Over the past few months, there has been major growth in the percentage of meetings, conferences and other events hosted virtually. The increase in demand for digital experiences shows consumers are willing to adapt in their quest for human connection during the COVID-19 public health crisis. But this doesn’t mean switching an in-person event online will guarantee success. Organizers still need to give attendees what they want and that’s good content.
“There is a misconception that virtual events are simple to put together when in fact a significant amount of work is required, (especially) around content curation,” says Managing Matters’ president and CEO, Jenny Faucher, who adds pre-event ‘snackable’ content through applicable channels is critical, too.
Snackable content is information that is quick to read, easily digestible and grabs the attention of the online audience. Because it’s practically effortless to share, it can be a massive asset to online marketing efforts, says Faucher.
These bite-size messages also set the stage for the main course where “content is king,” says Redstone Agency’s Carly Silberstein. Regardless of event type, content should be educational, relevant, timely, meaningful and fulfill the audience’s needs. What’s more, it needs to be delivered in an engaging way to hold people’s interest.
“Don’t just throw content at them,” she says. “Get your audience involved, whether that’s through Q&A, polling, networking session, or encouraging guests to share their thoughts and engage each other in the comments or chat section.”
Silberstein notes the delivery method will depend on the event group.
“You need to be mindful of who your audience is and really cater to them,” she explains. “People like to consume content in different ways, and there are different attention spans and types of learners.”
For instance, some people prefer pictures, videos and diagrams while others respond to spoken or written words.
Because of this, Silberstein recommends combining the ‘traditional presentation’ with audio, visual and interactive elements to create a more inclusive event.
If looking for that extra spark, event coordinator Martha Feenstra says organizers should consider hiring a public speaker. A professional one is skilled at capturing and holding an audience, and may even generate buzz around the virtual event. But she cautions enlisting the services of someone who has no online speaking experience, regardless of their credentials. Communicating on camera, whether pre-recorded or live, is not the same as presenting face-to-face. For instance, it requires the speaker to be more animated and upbeat; with more people working from home, the competition for the audience’s attention is increasingly stiff.
“This doesn’t mean the speaker should be making a lot of hand movements — that would be too distracting,” explains Feenstra of Toronto-based Managing Matters.
Proper enunciation is also key as is virtual eye contact, which means reading a script is a no-no, she continues.
“Your speaker should use slides with little text and images or graphs that stand out, have a simple background in their video, wear solid bold-coloured clothing — avoid busy patterned shirts — and focus on keeping the conversation moving,” says Feenstra, adding practice makes perfect (or close to it).
Preparation of technology is necessary, too, since it’s what makes the event even possible. In addition to choosing a virtual platform or other method of streaming or hosting content, organizers need quality equipment (camera, microphone and perhaps proper lighting, if not using a desktop computer or laptop) and to make sure the online connection is solid.
“Everything now relies on our Wi-Fi speed,” says Feenstra. “Still, prepare for glitches and have a backup plan or someone else online to help.”