Promote. Once you’ve got your event details set (date, time, agenda and guest speakers), promote, promote and then promote some more. If you want the event to be well attended, you’ve got to start early and get the word out. Remember to create an event page and make registration easy! Automated reminders help increase attendance on the day of the event.
As a part of our series about “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Run a Live Virtual Event”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Charlene Walters.
Charlene Walters, MBA, PhD, is an entrepreneurship coach, business and branding mentor, trainer and author of Launch Your Inner Entrepreneur. She serves as a mentor on Entrepreneur magazine’s “Ask an Expert” forum and through her own consulting business (Charlene Walters, MBA, PhD, LLC), is featured among other CEOs, Influencers and Celebrities on the BAM Network and was recently selected as one of 150 Marketers to Follow by Rubicly. Charlene developed a digital entrepreneurship MBA program and is an entrepreneur who enjoys combining her knowledge and love of marketing and business strategy with her passion for innovation and desire to help others succeed.
Charlene also wrote a memoir about overcoming tragedy/loss and moving forward in life based on her own personal experience (pre-publication). As part of that, she serves as a speaker and mentor to others, and writes and contributes to numerous publications on business and motivational topics. Charlene also writes a blog called Entrepreneurship, Life Enthusiasm & Energizing Your Brand and has taught hundreds of business, marketing and entrepreneurship courses and workshops for businesses and universities.
Charlene is also a busy single mom currently living in Charlotte, North Carolina with her two beautiful daughters.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
Absolutely. I’d be happy to. I grew up in Connecticut and moved to Miami as soon as I graduated with an undergraduate degree in English (goodbye snow). I started my career in sales and marketing and really enjoyed the hustle of making deals and matching customers with products which led to my growing love of business. I decided to pursue my MBA in management. From there, I went on to earn my PhD in marketing. I continued to move on professionally to other positions in marketing and higher education before eventually creating a digital entrepreneurship MBA program. I loved the energy of it- it was wonderful to be able to work with business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. I also began to do some mentoring with Entrepreneur’s “Ask an Expert” platform.
Next, I wrote the book Launch Your Inner Entrepreneur: 10 Mindset Shifts for Women to Take Action, Unleash Creativity and Achieve Financial Success (out 2/23/21) and launched my own company to work on speaking, consulting, mentoring and training full-time as an entrepreneurship coach and business and branding mentor. I also became a mom along the way which is still one of my biggest accomplishments.
Can you tell us the story of what led you to this particular career path?
There have been a lot of steps and twists and turns that have led me down this particular career path. It’s typically never a straight line for anyone, and I’m no exception. There have been many people and opportunities that have nudged me in my current direction. As with any profession, it’s about figuring out what you like to do, the areas that you excel in, and determining how you can provide help to others while making the world a better place. You have to experiment and experience life before you find the right recipe. Even then, it will evolve from there and you never know where you might end up. I’m happy with where I’ve landed and hope you are too (if not, keep pushing).
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I have made so many little mistakes along the way and continue to do so, but as you mentioned, each time I learn from them and nobody’s perfect (despite appearances). One recent funny story comes to mind. I tend to overprepare for everything, but every once in a while, I’ll wing things due to time constraints. When I wing it, that’s when I tend to make the most mistakes. I was recently asked to do a YouTube interview late on a Sunday night for the next afternoon (Monday). I was not familiar with the person who was interviewing me but agreed to do it despite having a busy Monday in front of me. Because my schedule was tight, I didn’t have time to research the interviewer which became problematic when he asked me for advice about his own business during the interview! Yikes. I formulated my response as best I could, doing fairly well, but I learned two things: 1) always do your homework and prepare (no matter what) and 2) don’t overpack your schedule to the point where you can’t adequately do so.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I have made it a goal to read at least a few books every couple of weeks during the pandemic instead of doing other activities (like excessive Netflix binging) to offset my writing and keep me balanced. I have read so many good ones that it’s hard to choose- we can always learn something from other people. I particularly liked Shark Tales by Barbara Corcoran because I enjoyed the funny stories of her childhood intermingled with stories of her business success. She is one for innovation, thought leadership and applying lessons learned. I certainly learned a lot from her. I also enjoy the Problem Solvers podcast with Jason Feifer. It’s always awesome to hear the stories and experiences of other entrepreneurs via Jason.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I love the quote “In the long run, we only hit what we aim at” from Henry David Thoreau. That statement is so true about everything in business and in life. If you don’t put in the time, effort, and the work, you’ll never achieve your goals. This concept is so often lost on people who are often looking for a quick path to success. Everything worth having in life takes a lot of work and a lot of patience. Don’t fool yourself into thinking otherwise.
The other quote that I love and live by is “Go big or go home.” There is really no point in doing anything (a profession, project, business, relationship, etc.) halfway. You’ve got to go all in. You are in charge of its ultimate success or failure so go big or go home! I’ve leaned on both of these sayings in many aspects of my life- particularly those that I’ve been successful at.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit about your experience organizing events in general?
Sure, I’ve organized and set up many virtual events and panels, information sessions and interviews. I have been an event organizer, interviewer and interviewee as well as a participant on panel discussions. The events have taken place on a number of different platforms including Zoom, WebEx, StreamYard, Skype, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and others.
