Coffee Conversations with Your Friends, Brittany and Teri

How has COVID-19 changed the work of two event planners in the Office of University Events and Protocol at ASU? Brittany Sourjohn and Teri Candelaria share their insights on virtual events, tips, and tricks and discuss if virtual events are here to stay.

 

About Brittany

The name Brittany Sourjohn might be new to you, but maybe Brittany Allcott rings a bell. Prior to joining the Office of University Events and Protocol, Brittany worked in the CLAS dean’s office and at Poly’s College of Technology and Innovation (2007-2013). She left ASU for seven years when she became the Events and Marketing Manager for the Ak-Chin Indian Community Tribal Government Office. In February of this year, she returned to her ASU roots and joined OUEP. In pre-COVID times, she loved to host game nights and college football Saturdays. She enjoys cooking, baking, and trying out new recipes. Check out her two sweet pups, Taz and Eddy on the #meca_pets Slack channel.

 About Teri

Teri is the friendly face that helps manage MECA. She has been part of the Office of University Events and Protocol since 2015. If you don’t know her from MECA, you may know her from ASU Open Door or Sparky’s Touchdown Tailgate. Prior to her role in OUEP, she was an academic adviser in one of the Fulton Schools of Engineering. She likes “mild” outdoor activities and taking lots of pictures of her dog, Dax (who can be seen on the #meca_pets Slack channel). 

 

What do you like about virtual events?

Teri: I like the freedom of being able to join a virtual event from wherever I am without any travel – whether that means walking across campus, driving, or flying to an event. I have been able to attend so many virtual events and live training over the last six months that I would have not had the time or department funding for if I had to physically travel to an event destination.

Brittany: I like the fact that as an event professional I am learning a new skill and being pushed outside my comfort zone. 

 

What do you dislike?

Brittany: I dislike not being able to gather. Events are something that people look forward to whether it is a concert, a wedding, or a lecture put on by your favorite author. I enjoyed the personal aspect of in-person events. You could greet the donor you knew was coming that you had never met in person or you could have an interesting conversation with someone seated at your table.

Teri: I feel the same,  I think one of the valuable elements of an in-person event is human connection. I have not yet found a way, neither as an event attendee nor planner, to experience the same kind of energy and connection virtually as in a corporal gathering. For me, that is one of the draws of attending an event in-person: to meet new people, whether that means expanding my network, making a new friend, or finding someone who stretches my way of thinking

 

 What has been the most challenging aspect of planning virtual events?

Teri: I’m more of a hands-on, visual learner. Since virtual events exist in the virtual world they lack a physical element, which makes it more difficult for me to plan. I also like gathering my event team in-person to walk through the event, both through the physical space and through the flow of the event, and that does not happen with a virtual event. I’m learning to adjust, as we all must, but it certainly has challenged me.

 Brittany: Teri makes a great point; the in-person element is non-existent right now so we need to adjust our thought process. For me, the most challenging part of virtual events is that I cannot completely control the virtual audience experience. In-person, I can control the experience, for the most part. We know that in any event, there is the possibility of unexpected issues but in the virtual setting, the viewers experience is out of my control. You can do your best to make sure the audio is good, the lighting is good and the speakers are engaging but if they have slow Wi-Fi or an unexpected outage or too many people on the Wi-Fi, their experience will be VERY different. 

 

What do you think is an important element that every virtual event should include?

Teri: Brittany, you go ahead and answer first.

 Brittany: I’d say that every virtual event needs to have engagement. It is so easy to have something else going on in the background while you have a virtual event, presentation, or webinar on the screen. I’m guilty of it. We want to avoid that and keep people engaged with trivia or the chance to win a prize or asking questions in the chat that get the group interacting. Teri, I like that you were engaging with our viewers via chat in that first session with Seth Levine. People appreciate being acknowledged and you let them know you saw their question and would get them an answer.

 Teri: I think every event needs to have something fun! An element of fun goes a long way to keep your audience engaged. In one of our past webinars, Seth Levine demonstrated the Wheel of Names. I love winning stuff, so I love Wheel of Names. I also like trivia and other games like a scavenger hunt (be the first to find and show on the screen xyz). I attended a virtual event where there was trivia throughout the program and the first few people to submit all the correct answers won. Well, you better believe I was engaged the entire event and it paid off. I won! That kind of stuff makes an event memorable for me.

 Brittany: Make the prizes things that you know will grab people’s attention. I think the Southwest Airlines voucher did that for you, Teri! Also, if you have a smaller group, ice breakers are always fun!

 

Stay tuned for more coffee conversations with your friends, Brittany and Teri. In the meantime, network with us! 

Brittany: LinkedIn or email

Teri: LinkedIn or email