Bring your personality forward. It truly doesn’t matter if you have a “big” personality or you think of yourself as an introvert. You’ve brought people together virtually and your personality will guide the event vibe. Be present — on camera and on mic, spotlight yourself and look at the camera so people see and get to know you. I was in a smaller meeting once with someone who told me their company culture was to never have their cameras on — it felt empty and completely lacking in energy.
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 Iggy Perillo.
Iggy Perillo cultivates leadership masterminds for professionals and athletes in specialized communities who are seeking excellence in their work, sport and life. She created WSL Leadership to develop leaders and teams who make the world a better place through enhanced connection, communication and trust. Iggy works with individuals, teams and organizations around the world helping them overcome challenges and function like champions. Early in the rise of COVID-19 Iggy started ZoomCohost.com to reduce the burden of terrible online meetings by offering individualized training and professional live meeting co-hosting services.
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”?
I’m from the Midwest and spent a ton of time outdoors as a youth. My family did oodles of road trips and we car-camped all over the US. This led to working in the field of expedition based leadership development.
Can you tell us the story of what led you to this particular career path?
I participated in tons of sports growing up and then went on to lead wilderness expeditions with small groups. In both situations the skills and quality of the leadership has a huge direct impact on teammates and team outcomes. I translated my enjoyment of the flow of competition and travel to helping people be more excellent leaders in those and any situation — in person or virtual.
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 was co-hosting a wedding recently and I put one family member in the wrong breakout room. She returned to the main room but didn’t turn on her camera or microphone so I thought her internet connection was poor and returned her to the same room. That’s when someone in the breakout room called me in and explained the situation. I think this family member had texted about their predicament. I was sweating bullets a little bit and moved her to the proper room. Later when I mentioned it to the bride and groom they thought it was hysterical — so much like a real event. It was probably 2 minutes of the entire event but felt like an eternity to me.
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’m a voracious reader and I like to give really specific and specialized book recommendations to folks. Currently I’m reading Curious by Ian Leslie and am really enjoying it. If we were all more curious — in the right ways — we’d be much happier.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Don’t practice crap” — if you’re going to do something try do it right when you’re practicing and learning to avoid building garbage habits. Apparently I said this to some folks I was training once and it has stuck around.
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?
I’ve led many leadership workshops and trainings in the past (online and in person) and have coordinated and developed training events for other organizations. I’ve been in the role of planning and leading training events for over 15 years — mostly for leadership oriented skills.
Can you tell us a bit about your experience organizing live virtual events? Can you share any interesting stories about them?
I led a few virtual workshops prior to 2020 but then really ramped this up beginning in March. I hosted my own wedding online in April and since then have been training folks how to lead their own events and working as an event co-host on occasion. It has been fascinating to support a wide variety of events: from other people’s weddings to corporate training to 1-hour workshops to multi-day conferences. I’m inspired to see the things people are doing online. I’ve been at several fairly straight forward, potentially painfully boring, annual-meeting types of events that were very fun, interactive and lively.
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?
I’ve co-hosted events with Jan Keck and Grief Warrior that were both amazing in very different ways. Jan builds such a sense of connection among his participants and Grief Warrior is really innovative with how they use breakout rooms to foster participant skill practice and coaching. I’m also a fan of the play breaks Amy Angelilli and Gary Ware run — so much fun and action happens in their “meetings.” To replicate the best of any of these folks: 1) be authentic to yourself and your mission/purpose for the event and 2) bring the energy — it doesn’t always need to be extreme extrovert energy, the calm quiet energy of introspection can also be powerful.
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?
One mistake I see is people trying to recreate the worst of an in-person event online — maybe they feel self conscious but if you don’t have your camera on and just blast through a slide show of words it will be not fun, not engaging and not beneficial to anyone. I also see people get flustered using the virtual meeting controls — it’s usually not a big deal on the participant side but I’ve seen presenters come unglued trying to get the screen share right or breakout rooms dialed in. In those cases, practice or get a co-host to do the behind the scenes for you. Some presenters struggle when they try to do it all — presenting verbally, screen sharing and monitoring the chat at the same time. It’s not a really clever tip but planning and practicing does help. If you’re working with a team or other people a minute-to-minute schedule can be really beneficial.
Which virtual platform have you found to be most effective to be able to bring everyone together virtually?
I’m a fan of Zoom. I’ve had the best luck with quality of meetings there and I like the settings and options it provides. (I’m not affiliated with the company in any way.)
Are there any essential tools or software that you think an event organizer needs to know about?
I’m sure whatever people are using for project planning will apply well. Making a detailed run-of-show script helps and any word processing software will work for that. You don’t need to be fancy to be effective.
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? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Bring your personality forward. It truly doesn’t matter if you have a “big” personality or you think of yourself as an introvert. You’ve brought people together virtually and your personality will guide the event vibe. Be present — on camera and on mic, spotlight yourself and look at the camera so people see and get to know you. I was in a smaller meeting once with someone who told me their company culture was to never have their cameras on — it felt empty and completely lacking in energy.
- Let go of your in-person event expectations — you can do more, different, unique and fun things online that were never even possible in person. Keep your mind open to possibilities by staying true to your purpose but letting go of the typical process. I was at an organization’s annual meeting where they would have had a lot of spontaneous time for folks to chat and gather between sessions if they were in person. To recapture some of that feel they created open lunch and dinner spaces so people could chat and mingle as they chose.
- Plan everything — every minute. Who will click what and when they’ll click it. Whether you’re working alone or with a team give yourself the calming gift of preparation. Practice what you’re going to do — sometimes you need multiple devices online at the same time for features to work so join the event from your phone and tablet and laptop at the same time to practice. Practicing and preparing will help you keep your energy focused on the event participants. It can feel heroic at times to help people create their event online — for some folks the technology is a big lift and being able to step in and make it run smoothly eases their mind.
- Be ready for everything to go wrong — what if your connection stops? What if the button for the feature you want somehow isn’t there? I’ve been at events where the feature I wanted to use just wasn’t there. I have no idea why. It takes some fast thinking and knowing your technology well to come up with work-around on the spot and it is possible. I love doing one-on-one training with people. I did a training session today and someone told me “I feel like I can really do this now.” I’m sure that confidence will help her do a great job running her event no matter what glitches come up.
- Control the details you can — be well lit, look at the camera when you talk, recognize people as they arrive or comment in the chat, have good visuals, stand to present if you like that energy, know your tech, know your content, have a plan….but be willing to let it all go in service of your purpose. I was at an event focused on building connections and things seemed about to go off the rails. One participant was unhappy to be there (required by bosses) and was not invested in doing more than the absolute minimum for engagement. The plan was adjusted on the fly to do more to lay the groundwork for engagement before asking for effort from participants. It is possible to create psychologically safe spaces online where you can build trust among individuals and ease them in to sharing their energy with authenticity. People’s faces can light up with delight — even at online events.
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?
Get clear on their purpose and outcomes and how they want the event to feel to participants. Then dream big about how to make that feeling a reality. Only after that look at the technology for ways to make it happen.
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.
I would give every leader (new or experienced, corporate or personal) the gift of a growth and learning space where they could hone their skills and then turn them loose to improve the lives of the people around them.
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’m inspired by so many people that it’s hard to pick just one but today I’d say: Brene Brown.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.