How to Hack-Proof Your Virtual Events

How to Hack-Proof Your Virtual Events

With COVID shutdowns, virtual meetings took over, allowing people to stay connected while safely apart. However, with the rise in virtual meetings also came the need to keep unwanted guests from entering meetings – competitors dropping into private meetings, students who didn’t pay for courses were crashing classes, or late registrations allowed in problematic hackers.

Andrea Velasquez, Head of Event Technology with American Meetings Inc. (AMI), a leader in world-wide event management, offers some strategies for keeping your virtual events free from unwanted guests.

“You must find the balance between security and creating roadblocks for attendees. There is a need for the right amount of secrecy, security, and accessibility,” Velasquez begins.

Here are the tips she offers:

Scrub Your Registration Lists

“Only allow attendees from specific emails to register,” she advises. For example, use your database, rather than a general registration portal. Or, if you do open an event’s registration, monitor the list and compare registrants with known promotional databases.

If there is someone registered who you don’t recognize, use that to create a touchpoint – either an automated email or a personal phone call – whichever makes the most sense for your business or event. Follow up with the registrant to determine how they found the event and what they are looking to gain from it.

You can also use campaign tracking to see what methods are grabbing the attendees and use only whitelisted emails. Close the registration early enough to allow you to review the attendance list. This also prevents competitors from jumping into the event last minute without you knowing.

Remove Search Engine Tags

“The tags you use to promote your event can also attract unwanted guests,” Velasquez continues, “Remove these tags and use an API integration instead.”

While an API Integration can cost more, it creates greater security by offering password-protected invitations. This also simplifies the user journey and helps you control who finds and knows about the event.

Only pre-registered attendees have access, which is ideal for high-security virtual meetings. The list of attendees, because it is already pre-approved means there is no additional need for scrubbing. Besides, API platforms continue to do upgrades for security regularly.

“The weakest point is the human because create predictable passwords or share links. If you give the same password to everyone in the event, that is going to be shared. But a platform does the best practice of creating user-specific or randomized passwords,” Velasquez adds.

Use Waiting Rooms

Waiting rooms are important for security as well. Establish waiting rooms and ask attendees to identify themselves through logging in, or introducing themselves rather than starting the meeting immediately. Use your video conferencing platform to screen your audience before letting them in.

Velasquez reminds us: “Often people will use casual names, unknown email addresses or avatars that don’t match expected attendees, so verifying attendance ahead of time will help keep only the right people in attendance.”

To learn more about security in virtual meetings or other ways to make your next event the best it can be, contact AMI today.

Should I use a master of ceremonies for my virtual event?

Should I use a master of ceremonies for my virtual event?

Learn how to host a virtual event and what to look for in a virtual meeting master of ceremonies or moderator

There’s no doubt Virtual Events have taken over, and with the current state of global affairs, it isn’t clear how soon that will change. We recently met with Jason Alpert, owner, and master of ceremonies with Alpert Enterprises, to talk about what to look for in a virtual event master of ceremonies and best practices in hiring talent for your corporate meeting or event.

AMI: Why do people use a master of ceremonies in their events?

Jason: Overall, the master of ceremonies runs the event and should be fully vested and part of the process. Many people think the master of ceremonies is simply a presenter and they want to choose their company’s CEO. However, the MC should work more like an event consultant, working hand in hand with the full program scripting and agenda.

AMI: Your description sounds like it would apply in both live events and virtual events.

Jason: Right. The master of ceremonies should really be driving the program and managing the ebbs and flows because they know the big picture. It’s fine for a CEO to have the spotlight, but the master of ceremonies is there to troubleshoot and help with setting and managing the energy of the event, virtual or not.

AMI: I’m not seeing very many masters of ceremonies’ on virtual events but I expect that will change, especially as larger events begin being hosted virtually. What advice do you have for people looking to make this shift?

Jason: Most of the work of the master of ceremonies is done during prep time, not just at the event. Be sure to work with a company that understands this.

Second, use a high-quality technology company to manage the live stream. It needs to look really sharp for participants. Grabbing and capturing the attention of participants who can easily become distracted is a big obstacle to overcome with virtual events. Who you partner with will make a big difference in the participant experience.

Third, when hiring a company for MC services, it’s important there is a good relationship between the master of ceremonies and the tech company. There will need to be a lot of communication to make the production look and feel like a TV show. The master of ceremonies needs to know where to turn for problem-solving, which can happen at any time, whether live or virtual.

Additionally, the master of ceremonies must have a comfort level in front of a camera rather than a crowd. Their background and skill set will need to be stronger towards broadcasting than interaction with a live audience. There are different skill sets required and you need to be aware of that. A background in television would be ideal for a virtual event MC.

