“Failing to plan is planning to fail” – Alan Lakein

Over the past decade, social media has gained acceptance as a legitimate tool for facilitating conversations between employees and consumers. At the same time, companies have debated the merits (and costs) of setting up an official social media playbook to guide their employee’s actions. On the one hand, setting up an official playbook can help to clarify roles or responsibilities and avoid potential problems. On the other hand, companies don’t want to kill conversations by rolling out plans that are overly restrictive.

In the virtual events space, companies face a similar set of questions. Do the benefits of setting up a playbook outweigh the costs? If so, what unique considerations should be made in drafting a virtual event playbook?  The good news is that (with a little planning) it is possible to develop a playbook that adds value without killing creativity.

Let’s take a look at seven tips for building a successful playbook:

7 Principles for Building an Effective Virtual Event Playbook

Create a shared understanding of virtual events – While many employees are deeply familiar with social media, the same cannot be said for virtual events. As a result, companies should begin by explaining the unique opportunities that virtual events provide. For example, companies should communicate how game dynamics can be used to generate leads. Creating a shared understanding of the value of virtual events will help to drive additional employee engagement and will set the tone for the rest of the document.

Explain platform benefits, not features – For the most part, employees are not interested in how the features supported by a particular virtual event platform work. But, they will be interested in hearing how to take maximum advantage of the virtual event to meet their business goals. For example, how can game dynamics increase pipeline velocity? How can Social CRM allow them to find attendees that they should engage with? How can social feedback tools allow presenters to get feedback in real time in order to improve their performance?

Where possible, focus on principles not tactics – Nothing will kill creativity and flexibility faster than trying to create strict rules to govern every possible situation. Instead, companies should focus on providing principled guidance for their employees in the areas that they need it most. For example, a company might tell employees to “Be transparent”… to communicate honestly and avoid posting anonymous comments.

Don’t reinvent the wheel – Most companies already have an existing event playbook and company code of conduct. Unless a company is completely starting from scratch, it often makes sense to develop the virtual event playbook as an addendum to an existing document. This creates alignment and helps to make sure that the internal approval process goes smoothly.

Establish a chain of command – The majority of the problems at any event (virtual or otherwise) can be resolved by establishing clear roles and responsibilities upfront. This is especially important if you are working with less experienced staff or outside contractors. In my experience, setting solid principles will allow employees to respond creatively to 90%+ of all situations that may arise at a virtual event. For the other 10%, knowing where to go for an answer is critical.

Say less to say more – If you take a principled approach, there is absolutely no reason that your virtual event playbook needs to turn into War and Peace. Instead of trying to capture every single scenario, focus on the 20% of content that will give your employees 80% of the benefit. In most cases, this can be accomplished in less than 10-15 slides, which can be presented in video format in order to increase engagement.

Create a living playbook, make your employees a source of best practices – Your employees can be an important source of new ideas and best practices. Rather than relying on luck, companies should establish a formal process for collecting virtual event best practices and should reward employees who share their ideas.

Rules may be tactical, but, planning is strategic

Companies have often debated the benefits and costs of establishing playbooks for social media and virtual events. Some commentators have even gone so far as to say that playbooks are fundamentally incompatible with online engagement tools. In reality, there is no reason that companies cannot achieve a degree of control over their online efforts without killing creativity. But, in order to do this, companies must take a principled approach to establishing guidelines, demonstrate the value of new technologies and engage their employees to generate best practices.

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