The unsung hero of virtual events - A case for the importance of Helpdesk Support

updated on 09 September 2021

So, you've planned your virtual event to perfection: schedule, speakers, logistics, communications, the platform and its features and so much more. You've covered it all and defined a clear strategy aligned with your purposes for this initiative. But what happens when attendees stumble upon some unforeseen difficulty or don't understand an instruction you thought you had made clear? That's where our hero comes into the story: the helpdesk chat is there to help.

Let me be blunt: regardless of the type of virtual event you're organising, if you don't have a strategy for dealing with unforeseen circumstances, like a helpdesk support chat, you're doing it wrong.

In this post, I'll cover a few key points on why this feature is crucial, which are the main skills of the people that perform this task, what other forms are there to help participants in need, and what happens - from my experience - when there is no helpdesk. 

What happens in the Helpdesk Support Chat?

Here are the 5 most common reasons why people would use this tool:

1 - Attendee Technical Difficulties - It is not uncommon that some restrictive networks block specific features of a virtual event platform. Although at Evento Virtual we provide clients with a list of ports and domains to be whitelisted, as well as minimum system requirements in order for the platform to function fully and without problems, it is normal and understandable that this message might not get to all participants. More frequently, participants don't know what to do with it. If you have a helpdesk chat, someone who knows these issues well will be there to diagnose the problem and help the attendee. If there is no helpdesk chat, it is likely that your guest will do one of two things:
- Report their difficulty in the live-chat for everyone to see and  interfere with the conversation of the event
- Leave, and never come back 🤷

2 - Difficulties understanding the platform or the flow of the event -  Ideally, your virtual event platform is super intuitive and people "just know" what to do. However, there will be times when people need to clarify something that is not crystal clear to them. Some examples:
- Timezones: Your schedule shows start and end times for a session in GMT, but some of your participants are attending from CET. Through the Helpdesk, a disoriented participant can be quickly briefed. Without Helpdesk, he/she assumes the session is 1 hour late and gets confused.
- "Where can I find _____?": If an attendee can't find a specific feature, like the "Ask a Question" button, or the Feedback questionnaire, he/she has someone they can simply ask. Just think of what you would do in a physical venue when you can't find a room or the toilet: just ask someone. With helpdesk support, immediate answer. Without helpdesk support, the participant will assume that the feature does not exist.

3 - Report Problems - Sometimes the problem is not on the attendee side. We've had participants take the initiative in calling out something that is not correct with the content of the platform. A typo, a speaker with the wrong affiliation, an incorrect start time for a session. In this case, having helpdesk support will give you the opportunity to correct the mistake sooner and keep other participants from seeing wrong information (besides avoiding having the error mentioned in a public chat).

4 - Forward-looking participants - By far, the two most common questions in a helpdesk chat, in my experience:
- "Will we get a certificate for this event?"
- "Will the recording of the sessions be made available after the event?"
This brings up a very important point. Neither of these questions is necessarily technical or platform-related. It is something that probably should be clearer in the event information. The helpdesk support chat is often used as a bridge between the platform and the organisation. It is crucial, therefore, that whoever performs this role has an open connection with the team that oversees the whole event.

5 - Suggestions and Compliments - A curious thing about engaged participants is that they'll not only use every bit of the platform, but will also be very willing to talk to someone about it. It is very common that someone comes to the helpdesk chat to say something like "I absolutely loved the platform" or "The event was great, but in the future I would suggest __________". 
This is gold. Write it down, savour it and treasure it, because when an attendee takes this initiative without anything in return, that means they are on your side. You've done your job, and they're rooting for you.

A Helpdesk Hero

For someone to be a helpdesk hero, they should:
👉 Be aware of the system requirements of the platform and have an idea on what the common network blockages are;
👉 Know the platform very well - what it can and can't do, where each feature is in the menu structure;
👉 Be in close contact with the organisation of the event, so they can resolve not only platform-related issues and technical difficulties, but anything the participants may have on their mind;
👉 Be fast - helpdesk support should never take more than a few minutes to reply. This probably means you want your helpdesk person to not be doing something else during the event;
👉 Speak the language of the participants fluently, so they can understand the problem correctly and communicate clearly;
👉 Be courteous. This is the cherry on top. Much like all customer service, there is a big difference in finishing a conversation with "Ok." and "No problem! Please let me know if there's anything else I can do for you. Enjoy the event!".

