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Virtual Alumni Events

Hosting a virtual event, while not overly complicated, certainly requires some planning and attention. There will be important details that must be considered and addressed, just like for in-person events. For any alumni event, virtual or in-person, three components must be considered:

  1. Purpose
  2. Scheduling
  3. Communications
Purpose

Why host this event? What purpose does it serve? The answers to these questions are a critical component to the likely success or failure of the event because these answers will compel alumni to attend, or not.

Alumni need to understand the purpose of the event and see personal value in the event. Purpose and value are two things that will increase the probability of alumni attendance.

Scheduling

One thing that is great about virtual events is that “booking the venue” is far easier than traditional in-person events, and venue booking can be a time-consuming process. That said, like any event, if you “throw together” a virtual event, it will be obvious. So it is important to allow sufficient time to effectively plan the event.

Additionally, in your event planning, it is important that you leave enough time in your planning schedule to include adequate communication and promotion, which will be covered further in the Communication section.

For most virtual events, planning should probably begin 3-6 months prior to the event, depending on the scale and formality of the event. An event that includes a special guest speaker will require some additional time and planning than a Netflix watch party.

Finally, depending on the type of virtual event being planned, you may need/want to reach out to your anticipated audience of alumni to help determine a date and time pattern that works best for them. For example, a virtual networking event – where a smaller group of alumni might be invited for any one event – lends itself to reaching out to the alumni you intend to invite and determining when they are available. It requires some extra work, but the alumni being invited will appreciate the consideration of their schedule.

Communication

It is important that any event, in-person or virtual, include a communication plan. In developing the communication plan, a vital component is the event’s purpose – why an alumnus should attend and what value the event will have for them. This information is the primary “selling point;” therefore it needs to be included in every piece of communication about the event.

All event communications should tell invitees what to expect if they attend. For virtual events, that information should include:

  • When the event will take place and how long it is expected to last.
  • How to attend, including instructions and a link to the event platform. It is important that attendees understand this event is virtual.
  • The topic of the event and how that topic will be addressed (e.g. guest speaker, panel Q &A, moderated conversation, etc.).

The frequency of event communication is going to be based on when you send your event announcement. Generally, an 8-week notice is recommended for event announcements. With that kind of notice, a series of five emails and 3-4 social media posts can form a sound communication schedule for a single event.

Hosting a Virtual Event

First, decide on a virtual meeting platform that meets the needs of your event.

  • Google Meet – Up to 10 users can meet on-demand, or schedule through your Google calendar by adding “conferencing.”
  • Skype – Offers similar features as Google, allowing 10 or fewer users without paying for the business account.
  • Zoom – Offers free video conferencing for up to 100 people. Calls are limited to 40 minutes with the free version, but it may be worth the $15/month in the chapter budget to upgrade the account with no such limitations, which could be used for virtual meetings and events. Submit a Zoom Premium Account Request form to access one of the Fraternity’s limited premium accounts.
  • GoToMeeting – Has a 14-day free trial and plans to start at $14 per organizer, per month.
  • Webex – Has a 30-day free trial that includes up to 200 participants and monthly plans starting at $13.50 per host, per month.

Next, implement your communication plan and incorporate the appropriate instructions for participants into event communications.

Make sure the event host joins the event a little early so that attendees can enter the event easily. Also, be sure to greet event attendees as they “enter” and provide them some guidance about what to expect. It is also a good idea to check in with attendees if anyone needs to leave the event early so that they can be introduced early if needed.

Depending on the number of attendees, it may be a good idea to have each attendee introduce themselves. For these introductions, ask each person to spend one to two minutes providing a mix of professional and personal information. The event host should do this first to model the introduction and then ask one of the attendees to introduce themselves, rather than waiting for a volunteer.

With virtual events, it is a good idea to end the event as scheduled, even if it is going well. Virtual meetings and events tend to be more draining for participants than in-person gatherings. Further, it is important to be respectful of the alumni brothers’ time, since they should have been informed previously about how long the event would last. Moreover, if the event is going well, then it will end on a high note and the attendees have enjoyed themselves, which is a good thing when planning future virtual events.

When the event is over, send a quick follow up email to all attendees thanking them for their attendance and encouraging them to continue to stay in touch with one another and the chapter.

© 2015-2021 Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc.
9 North Lewis Street, P.O. Box 1869, Lexington, Virginia 24450
Phone: (540) 463-1869 | Fax: (540) 463-1669 | Email: headquarters@sigmanu.org

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