Since the start of lockdown, the swing to virtual events has been one of the few positive news stories for our industry. There has been a steep learning curve as people scramble to move existing events into the virtual world or plan ahead to incorporate them into future plans. But what are the secrets & considerations to get somewhere close to virtual success?
In this blog, we're highlighting some of the key factors in hosting a quality virtual meeting or event.
How to host a successful virtual event.
Leaving aside your choice of technology platform, and believe me there are plenty of them, the first consideration if you are wanting to pivot to this option is to consider what a virtual event is; or more importantly, what it is not. If you are under the impression it is your daily Zoom chat on steroids, or that you can just pick up your live event content and deliver it via a virtual platform, then you need to think again.
A fully produced virtual event needs to do more than just deliver content if it is going to be successful. It must create an end to end experience that will engage and involve the audience, especially when you have no control as to what's competing for their attention.
Building a relationship with your audience – the human connection, is a very different proposition through a lens than it is face to face. We subconsciously pick up so many non-verbal clues and traits that we warm, (or don’t!) to people very quickly. It’s harder to build that rapport virtually, as you don’t have the luxury of time and physical presence. Making eye contact is impossible when your audience is invisible! Presenting to camera is definitely a skill. As humans, we want to connect to people not the soulless eye of a camera lens – it is a challenge, but with coaching and practice you can perfect your on-screen presence.
Zoom, Teams and Skype are now so much a part of our daily lives that we have all by now probably relaxed into a chatty, conversational tone and manner. That’s not going to cut it for a professionally produced virtual event. You need to convey the credibility, authority and confidence you would if you were live on the stage in front of 500 people. It’s vital to maintain a strong, clear voice to keep everyone’s attention and focus on you throughout. Especially as you have no idea what else is going on in their world while they watch. Emails, texts, deadlines, calls and home life can all be bubbling up in their environment, so your delivery and content has to cut through those potential distractions.
Using the Evolution production team
The good news is that the Evolution production team will help you through all these potential pitfalls, coaching you in advance of your on-screen debut. They will look at how to frame you on screen, the background and how to move. It is amazing how easily an audience can be distracted if you are you are too close or far away from the camera or make too many flamboyant gestures. How many times in recent weeks have we focused on someone’s bookshelves or curtains rather than listened to what they had to say during a TV interview?
Rehearsal time is vital, don’t underestimate the challenge of mastering the technology and presenting to a camera, especially with a producer’s voice in your ear giving you cues, information, cutting to pre-recorded video or linking to other remote presenters. It is well worth the extra investment in time and budget to give presenters confidence and ensure a slick show.
As lockdown continues to ease, we will definitely see an increased use of studio locations for presenters to broadcast from. However, this will still be mixed with the need for people to contribute from remote locations, other countries and time zones. We've worked on virtual events bringing in presenters from various locations & in some cases we can even supply remote kit for use at home as well as studio broadcasts.
Incorporate creative content
To elevate the virtual experience, content needs be well thought out and structured making use of creative media to engage and involve your audience. Attention needs to be given to event design in terms of your agenda and keeping sessions to a length that works for people’s attention span. Your presentations definitely need to be more succinct than in a live environment although we recommend you mix it up with more than just talking heads on screen.
Essentials to consider:
- Video content – pre-recorded elements can make content more dynamic and break up sessions.
- Creative design, animation and visuals to deliver a professional high end produced environment.
- Interactivity – include polls, live Q&A and voting as ways to keep the audience involved.
- Entertainment – think about breaks and activities that can be included to give the audience a change of pace.
As we previously mentioned, rehearsals are important. It should be priority to do technical run-throughs as well as test content.
Just as different venues meet varied client requirements for live events, Evolution has a range of virtual offerings dependent on each client’s specific needs that will deliver a return on objectives and on budget.
Virtual events are without doubt the “go to” option at present to engage with audiences. In the future, if & when permitted we may see the rise of more hybrid/blended events but whatever happens, live, virtual or hybrid, the need for professionally produced events, in whatever format is not going away. It is all about creating an end to end experience just as you would for a live event but with greater focus required on design, the duration and audience interactivity.