AMI: Those are some really good tips. What else are masters of ceremonies responsible for?

Jason: Overall the master of ceremonies monitors information such as chat, and is really comfortable with the event’s mission, goal, and branding so they can fill time if needed. They also would monitor participants during the event.

AMI: What else is important in virtual events that we haven’t addressed yet?

Jason: Content. It needs to be short and efficient to create a compelling program, however, those aren’t one in the same. I’ve done a lot of programs that are so-called “long,” but are very efficient and compelling/engaging. Keep in mind that it’s not how long something is, but rather how long it feels.

Don’t get hung up exclusively on the clock- get hung up on producing a compelling and engaging program. People have so many options to be distracted, the event has to really keep them involved.

Also, I suggest doing a full-dress rehearsal, going through the entire program including playing videos, and making sure all the graphics work as intended. Use pre-recorded videos as much as possible to limit tech issues.

AMI: Using pre-recorded videos seems strange. How does that work?

Jason: People are often concerned that if it isn’t all live it won’t have the same energy. Great shows, like Nightline, feel very much live but are pre-recorded. During one event, we pre-recorded the speaker’s presentation, and then she wore the same outfit for live Q&A. It was assumed it was all live, but the pre-recording allowed for time management and a smoother transition.

From a technology perspective, we can only control so much, so pre-recording lets you focus on the live elements like chat, rather than on delivering content at the moment.

AMI: What are you seeing that is working really well in virtual events, or not so well?

Jason: Virtual events are allowing organizations to cast a wider net. For example, a company that used to hold local events was able to get participants from 38 states and 6 countries by making the event virtual. It eliminated the need for travel or restrictions on room size. Selling out is practically impossible.

As far as what’s not as successful, there is a lot of networking value from live events that is lacking in virtual ones. One way to overcome this is with small breakout rooms that allow participants to mix and mingle before, after, or during events. All of us in the industry are watching what others are doing, seeing what works, and fine-tuning them for future events.

Creating high-quality virtual events that engage the participants and keep things running smoothly and professionally is accomplished easily with AMI’s Virtual Meeting Solutions.

Pre-Meeting Checklist: Onsite Meeting Sanitation, Safety & Resources

Pre-Meeting Checklist: Onsite Meeting Sanitation, Safety & Resources

A pre-meeting checklist is always a good idea, but in our post-pandemic corporate meeting and event world – health and safety are more important than ever. In this video, you’ll learn the 10-best practices that support the health and safety of your corporate meeting participants as AMI provides you with key insights for checking all those measures. In addition to tactical opportunities for you to instill meeting safety, AMI will manage your events across cleaner and wider spaces, along with enhanced sanitation in all meeting venues.

Customer Experience Post COVID: How Meeting Industry Suppliers are Making it Work

Customer Experience Post COVID: How Meeting Industry Suppliers are Making it Work


As Meetings Industry suppliers are slowly beginning to re-open their doors across the United States and around the globe, we are seeing a variety of new health and safety protocols and innovative strategies that create a safe environment for attendees and guests, while still providing exceptional customer service experience.

We spoke with some of The American Meetings Network, Prime Supplier members about what they are doing in the face of the current challenges.

Limo Corp Worldwide

Image Courtesy of Limo Corp Worldwide

Wasif Bhatti, President of Limo Corp Worldwide, is working on keeping the same feel of a luxury service, but adding in some critical additional safety guidelines. Those include educating the chauffeurs on the new protocols, so they understand what to look for in themselves as well as passengers. They also communicate to passengers about the safety standards they have in place, educating guests who are likely traveling to the area about the local mandates and recommendations.

  • Staff or passengers who are showing signs of illness, or who have travelled to a “hot spot” region are asked to self-quarantine for 14 days before reporting to work or hiring their services.
  • Chauffeurs are wearing masks and gloves and take temperature checks before and after every trip.
  • Vehicles are sanitized between rides and hand sanitizer and wipes are provided for both guests and drivers.
  • Electrostatic sprayers are used to disinfect the vehicles twice per day, allowing deeper sanitation even in hard to reach areas.

Social distancing is also in place, including in the office. Vehicles have a limited seat capacity, and passengers are no longer allowed to ride beside the chauffeurs.

“We are still opening and closing doors for clients, but are asking a lot more questions to gauge customer boundaries. For example, rather than simply grabbing the luggage, they ask if the client prefers to carry it themselves, and then maintains distance,” said Bhatti.

Finally, all water, mints, magazines and extras have been removed. If a guest would like water, the drivers are offering bottled water before the ride begins and offers it protected by a disinfectant wipe.

