Welcome to the most unexpected year in the history of the event industry. It’s been a year of firsts for many of us, and hopefully a year of lasts as well.

Whether you’re a glass half full or a glass half empty kind of person, I’m sure we can all agree 2021 can’t get here fast enough! With so many parents forced to wear multiple hats, so many children adapting to remote learning, so many nursing home residents and seniors sheltering in place with little to no social contact, and so many frontline workers risking their lives every day, the need for CSR (corporate social responsibility) events has NEVER been greater.

Wild Rooster Events was born out of a desire to broaden the philanthropic, CSR reach of our industry, and after years of playing basketball and 20 years of impacting lives through in-person events, COVID re-introduced me to my least favorite word: pivot.

But after a few thousand emails bouncing back due to furloughs and layoffs, a relentless pursuit of virtual knowledge via blogs, magazines and Meetings Today (wink wink), I find myself where I started: with people in need and an unwavering desire to help people. So pivot I did.

[Related: Expert Tips on Transitioning From Live to Virtual Events]

I hope this article will provide my amazing and inspiring event industry family some insight into the world of virtual CSR events, so you all don’t make as many mistakes as I did in my attempt to...pivot.

1. Virtual Degree of Difficulty = Minimal

Video conferencing platforms such as Zoom, Webex, Google Meets and Skype all have free tutorials available on YouTube and their websites. A majority of them break down the basics in a very learner-friendly environment, and each of their customer support services are great if you have further questions and/or even need a walk-through.

ANYONE can offer a virtual event—don’t forget that! Our phones, computers and tablets have been waiting for this moment.

2. Dual-Purpose Impact

There isn’t a better way to promote remote camaraderie, enhance virtual communication skills, impact the community and bring a smile to people’s faces than with a virtual CSR event. Giving just feels good, and that feeling will go a long way with everything that we’ve all endured during the pandemic.

3. Welcome Mat Approach

We all know this is a virtual background, and we all know chaos lies beyond that background. Embrace the chaos! Invite spouses, significant others, kids, pets, neighbors, etc., to your events. Impact happens when least expected, and if you can reach full participation by way of an open invitation to your event, by all means do it!

[Upcoming webinar: Inspiring Virtual CSR: Programs That Will Engage Your Attendees]

4. CSR Beneficiary Ideas

With funding cut across many sectors, so many people are in need of support right now, and company CSR budgets have been slashed due to budget constraints. Here are a handful of folks who are still in need. Anything and everything helps them out:

  • Nursing homes
  • Senior centers
  • Schools
  • Private tutors
  • Home schooling parents
  • After school care places such as Boys and Girls Clubs
  • Foster care centers
  • Battered women shelters
  • Fine arts clubs
  • Frontline workers
  • Coworkers
  • Furloughed and laid-off former coworkers

5. CSR Event Promotion

It’s always tough to round up people to participate in a non-mandatory CSR event, much less at a virtual one. Consider incentivizing them with gift cards, guest musicians and/or speakers, an extra PTO day, a flight voucher (Heard they’re cheap right now!), or possibly even a private thank you from the CEO. You could also consider showing a thank you video from the CSR beneficiary.

6. Lighting, Tech and AV

If you thought testing a mic, a projector, the lighting, or better yet a lavalier mic, was difficult, try coordinating and communicating a virtual event virtually with a virtual AV company.

Fortunately for you all, Amazon is your friend and all of your audio and video needs can be found there. I’d suggest a ring light first and foremost, a green screen for unlimited virtual backdrops, and as for a tip: Make sure your camera (computer camera or phone camera) is at eye level so you’re able to comfortably make eye contact and maintain it.

Pro tips:

  • Tape a picture of your best friend right above the camera
  • Use sticky notes around your screen so you don’t have to look down at notes

7. Attention (Did I Lose You?) Spans

The quickest way to lose engagement and interaction amongst participants is to force them to sit and stare at a tiny screen for hours on end. I’ve found that attention spans are roughly one-third to one-half of in-person events in a virtual setting, and on-camera and acting experience is vital to the success of keynote speakers, trainers, facilitators, emcees, etc.

8. Positivity and Appreciation

In a world full of stress, anxiety, depression, isolation and tech addiction, positivity and gratitude are paramount for prolonged, engaged and productive employees.

Thanks goes a long way in-person and it goes even further when it’s meaningful, even in a virtual world.

Read Next: A Hybrid Meetings Pioneer on What the Future Holds for MICE Professionals


About the Author

Stewart MannStewart Mann is CEO and CCO of Wild Rooster Events.

With over 20 years of experience conceptualizing, facilitating, producing and managing special events and corporate teambuilding events, he has produced and facilitated over a thousand large and small-group events for clients such as Dell, Nike, McDonalds, Lockheed Martin, Mercedes-Benz, Exxon and many others.