By Sunita Chambore, Student-led Learning Manager

Experiential Learning is key to the student experience at London Business School. LBS is the place to get involved in unique opportunities to apply your learning from the classroom in a real-world context. 

Leadership in Action
One such opportunity is as a student club leader. We have over 70 student clubs being steered by over 100 student leaders.
There is a wealth of knowledge and experience students accumulate by running club events. These events come in all shapes and sizes: small, large, regular, one-off, student only, global.
At LBS, we pride ourselves on the vibrant, dynamic and innovative nature of our events, and the student community has a considerable part to play in this.
Some of these events are well-established conferences on the London business scene running for 5, 10 and even over 20 years!

Going Virtual
2020 provided an unexpected challenge and opportunity to pivot to virtual events. Understandably, there were many questions from students about how best to convert planned in-person events to virtual.
Who better to answer these questions than students who have already made the leap to virtual events?
Josie Ng, Experiential Learning team member, turned her learning design hand to creating a panel, “Tricks of the Trade: On running virtual events” (19 January 2021), as an opportunity from students to learn from each other. 

Learning From Each Other
Peer to peer support is a valuable part of leadership development at LBS. The following students have walked the walk of running virtual events and shared their candid insights with a group of over 25 students:
Alonso Bustamante McLauchlan, MBA2021 – Latin America Career Fair Lead 
Andre Chacur De Miranda, MIFFT2020 – Brazil & Impact Investing Trek Lead 
Claudia Berghouse, MBA2022 – New York Tech Trek Lead 
Maury Ueta, MBA2021 – EUROUT Conference 2020 Chair, Out in Business Club President 
Yan Hou, MBA2021 – China Business Forum 2020 Chair

Top 7 Tips:

1. Have a clear intention for your event  

Base decisions about your event, including which platform to use, pricing, and how to facilitate networking on these two questions:
– Who is this event for?
– What do you want to achieve?  
Further questions to consider are: What would be most valuable and convenient for your speakers and audience? What do you most want them to leave your event with? What kind of interactions do you want? What are they willing to pay?  

Leadership Tip: As a leader, don’t neglect your organising team. How might you keep them engaged and motivated in the lead-up to the virtual event? How might you weave in a social element into your weekly team meetings? 

2. Take advantage of virtual   

Virtual events have different benefits, limitations and dynamics to in-person events – how might you make the most of it? You’re not limited by physical presence, so consider spreading your event over several days, weeks or months – whatever suits your audiences’ new (zoom-fatigued) lifestyle best.  

Leadership Tip: Dream big to create an exciting vision for your team and have a truly global event. Also, keep in mind how you can support individual team members who might be missing the energy and vibe of working towards a big project in person with others. 

3. Experiment with engagement

Nobody has cracked it yet. You’re not alone – most people out there are still scratching their heads about how to run useful online networking events or engaging large numbers of e-audiences. 
There’s no right or wrong here, so try things out. That’s the great thing about being a student leader at LBS; you have the perfect opportunity to apply your learning in real-time.   
We know that attendee attention span is limited online to about 20-30 minutes. People are more engaged in smaller groups of up to 10. Consider limiting the size of your treks or run your Q&A as rotating breakout groups. Platforms like Hopin also make 1-1 speed networking conversations easier. Interactivity helps immensely with engagement, so play with polls, gamification, longer Q&As, collective photo collages and message boards.  

Engagement Tip: Collect relevant data from your attendees early on so you can assign them to breakout groups with people they may not usually have the opportunity to meet. 

4. Be the driver of diversity

Whether that’s about the diversity of your speakers, audience, or even your team. Take advantage of what’s possible in virtual – bring in those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend or share their insight.  
Leverage that diversity to make for compelling and powerful conversations and connections. Besides, if your team consists of various programmes, it means there won’t be a bottleneck when half of them drop out for an exam a week before delivering your event! 

Speaker tip: Take time to research your speakers. Big names can be a quick win, but lesser-known figures can also share valuable lessons and leave a lasting impact on your audience.

5. Thorough preparation is everything

Minor glitches in your event may not be down to the platform but planning and preparation. Leave plenty of time for minute-by-minute running orders, stage/tech direction sheets, moderation and speaker briefing sheets.  

Take the time to check in with your team and speakers beforehand to run through the event in detail. It’ll surface those nitty-gritty questions. These might be about platform features and potential limitations or preparing questions to kick-off Q&As to avoid awkward silences.  
Always have a Plan B! There may be unexpected clashes with other events or a low number of attendees. How will you ensure every attendee feels like it was worth their time (and money) joining your event over the dozens of others they could have signed up for? 

Leadership Tip: As a leader, set up regular check-ins with crucial team members to ensure they have everything they need. The sooner you know of any potential hiccups, the better prepared you all can be. 

6. Look to your community for existing knowledge and resources

That might be another regional club that has hosted a career fair; an Operations Lead who has done a thorough cost-benefit analysis of all virtual event platforms; or a Conference Chair who’s had to tackle image rights, contracts and disclosures.
Someone has come before you and can share their insight with you; all you need to do is ask! 
Also look to relevant faculty members, staff and alumni who may be happy and keen to support your event if it aligns with their interests and work area.  

Insider Tip: LBS has many resources available to you – think alumni, staff, faculty. They can help you get heavyweight speakers through the e-door or connect you to corporates for your career fair. Contact relevant people early. 

7. Leave something behind  

Just as someone came before you, someone is ahead!  
They’ll encounter the same challenges and questions you have now. Help them out! Create an up-to-date shared drive to keep all your lessons learnt, materials, schedules, contact lists and comments for them. 

Leadership Tip: Leave a legacy for the LBS community you’ll be proud of in years to come. Think about your legacy before you embark on your virtual event.  

For students planning on running a virtual event, go for it! As with everything you do as a student leader at LBS, use this time and space to: apply your learning from the classroom, experiment and innovate, learn from your peers and create something with a positive impact.

A special thanks to panel contributor, Tania Gonzalez, Senior Events Manager, LBS.

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