You have sought out inspiration, done your brainstorming, solidified your goal, confirmed your strategy, and put yourself in the shoes of your audience (Whew!). It is time to allow your developed strategy to present answers to the content and presentation questions. If you find yourself struggling to make connections, take a step back and re-examine the groundwork you have already laid. This post will reference topics from our previous blog posts. If you have not had a chance, go back, and catch up on those. We will wait here for you.
What will fulfill the goal of my audience?
What our event looks like must be a direct response to this question, “What will achieve the goal of my audience?” It may feel like a departure from the question, “What will achieve my goal?” but the two are inseparable. No matter how personal, events are meant to bring people together for a shared experience. To become a successful tool, your event will focus first on audience enjoyment – Making that experience positive from invitation to sign off – and second on our own motivations. That is not to say the two are always, or even often, different. In fact, it is fair to say that we select our audience because what we provide and what they seek is in harmony.
In their bestselling book, Blue Ocean Strategy, professors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne share their strategy for cutting direct competition and instead capturing market share with innovation. They compare companies working in red oceans (those markets where fierce competition has bloodied the waters. And the only way to profit is to be the best of the cheapest.) to those who create their own blue oceans. Spaces that embrace the unknown, capture new demand, and make the competition irrelevant.
One such “red ocean” was the video game market in 2006. All three major console companies were set with a new release. Microsoft was marketing the Xbox 360, and the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii were all set for a November release. Just in time for a fiercely competitive holiday season. Nintendo, who had been losing more of the market share with each successive console war, needed a big win to stay afloat. But the rise of first person shooters, like Halo and Call of Duty, was putting pressure on the family friendly Nintendo to compete in that space. Instead of challenging these tech giants in a market they dominated, Nintendo took a leap of faith that would create a fresh blue ocean just for them. “The Wii was able to tap into a casual market that had previously ignored gaming thanks to its simplistic and easy-to-understand motion controls.” It became a hit with the nursing home crowd, and with people of all ages who were more physical than the target audience of other video games. By choosing innovation over competition Nintendo dismantled the competition and re-built it in their own image. That holiday season the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 sold 84 million and 80 million units, respectively. While the Wii came away with 101.15 million sales.
“We’re not where we usually are. It’s sad, but let’s be good sports and make this happen anyway.”
In virtual events, the red ocean is the traditional event gone virtual. This ocean’s motto is, “We’re not where we usually are. It’s sad, but let’s be good sports and make this happen anyway.” Like all red ocean strategies, competing in this space is expensive and messy. At best, you claw out some portion of the existing audience.
Where is the blue ocean of virtual events?
How can we embrace the unknown and make the competition irrelevant?
Who is the audience that has yet to be engaged?
How can we mold the industry around ourselves?
Developing your blue ocean strategy is a matter of seeking out the previously untapped audience and differentiating your event from the competition. For more on strategy development, visit this blog post. For help building an event guests will love, visit this blog post. And for some great inspiration for virtual events, visit this blog post.
What if I already know what my content is?
Has your preliminary work already suggested your main content? Do you plan to run a donation drive? Are you hosting an awards ceremony? A wedding ceremony? Are you giving a presentation or panel discussion? Whatever your event, you likely have one or more elements already in the works. But is it the best option for your guests? Are you giving them what they need? Even if your main content is non-negotiable, selecting supporting content is just as important for capturing – and keeping – the attention of your audience.
What are the options?
Options for content in a virtual event are nearly infinite. But let’s discuss the most popular few:
Speeches: The most popular presentation method of all time. A well written and delivered speech can evoke powerful emotions while conveying specific information. They can be live or prerecorded. If the speaker you plan to use is not a professional, or not used to speaking into a camera, having a presenter coach will be essential. Live speakers can also read off a teleprompter. However, you will want to allot rehearsal time for them to practice with it, and for the operator to get comfortable with their pace. The downside to speeches is that they can be visually fatiguing. The last thing you want is to give the audience an excuse to check their phones. Consider layering graphics over the speaker or using the audio of the speech over visual content like interesting graphics or video footage.
Videos: Pre-recorded video is one of the best options for keeping your audience’s eyes glued to the screen. The options for videos are limited only by imagination and funds. You want your video content to match the theme and pace of your event. Slow motion videos are great for highlighting fast moments and dissecting movement. Think of instant replays in sports, or manufacturing videos. The opposite, a time lapse, provides a sense of growth and scale. You often see these in agricultural or building presentations. Sizzle reels – short snappy highlight videos with lots of cuts – are good for conveying a lot of information very quickly. They are most commonly used in advertising. Any video content interspersed with, or overlaid on, your main presentation gives a visual respite from a single speaker. Be careful, overusing video can remove a guest from the “live” feeling of the event.
