Entertainment Under Covid

It has been a tough period for event planners and companies that are facing mandates and calls to cancel their events globally as curfews and lock-downs are put into action by governments around the globe due to the outbreak of Covid-19 that has taken so many lives and has crumbled the world economy, but does that mean that those companies and planners have no other options? Does this mean that events should be put off or postponed? And does that mean people have to miss on events and occasions until the pandemic is under control?

In this article we will be discussing an alternative way for companies and planners that enables them to host their events and celebrate their occasions through various tools and technologies. Virtual Events, a way to stay connected with your audience and entertain them or communicate with them.

How to plan your Virtual Event?

Planning a virtual event, and just like any event, requires a plan with operational strategy and practical approach that has its challenges and characteristics. As we go through this article we will be listing and explaining the very necessary steps needed for you to plan your virtual event. 

  1. First on the list, know your audience.

The major concern in this virtually connected world is that people have control over what they see and what they contribute to which laid the ground basis for what we know today as "video-on-demand” that was popularized by YouTube and then was adopted by every major entertainment production company. This capability allows people to "bounce” which means they are capable of leaving any sort of page or content the moment they lose interest or aren’t intrigued enough. Therefore, and before or else, you need to know who you are talking to, what they like, when they can give you the time you need and through what means, and of course what they follow and what are their interests. Another thing you need to take into consideration is the latest trends online and in technology so you can even influence your audience and stay in their memory for a longer span instead of just going with the flow.

  1. Develop your concept!

Moving to virtual events in such times requires to be done fast, this is true, but still fast doesn’t mean sloppy. This is where you need to grab a pen and a notebook and take some notes.

First thing first, your event should be a visualization of something, a concept, an idea, for your event needs to have an objective. So first ask yourself this: Why am I doing this event? Then you need to ask yourself: What do I want my audience to see? Third, you will need to ask yourself "How can I make this happen? What tools do I need? And is it even possible? Fourth, you need to ask yourself "What type of interaction with the audience am I after? Should they interact with the material I provide only? Should they be able to interact with each other? Will they be navigating through some virtual world? Will they be just watching pre-recorded content? Should they have a part in the event, and ask questions and share views and whatnot?”

For setting your objective and concept, this is directly related to the reason you landed on this page mainly, you have a message that you need to deliver to your audience, and this message could be about launching a product, an entertaining show, discussion of a certain topic and so on, or it can be about a certain occasion you need to celebrate with your audience and remind them of something significant, or simply about connecting with your audience. Therefore developing your concept has to follow suit as your objective, in other words, once you know what you want to say you move on to how you will say it.

After figuring out what you want and how you want it we reach the stage where it is required for you, even on a technical level, to know what is required for you to execute your idea. This means you should now look for the solutions and platforms and the technical people that can help you transform this idea into a reality, this process might be tiring and in some cases and for those who cross the line of reality into a world of science fiction it can be disappointing. Understanding technology, human progress and the limitations of today’s world is a must, therefore once you lay your concept and visualize it you are required to do your homework, search for possibility to bring such event into reality and what tools are needed and what people should be involved, create your lists, do the cons and pros table comparisons and get to contacting and developing your concept.

Something to keep in mind.

Don’t make things too complex for your audience. The main idea here is that you have done your research and worked with the technologies of your choice and the platforms they operate through but your audience haven’t, they may be totally unfamiliar with your choices or even never heard of them, therefore the more a certain technology or platform is used already by your audience the better it is for your event.

How will your audience interact with you?

The answer to such a question isn’t completely open-ended because it is limited to the technology and the platforms available and accessible by both you and your audience. Therefore to be able to decide on what type of interaction is needed we have first to be aware of what options do we have.

There are two common options for capturing virtual events. Ranging from simple to complex. Below we break down the types as well as pros and cons of each. 

Webinar/Live Stream Type Format 

This is probably the format you are most familiar with. Many people have attended online webinars or live streams. They are very common and easy to create. The downside of webinars and live streams is that they do not allow for much audience engagement beyond polling, or chat outside of when the webinar or live stream is live. It more or less allows attendees to show up and watch a presentation with very little interaction. You want to look for a way to create long term engagement and often this is not the best way. A single platform is more like having just a venue without all the unique details you bring to your events, it is more or less an empty space to hold the event. To truly engage your audience you can do more! Enter virtual conference formats!