Example of a helpdesk chat support conversation. Notice how the helpdesk button is clearly visible on the menu.
Example of a helpdesk chat support conversation. Notice how the helpdesk button is clearly visible on the menu.

Even heroes need the right tools

At Evento Virtual, we're hired to perform the helpdesk support role in about a third of the events running on our platform. That's why we're so experienced at it, and this is also why we felt that this special chat needed a bit of extra features to be perfect. So, we went the extra mile to give helpdesk heroes what they deserve. Here's what we did to make their jobs easier:
🛠️ Separate conversations into groups "New", "Pending", "Solved", allowing helpdesk heroes to organise their work;
🛠️ Sometimes, diagnosing a problem is harder when it's only text-based. So, we added the possibility to share pictures, allowing attendees to send screenshots of their reports;
🛠️ Emojis - just because we love emojis (we know you love them too), and also because it helps sounding courteous and positive, when having a text-based conversation. 
🛠️ Search - when an event has a lot of participants, having the possibility to lookup a specific conversation by keyword may prove critical for a responsive action

Management of Helpdesk conversations using Evento Virtual by Shake It - separation of New / Pending / Solved.
Management of Helpdesk conversations using Evento Virtual by Shake It - separation of New / Pending / Solved.

It's also a good idea to help attendees by providing documentation that may help them bypass the need to talk to someone, especially for the most common problems. Documentation, when it is well produced can prove to be an invaluable tool to help your guests self-diagnose their problems. Some good examples include:
📄 A guide on how to use the platform - keep it visual and focus on the points that will probably be harder to understand
📄 Self-diagnosis tool for poor internet connections - Sometimes participants need help on how to optimize their viewing experience, and quick tips like moving closer to the router, reducing video quality and turning off bandwidth-hungry apps, etc.
📄 Frequently asked questions - Compile the most common questions participants may have, especially regarding logistics of the event - i.e. what is needed to get a certificate, when and if session recordings or presentations will be made available, etc.
In sum, documentation is a very helpful tool to have in your belt, be warned ⚠️ an attendee in need will be frustrated if they have to go through a complex document to get help. These should be more interpreted as an add-on than your main attendee support strategy. 

Other forms of Attendee Support

In this article, I've referred to the Helpdesk Support as an interactive chat inside the platform where attendees can talk to someone in a text-based conversation. This is our recommendation and the only type of attendee support we endorse. However, for the sake of completeness, here are a few other types of support strategies for attendees:
- E-mail Support - Might be very useful, especially before entering the platform. It might be a good idea to include an e-mail address from the organisation in your e-mail campaigns for pre-event related questions. However, e-mail is not as real-time as chat, and might prove more difficult to manage. 
- Phone Support - Might be OK for very small events, but most phone-based solutions I've seen only allow you to deal with one or two participants at a time.
- WhatsApp Support - A valid alternative in the end result, although it makes people have to use their phones and have WhatsApp installed.
- Chat bots - In my personal opinion: don't. Chats with automatic replies not only will fail in understanding most questions as they will not give the attendee the idea that you care by providing personalised support. Might be OK when dealing with an amount of participants that forces you to automate, but should always have a human failsafe.
- Documentation - As described above, having a document containing Frequently Asked Questions is always a good idea, especially a video. However, it won't solve anything other than the questions contained in that same document, and it can get frustration to lookup what you're looking for it this documentation is too extensive.

Key takeaways

✅ Don't skip Helpdesk Support in your virtual event. It's really important.

✅ Put the Helpdesk Support button front and center, clearly visible on the main menu of the platform.

✅ Helpdesk Support is not just technical support. It is the face of the organisation when it comes to resolving issues or questions attendees have.

✅ People who respond in Helpdesk Support should be tech savvy, know the platform well and be courteous. Only then can they truly become...helpdesk heroes.

Miguel Carneiro is CEO @ Shake It and Product Owner @ Evento Virtual.
He's a father, crazy about dogs, a problem solver and passionate about events.
He holds a BSc in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, a MSc in Service Management and Engineering and 8 years of experience with event technology.

Runs on Unicorn Platform