How to elevate your bank’s virtual events

virtual event illustration
Online events and meetings have become par for the course for many community banks and their customers. Refresh your virtual event planning with advice from one of ICBA’s event experts—and be inspired by this month’s ICBA Connect.

If you were a stranger to video events in 2020, that probably changed—quickly. Amid shutdown orders and the health risks of the COVID-19 pandemic, many events, meetings and conventions went virtual. For community banks looking to reach customers via new channels, including digital ones, it’s important to consider that this shift in business practices may last long after vaccinations reach critical mass. So, the ability to plan a successful virtual event will remain important for some time.

“Be conscious of Zoom fatigue,” says Lindsay LaNore, ICBA’s chief learning and experience officer, who helps to plan the programming of ICBA Connect and countless Community Banker University events. “You’ll know that feeling when you’ve spent too long staring at your screen. Try something unique that will differentiate your event from others. You have to do it differently,” she adds.

Here are a few tips on how to liven up your community bank’s next virtual event.

ICBA Connect and beyond

This month’s ICBA Connect, held on March 9 and 10, will be like no virtual event you’ve attended. This two-day digital event will showcase seven keynote speakers, including household names like Matthew McConaughey and Earvin “Magic” Johnson.

Go to to register and to see a schedule of ICBA Connect. If you haven’t registered yet, do so as soon as possible.

In addition to ICBA Connect, ICBA is delivering more than 10 hours of extra content beginning this month, including the ICBA ThinkTECH Innovation Showcase (March 16), The Future of Payments is Here! panel discussion (March 23) and Peer Connections networking (March 24–April 22).

Know your platform

The first key to creating an engaging virtual gathering is determining the best platform for your audience. What is your goal? Is it something that will allow conversation and engagement required by a panel or webinar, or something casual to engage with customers on social media? Should the event be open to the public or only a predetermined list of invitees? Do you need to track who participates? Establish your needs and goals ahead of time to ensure the platform you choose matches them.

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

Being organized and avoiding speed bumps in the process is important to any event. That is doubly so for virtual events, when participants can typically see what’s going on, or whose minds may easily wander. If you need to screenshare, make sure your presenters know what buttons to press and have presentation materials downloaded and ready. If they—or you—are nervous, rehearse the presentation and walk them through anything they’re not sure about.

“We make no assumption that any person playing any role is fully comfortable until we’ve done a rehearsal, from the smallest to the biggest event,” LaNore says. “We’re double and triple checking that everything works.”

Give them a friendly face

Having a dedicated presenter or host walk participants through an event can be a good way of keeping people engaged. That person may also be more experienced with events or public speaking, which is going to increase your chances of success. “Consistency is important,” LaNore says. “Introduce that face, someone who can be the friend to those participants.”

Have fun with it

LaNore recommends incorporating fun elements into your event, whether that’s asking attendees to answer polls or trivia questions or adding a happy hour element. If it matches the tone of your event, add the occasional movie clip or joke into a presentation to bring some levity to what could otherwise be a one-dimensional experience.

8 ways to make the most of ICBA Connect

ICBA Connect will provide two days of energizing content, from keynote speakers to industry insights, that can serve as the platform for a bank team-building event. Here’s how to get the most out of those two days:

  1. Spread out your connections. Bank registration includes 30 connections for your entire community bank, which you can divide among employees or devices.
  2. Download the app. In addition to the livestream on the ICBA Connect website, ICBA is launching a mobile app so you can interact with other attendees.
  3. Don’t worry about seeing everything. Keynote speeches and other content will be available on demand for two weeks after ICBA Connect.
  4. Consider your schedule. To cover your bank’s daily operations, you might choose to switch out employees or teams by day or event. If an employee misses something, they can watch it on demand.
  5. Use the ICBA Connect Guide. This resource, sent to all registered banks in advance, features questions and topics you can use to spark conversations at your bank.
  6. Incorporate food or activities. Bring in lunch or snacks for your team. Consider ways for remote employees to also feel included.
  7. Express gratitude. Take a moment to thank or share your thoughts with your team and encourage them to do the same.
  8. Make the team-building continue. Try planning team appreciation days, bringing in local speakers or business leaders, and other ways to keep up the momentum.

Eric Best is deputy editor of Independent Banker.