Can you tell us a bit about your experience organizing live virtual events? Can you share any interesting stories about them?
I always love virtual events because they give people the opportunity to interact in real time. As with anything else, you have to understand your audience when it comes to planning virtual events. What do they want to learn about, who do they want to talk to, what will engage them most and what times and days are best for them to attend?
When it comes to virtual events, be prepared for anything and always test your technology first. Ensure that everything is working properly. Whenever I prepare for an event, I always have extra material ready just in case we are running ahead of schedule.
As far as funny stories go, I’ve had a time or two where I was hosting a virtual event and lost video (and couldn’t see the other participants). I just kept going as if nothing was wrong. As they say, the show must go on.
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job creating live virtual events? What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
There are a lot of companies out there doing fantastic virtual events, particularly now. One company that does an extremely good job with them is Entrepreneur magazine. They have many virtual events which subscribers can access both live and on demand too. They cover a variety of content and feature a diverse pool of thought leaders. I’ve even hosted a few myself.
Companies can replicate their success by coming up with a variety of interesting content, having an inclusive speaker list, and promoting and engaging with the audience via different tools and platforms.
What are the common mistakes you have seen people make when they try to run a live virtual event? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Failure to promote the event properly is one mistake that I’ve seen a lot, or setting up an event at the last minute and not preparing adequately. You need time to get people interested and have them sign up and buy into the event. Another mistake I’ve seen is hosts not supplying guests with an agenda or event instructions which can cause some confusion for participants and attendees as well.
Which virtual platform have you found to be most effective to be able to bring everyone together virtually?
All in all, although not the fanciest, I would say that you just can’t go wrong with Zoom. There are a lot less technical issues than with other platforms and people can control their video quality and screens. Participants also have more video and camera setting access as well as the ability to make adjustments to their presentation screen. Plus, attendees are typically more familiar with Zoom than with many of the other platforms.
Are there any essential tools or software that you think an event organizer needs to know about?
I feel that all event organizers should make suggestions to their guests about which headset/microphones to use as well as lighting equipment so that the video quality is consistent. Participants often need these specifics to ensure a solid experience and to avoid any technical glitches. Prior to the event, organizers should set up a virtual website. They should also use a ticketing and registration platform when promoting the event. Calendar invites and reminders also make the process easier and more automated helping to boost attendance. During the virtual event, leveraging gamification options and a virtual lounge or waiting room can boost engagement and connectedness as well.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our discussion. An in-person event can have a certain electric energy. How do you create an engaging and memorable event when everyone is separated and in their own homes? What are the “Five Things You Need To Know To Successfully Run a Live Virtual Event” and why?
Creating a memorable virtual event takes a lot of planning followed by seamless execution. Here are the 5 things you need to know in order to do so:
- Prepare and research. Learn everything you can about your target audience, guests and the topics that will be most interesting for everyone. Then come up with ways to pull the participants into the discussion (through polling, giveaways and Q & A opportunities).
- Invite others to share their thoughts, opinions and expertise prior to the event (at the early planning stages). We can’t do well at anything by operating in a vacuum.
- Promote. Once you’ve got your event details set (date, time, agenda and guest speakers), promote, promote and then promote some more. If you want the event to be well attended, you’ve got to start early and get the word out. Remember to create an event page and make registration easy! Automated reminders help increase attendance on the day of the event.
- Do a dry run and up the level of interaction. Practice makes perfect. Do a run-through before the event and make sure that speakers and participants are prepared and know what to expect.
- Follow up after the event and start promoting your next event. You want to keep your audience engaged and the conversation going. Use that excitement to kickstart registration for your next event.
Let’s imagine that someone reading this interview has an idea for a live virtual event that they would like to develop. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
- Gauge interest. Find out if your target audience is interested in the topic(s) and format that you intend to present. You can gather information through surveys and by researching other events that performed well.
- Look for potential speakers. Once you have settled on the type of event, search for possible speakers on LinkedIn, through your network and by word of mouth/research. See if they have a demo reel or other event recordings that they can point you to so you can check them out prior to booking them.
- Start planning. Once you’ve finalized your details, speakers and agenda, start planning the specifics and communicate with your intended audience.
Super. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
There are so many worthy causes, and it’s difficult to narrow it down, but I am very passionate about helping women elevate themselves through entrepreneurship and education, particularly single mothers who are the sole breadwinners for their families. I understand what they go through because I have lived it myself. Women are at a disadvantage and typically have to juggle much more than their male counterparts so they would really benefit from some extra backing.
I would love to start a movement to help support these women, providing them with the tools to develop the mindset and the skills that they need to be successful in business, and to foster work-life balance, which is more challenging for women, and again, single mothers in particular. This movement would also benefit their children, through positive role modeling and support, and therefore clearly impact future generations.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I like meeting a variety of people in media, entertainment, publishing and business, and engaging in new collaborations, so if you are an interesting person and interested in a virtual lunch, just let me know. 😊
I want to thank you and your readers for taking the time to learn more about me. I am so appreciative and humbled. You can follow me on my website/blog, by reading my book Launch Your Inner Entrepreneur or by connecting with me on social media:
LinkedIn- @Charlene Walters, PhD
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.