Image Courtesy of Limo Corp Worldwide

Thread LLC., Atlanta, GA

Thread LLC, a promotional products provider, is also reflecting on how events will look post-COVID. Co-founder Michael Lumpkin said everything now is about taking greater precautions.

Providing corporate gifts have taken a back burner putting safety first, for good reason. However, as live events come back, and virtual event popularity grows, event organizers will want to get creative to bring back the huge value that corporate gifting provides.

Live events pre-COVID often had a check-in table to have guests register and be handed a name badge and swag bags. This was a standard that allowed for sponsors to connect with participants, while also inviting them into the experience of the event.

Without live events, hosts will now need to get creative. Virtual event sponsorship is very different, yet the importance still exists. Rather than spending money on travel, companies will need to explain to shareholders how and why they are reinvesting this budget into creating a great participant experience.

Image Courtesy of Thread Logo

Suppliers have already started offering free or reduced shipping, a trend likely to continue. It is expected that organizers will be mailing swag bag type gifts directly to participants to encourage engagement with sponsors and the event itself.

Fundraising events are anticipated to shift from event-based to product- or goods-based. Charities and businesses are already buying promotional products, so it is likely that fundraising will look more like a bake sale than, for example, a walk-a-thon.

Getting participants to feel the value and comradery of the virtual event will also take some creativity. Expect to see registration information and corporate gifts sent via mail prior to the event. This can allow for more customization, such as having participants register with shirt sizes or candy preferences. Asking participants to all wear their provided logo wear on virtual event conferencing may be the way to really pull them into the event.

“Once live and hybrid (live/virtual) events are fully back into play, personalized kits with everything the participant needs, such as stationery and pens, or no- touch tools, will be sent ahead of time or be packaged and delivered in a way that follows safety standards. Safety signage, dividers and hand sanitizer stations seem to be one way that sponsors will be contributing to events,” said Lumpkin.

While the event industry quickly adapts to some fairly large changes, and further adjustments are likely to continue for the ongoing future, organizers and providers are demonstrating both creativity a willingness to go above and beyond across all functions of their services in order to create not only the legendary customer service experiences that your attendees expect – but most importantly, a safe environment for your meetings and events to take place.

AMI’s PPME for Meetings Program

To support the events industry, AMI has created a program to provide high-quality products shipped directly to your live meetings or events. These products are offered at an affordable price by working with our partner suppliers, such as LimoCorp, Thread Logo, and others. AMI continues to innovate by offering this additional support to our Meeting Champions to make it safe to attend live meetings once again through our new PPME for Meetings Program.

Making Your Next Event Better with Feedback Surveys

Making Your Next Event Better with Feedback Surveys

Do you typically debrief after an event? Talking about what went well, and what could be improved upon is an important practice, otherwise, you could be missing out on valuable opportunities to grow. But, if you are only debriefing with organizers and not participants, you are only doing half of the job. Here are some tips for debriefing and then using that information for continuous improvement.

Get the data while it’s fresh

Ask for feedback within a few days of the event while it is still fresh in people’s minds. Consider questions ahead of time in regards to new features of the event, or areas you aren’t sure would “land” the way you intended as an organizer.

Ask specific questions

Unless you really want to know how participants felt about the coffee or room temperature, ask specific questions such as how a speaker was received, or if the content met expectations. Ask for feedback on areas where expectations weren’t met, or if the morning programming was too long – being specific jogs your participant’s memory so they will give more detailed and beneficial feedback.

Prepare those offering feedback

Some people LOVE offering feedback in meetings, while others take time to process. Consider giving the debriefing agenda out before the event ends, or hold the topics open a few days after the debriefing for those who like to contribute privately (or anonymously), outside the meeting. The loudest contributor isn’t always the most valuable one.

Keep it objective

Don’t play any blame games, but rather keep the information as objective as possible – an opportunity for growth, not criticism. Consider compiling participant feedback into categories, rather than identifying single complaints, to reduce redundancy.

Another way to do this is to use a 5-point scale, rather than open-ended questions or simple “YES/NO”. By getting feedback on a scale, it is easier to quantify it, which keeps it objective as well.

Invite responses

Everyone involved in the event has a perspective, so don’t be afraid to solicit feedback from vendors, partners, venues, other organizers on the team, and participants. Use a third party, if needed, to collect feedback privately and get better engagement. Make it easy to respond, and give several opportunities to offer feedback, such as at/during the event, immediately after the event, and even a week out.

Ask good questions

Finally, keep your feedback questions focused on what you really are wanting to unearth. A survey shouldn’t just be something to help you feel good about the event (although it can), it really should be used as a tool to increase the value to the end-user and find missed opportunities that can be captured during the next event.