combination of Plantronics and Polycom.

The company is supporting its first marketing campaign, “The Power of Many,” with some high-profile announcements that focus on product integration with technology from Microsoft, Amazon, and Google. Poly made these announcements while at Enterprise Connect in Orlando.

In the days that followed the rebranding as Poly, the company announced:

The Power of Many

Common to these products is their emphasis on bringing people together, which is the message of Poly’s “Power of Many” campaign. The “power of many” also describes the functions that are brought together in a solution. Systems that combine useful functions are what you might envision when you hear the term “unified communications” — the ability to review one’s calendar, join a meeting, and make video calls from one device.

Along with this versatility, the goal is simplicity, which is key to the user experience of solutions that combine multiple functions. You could say that’s the main appeal of a solution that includes Alexa, making it possible to manage meetings and room devices through voice.

Poly’s solution announcements this week indicate their focus on a positive user experience. Common to each of them:  These solutions integrate with systems that people are comfortable with and want to keep using in a way that isn’t needlessly complex. One phrase on the Poly website touts the ability to “concentrate on ideas in the air, not devices in the room.” When people use workplace collaboration solutions, they shouldn’t notice the technology to an extent that is disruptive. Rather, they should be able to give their attention to the collaboration that the technology is making possible.

As new solutions enable us to do more from more places, companies are wise to incorporate those solutions in the workplace to attract talented people who want to be able to collaborate in a variety of ways and do it on demand.

The solutions that are easiest to use will be the most attractive, as long as they have the capabilities that people expect. Those capabilities are with us in a variety of solution packages. The power of Poly’s message is in its focus on how its solutions make it easier for people to produce the products, ideas, services and innovations that keeps their businesses growing.