Over the last 18 months, virtual events have become more and more talked about within the event industry. With no signs of stopping, virtual events are here to stay within the industry and have become the norm for many companies and events. Outside of the circumstances of our current situation with Covid-19 and keeping in mind that their will now be a set of audience members that will want to remain virtual, the primary reason we see virtual events sticking around is due to convenience. The virtual event space has made it easier for both attendees and speakers to be apart of multiple events without having to leave the comfort of their home. What previously used to be a 5-day commitment for people to attend some in-person events, has now made it easier for attendees from a convenience and financial standpoint. Lastly from an analytics perspective, Advanced Staging Productions has seen larger audiences being drawn to virtual events when compared to previous in-person events. What used to be a 500-700 in-person event has now become a 1000-1500 virtual event due to the convenience.
But virtual events are much more than just logging in, turning on your camera, and presenting to an audience. The virtual event space can be overwhelming for people looking to put on their first virtual show. From the array of technologies available to understanding the support staff needed to put on a professional virtual event, it can be hard to know where to get started. Luckily Advanced Staging Productions’ Vice President of Production, Jason Showers, is here to help. Since 2002, Jason has been bringing his vision, creative flair, and attention to detail to developing integrated solutions here at Advanced Staging Productions. With his vast experience in the virtual event space, he has now helped us share the top 6 must-haves for a successful virtual event.
The first step when starting a virtual event is to understand that this is an actual production. You simply can’t just turn on your camera and start presenting to an audience if you want that professional feel. With these types of events, it is a lot more complicated than many people would assume. From video production, to transitions, presentations, how your content is going to be consumed by the audience, and so much more; all need to be determined in your pre-production phase. This can be a very daunting task for one person to accomplish, and arguably requires more pre-planning than a live in-person event. With pre-production comes understanding what your overall flow and theme of your virtual event will be, and also leads to our second must-have.
With your virtual event you need someone to work with on your overall scope and vision of the show. This person is essential to help create your schedule for both speakers and attendees to ensure the overall flow is correct. Along with the schedule, this person is working on the theming and messaging of the event to guarantee the vision of your virtual event is clear throughout the show. Now this role should not be filled by any random person on your team, but should require a professional that understands how to keep the messaging throughout the entire event while keeping your audience engaged. The Producer/Director knows how to keep tempo in an event and affecting people’s moods to have an impactful show. We want to look at this role as almost a conductor of the audience.
3. Technically Adept Team
With the wide variety and scale of platforms out there, you want to have a team that understands the technology and what elements are needed to be used for your specific event. With the amount of technology being used on a virtual event there can countless ways for mistakes to happen when you don’t have professionals supporting you. Also having these professionals supporting you ensures the flow of your event. When considering if you need technical team of professionals, you should ask yourself what is your tolerance for the show flow. Are you alright with a presenter taking 30 seconds to share their screen during a live virtual event or do you want this event to flow like a live tv production? Having a technically adept team gives you that safety net for your virtual event to ensure the flow goes properly and if any issues arise you are working with a team that knows how to quickly address any fixes on the fly.
4. Know Your Audience
Keep in mind there are a lot of virtual event platforms in the current space and some can be very technologically heavy. Certain platforms can require more user education of technology than others. You first need to decide how complex and interactive you want your event to be and if your audience will be able to keep up. Just because there are so many virtual options doesn’t mean you always want the platform with the highest tech. Especially if its going to be too complex for your audience. If your audience does not know how to interact or navigate your platform then they won’t be able to access your content and hear your message.
5. Keep Your Audience Engaged
With virtual events your attendees are sitting at home with a lot of distractions and other competing priorities. You need to find a way to break the noise and make it feel more like an in-person event. The question you need to ask yourself is how are you going to keep your audience engaged? Over the last 18 months everyone has been on numerous virtual calls and are used to seeing the same view of a presenter with the shot being chest and up. Consider a live in-studio production for your virtual event; this immediately causes a different visual for your attendees seeing full views of your presenters and can feel more like a full tv production. This can then cause more energy for your audience to be engaged. Another piece that can help engage an audience is finding an interactive element to go along with your virtual event. Something tactical like physical elements can really help keep an audience engaged. Advanced Staging Productions has seen first-hand that physical elements, like themed gift baskets, have done very well. In these gift baskets there are elements that are addressed throughout the entire event that keep reengaging the audience to keep their attention and energy up. Lastly, consider the schedule of your virtual event and how to keep your audience’s attention. We’ve found with virtual audiences its easier to keep their attention for 2-3 hours over a couple days vs a 1-day event that is 8+ hours.
Just like how a producer/director is guiding the behind-the-scenes team you also need someone to help direct your audience. This person can help explain the technology and guide your audience through the platform while your virtual event is going on. Keep in mind even if you have created documents for your audience to help, they are being overloaded daily with attachments to read and probably have overlooked your instructions. Having someone on-program guiding your audience on the platform and how to engage with it (ie. chats and polling) can make all the difference for your event. Additionally, your moderator will work hand-in-hand with your producer on show flow, direction, theme, and emotion.
With virtual events here to stay, Advanced Staging Productions sees from a society standpoint there will be an expectation for even live events to have some form of virtual elements. Like on demand content of your key presentations or a streaming view of your keynote. With so many moving pieces and technology currently out there, it is more important than ever to have that partner supporting you, and make your virtual event the big event!