Despite the physical distance requirement resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, well-organized virtual events that gather hundreds or even more are still feasible if the University’s protocols are followed and maximized. The UST Office of Public Affairs (OPA), in coordination with the Office of the Secretary-General, showed this through their webinar, “UST on Virtual Mode: Conducting Effective Online Events,” held on October 20, 2021, through Zoom.
As UST Secretary-General Rev. Fr. Louie R. Coronel, O.P., E.H.L. mentioned, “The current situation pushed the University to be creative more than ever to ensure the continuity of its educational services.”
The guest speaker was PageOne Group Chief Executive Officer Mr. Ron F. Jabal, APR, an award-winning global communications executive with 25 years of progressive professional experience in public relations, stakeholder relations, and marketing communications. Having handled online and hybrid events in the past year and a half, he shared examples and studies with the audience.
One of the tips he shared was to add focus on pre-event marketing. In pre-pandemic times, for organizing live events, invitations and phone calls were commonly used to get the target audience to show up.
However, in the era of online events, robust pre-event activities are needed to entice attendees, since getting people to click “Register” does not ensure the same number of attendees on the event day itself, noted Jabal. Using push notification marketing or other incentives to attend, like food and rewards, can build interest prior to the event and encourage attendance.
“We can no longer afford to do just a presentation or a talk,” Jabal emphasized.
Online events do not have the same ‘rapport-building’ strategies of eye contact or touch, and the audience may be distracted by things in their immediate environment at home or elsewhere. To keep their attention onscreen, he suggested adding engaging activities like trivia questions, games, and quizzes, then offering ‘swag’ or event or brand-related tokens as giveaways or prizes.
More importantly, Jabal reminded the participants that an overall excellent production quality, videos, or other presentation media such as Mentimeter, would be welcomed to break the monotony of the online event.
In her message, OPA Acting Director Asst. Prof. Virginia A. Sembrano emphasized the importance of holding live online events properly: to encourage interactive, meaningful engagement between the speakers and the participants who are tuning in remotely, to make them feel like they are an active part of the event. Drawing from her experience as the former Faculty of Engineering Secretary, where event organizing was one of the many tasks she handled, and her roles in University events handled by OPA, she shared relevant University protocols on event management under the new normal.
For her part, Assistant Director for Public Affairs Ms. Michaella O. Lagniton, explained pre- and post-event publicity; media coverage of University events, photo or video shoots, interviews with Thomasian personalities; and the proper processes to follow for UST’s heightened positive public presence.
Attended by administrators, academic officials, and student organization advisers, “UST on Virtual Mode” was moderated by OPA Assistant Director for Publication Ms. Katherine Patrice B. Sibug.