4 Ways for NGOs to Use Virtual Events to Help the Developing World
“My greatest challenge has been to change the mindset of people. Mindsets play strange tricks on us. We see things the way our minds have instructed our eyes to see.” – Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank
International NGOs (non-governmental organizations) deliver vital services and provide essential assistance in international development, health, education, science, agriculture and other endeavors, and with the technology available today, NGOs have unique opportunities to expand their reach and better deliver information and services in unprecedented ways.
One of the most important opportunities for NGOs is to use virtual events for employee training, engagement with the field, education, outreach and even fundraising. Virtual events offer the potential for NGOs to take their public education and engagement efforts to a new level of precision and power.
NGOs typically have global workforces serving multinational audiences of clients, communities and stakeholders. Whether your NGO is involved with distributing medical supplies, providing agricultural training to farmers, vaccinating children or delivering micro-finance and economic development assistance, chances are a virtual event can help you reach your audience more efficiently and effectively than ever before. Here are a few tips for NGOs who want to expand their reach through virtual events:
- Beware of cultural miscommunications: If you are designing a virtual event for an international multicultural audience, it’s essential to remember that different cultures have different perceptions of various elements of visual design. Your choice of colors, layouts and other arrangements might have cultural implications for your audience. (For example, some cultures view certain colors as being associated with death or bad luck.) Make sure to communicate with your virtual events platform provider to get a clean, intuitive design for the virtual event environment that “reads well” in the cultures of the people you serve.
- Think mobile: Many people in the developing world might not have Internet access via a laptop or desktop computer, but they are more likely to have a mobile phone with Internet access. This makes it extremely important to have a mobile version of your virtual event website and have a strategy in place to deliver a mobile-centric experience. More than simply designing a mobile version of your virtual event website, you are often better off developing a mobile app specifically for the virtual event, because smartphone functionality offers specific features and benefits that can be best harnessed with a mobile app.
- Generate relevant, organization-created content: The best virtual events are a dialogue, not a monologue – and in the same way, working with a global audience of NGO employees and stakeholders gives you a unique opportunity to generate virtual event content from the “bottom up,” rather than handing down content ideas from the “top down.” Reach out to your employees and key audiences for presentation ideas. Generate content based on the latest updates, statistics and videos from the field. Give your audience a feeling of connectedness by using powerful tools like live video and interactive game dynamics and track their responses with resources like the Mood-o-Meter from Social27. NGOs are well-suited to these aspects of virtual events, since the virtual event platforms available today make it easy to share powerful stories that entice the senses.
- Market your virtual events within the organization – early and often. In a large, globally dispersed NGO, as is the case with any organization, it’s not always easy to command people’s attention for a sustained period of time. So, if you’re ready to roll out your virtual event platform, keep in mind that you’re going to need a detailed virtual event marketing plan that goes from before the event, to during the event and after the virtual event. Give your employees and stakeholders every opportunity to register for the event and remind their colleagues and contacts. If your organization is using virtual events for the first time, you might want to “start small” by hosting an event for one branch of the organization, and use the lessons learned from this first event to improve adaptability and enhance the experience for future events.
Join the conversation. Agree with me? Good. Disagree? Even Better! Tell me why…
How many countries have been represented in the audience of your most “international” virtual events? What are some specific applications that you can see for virtual events at your favorite non-profit/international development agency/NGO?
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