Hosts: The perfect solution to develop the “live” portion of your event. A live host can respond to day-of changes on the fly and engage on an authentic, humanistic level with the audience. Your host may be a member of your team. You can add weight to the presentation by having a recognizable face anchoring your content. You could also hire a professional host. Someone who has worked in the business will know how to talk to a camera, read from a teleprompter, and improvise when needed. You can select someone who’s on-screen persona aligns with your strategy. Either option has its pros and cons, and the answer will depend heavily on what your audience will respond best to.
Guests and Co-Hosts: Bringing in additional live guests can be the ideal way to gain the face recognition or expert perspective you might lose by choosing a professional host. Having other people in the shot can give the host someone to play off and converse with. It also allows for more interesting camera work, and therefore better engagement. Guests can be a part of the entire program, have a short spot, rotate out, or be part of a group panel. They can be live or phone in. Live is preferred when possible. It gives a more natural back and forth, and you never have to worry about their home internet connection. Another idea is having a pair of hosts. It can be a “best of both worlds” option. You have expertise in your message, and the expert presenter. Just be sure to give the pair time to get to know one another and set aside time to rehearse together. The biggest trap to look for is that one of your pair outshines the other, but a skilled professional host will know how to make others look good.
Live Performances: A popular choice of virtual events is inviting a guest artist to perform for your event. Musical breaks are a nice respite between segments. Much like halftime, or the musical break on SNL. Live visual artists are also a fun choice. We have seen them do a live interactive piece of art during a graduation, and painting through a gala performance to have the piece auctioned off as part of the end of night fundraising. Video DJs are another great background element, especially with the massive LED wall in our live studio. If you choose to include a performative element it should build on the themes you develop in the rest of your program and play to your audience’s tastes.
“Content is Queen in virtual events.”
Whatever content you eventually land on, pay close attention to quality. A poorly recorded or edited video will look messy and unintentional next to professional grade studio footage. And if the audio is difficult to hear you risk guests tuning out entirely. Our senior producer, Meredith Francsis had this to say: “Content is Queen in virtual events. The main thing the guest is watching is the screen and any visuals you put before them. Effective content strategies include concise wording, eye catching imagery and lots of movement to keep the eyes stimulated and engaged. The more times you change a slide, add a lower third, switch the camera of who is talking and the angle, the more engaged your guest will be.”
For your content work, you must provide a proper circulatory system to support it. The way you present should be as carefully considered as the content itself. Layering graphics and engagement opportunities draw your audience in, while timing holds their attention, and your landing page offers a tidy package to wrap everything up in.
What kind of graphics do I need?
There may be a virtual event that does not need graphics. But we have never seen it. Every form of virtual media relies on graphics to frame the content. Logos and title slides let the audience know what they are looking at. Lower thirds provide information like speaker names and titles, or information about how to interact and donate. Graphics can also be overlaid to highlight important numbers, graphs, or other information. And do not forget a “Hold for Technical Difficulties” page just in case! Building a cohesive set of graphics is the best way to brand your event and provide additional sponsorship opportunities. Hiring a professional to put together your graphics package will give your event a sense of polished consistency.
Where do I put my engagement opportunities?
You want your audience to answer a poll question, or to engage with your live chat feature. What is the best way to guide them to those elements? There are several choices, first consider the technical skills of your guests. Will they recognize common icons and intuitively seek out engagement? Or do they need more specific instructions? You should also consider how you envision these elements being used. If it is important for the audience to always be attentive to the content, you don’t want them to navigate away or trying to read and write comments while watching. On the other hand, if your program is entertainment heavy, it may be appropriate for the engagement opportunities to be easily accessible during the show. In that case building a landing page for guests to explore without exiting the program may be ideal. We will discuss specifics of engagement and interactivity at length in our next blog post.
How can I connect the various parts of my event together?
A branded landing page is the virtual equivalent to the venue registration and lobby area in an in-person event. It is the first thing the audience will experience and will set the tone for your program. It should provide all the pertinent information and function as a road map. Guiding guests to where they want to be. Depending on the event, your page may take a minimalist approach, eliminating add-ons in favor of the simplicity of navigation. Or it could be packed with extra features and social media links, giving guests a way to let their minds wander without leaving your event. One recent event we designed included a place on their landing page for guests to submit well wishes to the honored guest.
As always, the decision must come back to “what will achieve the goal of my audience?” Providing what they need for a stress-free event will put your guests in the right mindset to connect with your content. Each element builds off the others to create an event that is greater than the sum of its parts.Tags: blue ocean, content, Design, event, event planning, presentation, virtual