“I think when promoting something online, engagement and community management is key.”

Sarah Osher is a recent graduate of the University of Guelph where she received a degree in Honours Sociology. Even with the COVID-19 pandemic closing down campuses, Osher did not let this hold her back and she continued to pursue her education by enrolling in a post-graduate public relations program at Humber College.

Headshot of Sarah Osher

Following her graduation from Humber, Osher’s goal is to work at a Toronto-based public relations agency. She knows that to be successful it’s important to bring a variety of skills to the table and that includes event planning­ — even in a pandemic. Osher was previously heavily involved in planning events and exhibits for Holocaust Education Week during her time at the University of Guelph and is now taking on a new event planning challenge with her first online event — Campus From Your Couch, which is being held on Dec. 1 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. via Microsoft Teams. 

What is Campus From Your Couch?

Campus From Your Couch is a class-wide project that students in the Public Relations Post-Graduate Certificate program have launched. Generally, the students are responsible for planning and managing in-person events for a variety of different clients, but due to the pandemic and the shift into the digital space, Osher and her classmates began planning an online event.

Here’s what she had to say about the event:

“As a class, we thought there was no better event to produce than one raising awareness for the campus resources available to students from home. I think many students who are taking online classes assume that since campus is closed, the resources and services available to them are too. It can be hard being away from campus to attend classes, and not everyone has the same access to resources to help them succeed at home. This is why it is so important to have those resources from campus accessible.”

So, what are the differences between planning an online event compared to in-person events?

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According to Osher, a lot. But she says that the differences, though they may present new challenges, also present “an opportunity to learn and grow.”

She believes the primary difference between the two comes down to the promotion of the event. She says that in the past she “was able to travel…class to class and give a quick speech on the events happening that week and talk with people and answer questions.” However, now Osher and her team are having to put a much larger emphasis on digital outreach than ever before, but she says that “[f]inding ways to connect with people on online platforms is something everyone has been dealing with as a result of COVID-19.” It’s not just a change for event planners, everyone is still adjusting.

And her biggest challenge?

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For Osher, it doesn’t just come down to the fact that the event is online. The difficulty is that all the work behind the scenes amongst her and her teammates is also being done virtually.

“I am a very hands-on person,” says Osher. “I keep wishing I could be meeting with people and collaborating in person. It brings a different energy to the table when you’re with people in person compared to a virtual meeting.”

But, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things to help overcome these problems!

Coordinating a team during a pandemic, how can you make it easier?

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In Osher’s experience, dividing into smaller groups, where each group is responsible for “handling different aspects of the event… is really great.”

Though she says it can be difficult coordinating with everyone, the students in her class “have taken on leadership roles as executives and have been a large part in helping all the teams work cohesively.”

And she gives a lot of credit to the ease of collaboration to her own team. She says she “couldn’t have asked to be with a better, more collaborative group of people!”

So, smaller groups and leadership roles go a long way in trying to coordinate an online team during a pandemic. And if you’re lucky, a great group of collaborative people always helps!

What about the benefits of an online event? And yes, there definitely are some!

For one, it allows you the opportunity to be more creative and can force you to think outside the box.

In Osher’s experience, the Campus From Your Couch event forced her team to “find ways to stand out” and be creative “because there is information overload every time we open our phones our computers.” She says, “for example, our social media team is finding ways to engage with users on Twitter and Instagram with memes and raffle prize giveaways.”

Hosting an online event also allows you to appeal to a wider audience since location is no longer an issue or consideration for those who want to attend. In the case of Campus From Your Couch, by hosting the event online, the promotional focus of the event is able to be equally “stretched to all Humber campuses and appeal to all students…being online is actually uniting all the campuses.”

An important reminder to look at every challenge as an opportunity.

Last words of wisdom

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Osher’s advice to students who may be planning an event during the pandemic is “to have a supportive team. It is important to remember that even though we are separated from each other, we all need to continue to work closely together and make those human connections. Having a strong and trusted team behind you is the most important part of planning an event, especially during a time like this.”

Teamwork makes the dream work.

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