Virtual Conference Format 

A conference format allows for a more complex event. Conference style formats allow for rooms for the general sessions and smaller rooms for each of the breakout sessions. There are options to allow for more dialogue and capabilities to have 1:1 sessions, coaching, and networking. 

Depending on your setup you can also allow people to see each other and interact, this is a great option when more dialogue is needed. It will also make the attendees feel more involved like they are actually there vs staring at a screen with little interaction. These virtual events are more complex and require more technical prowess which is why it is recommended to hire a technical producer. Similar to an in-person event, your technical producer will be behind the scenes making sure all the working parts work together for a seamless experience.

To Go Live or Not to Go Live? 

With virtual events how you present your content has greater options than in-person events. Virtual events can be pre-recorded, live, or a mix of the two. Depending on your needs one way may better suit you than the other.

Pre-Recorded Content 

As technical producers, this is our least favorite option. Pre-recorded content can allow for less stress at the "live” virtual event, and can limit technical malfunctions but it is less engaging. This type of content cannot adapt to the tone of the audience, the excitement (or lack thereof) in the chats, or answer questions that come in – in real-time. In sessions that are pre-recorded they often fail to create the excitement that a live event gives you, it feels more like watching a YouTube video than being part of something. Attendees will feel less invested because it is not live, they can leave and come back and no one will really know. For this reason, we recommend this only as a last resort.

Live Virtual Events 

Virtual events where speakers are live and have interaction can offer a lot more for the attendee and are an overall more engaging experience. Speakers at these virtual events can answer attendees’ questions in real-time, shift conversations as needed and respond to polls from the audience in real-time. This is a much more interactive experience. To pull this off correctly you will need a technical production team that is capable of switching between speakers, balancing audio, video and so much more.

Make it Hybrid 

Fully live events can be stressful, but like we said pre-recorded options are far less engaging. Creating a hybrid content for your virtual event can be a good option too. In this case, you can have a mixture of some live presentations and a live MC guiding attendees through the event. Some of your content will be pre-recorded similar to a TV studio you will have pre-recorded talks. During those pre-recorded portions your MC can do the Q&A and give shout outs to those tuning in. 

Producing Great Content for Virtual Events

A great event requires great content. This is even more important when it comes to a virtual event. Think about it, we already know attention spans are low. In fact, humans have a shorter attention span than a goldfish. Chances are your attendees are watching from the comfort of their home, that means you are competing with a lot of distractions that are not at in-person events.

Because attention spans are shorter and distractions are higher you must plan for shorter and more engaging content. Virtual attendees need love too. This can take many shapes and forms. Perhaps instead of having full-day sessions, you extend the conference over the course of a week with 2 hours of content each day. You can also make your content to encourage activity by having speakers do live-polling, Q&A, and quizzing. Another way to make the live-stream interactive is to allow for giveaways, this could be a presenter doing a drawing, quizzing or pop-up over videos to enter to win.  

With virtual events, it is critical to find ways to make attendees excited and feel like they are really part of your event not just staring at a screen.

How is virtual event content filmed? 

Ideally for virtual events content is filmed in one location with all speakers and presenters. This can be done both live and with pre-recorded content. A studio recording allows for a consistent look and high-quality production level. All filming would be done inside a studio with professional lighting, sound, and video quality. It would then be broadcasted out to a live-stream. Filming in a studio allows for complete control of the elements. It also allows for some of the presenters and MCs to interact making it feel just a little more like an in-person event. 

However, with the increasing threat of coronavirus on travel, and in-person gatherings strongly suggested to be 10 people or less and many companies going remote, for now, the best option would be to have everyone film from their own remote spaces. 

Allowing every presenter to film everything from home allows for flexibility and safety in this unpredictable time. In this situation, your technical producer would aid in making this as seamless as possible being your technical arm and training the presenters in how to make their best virtual presentation possible. They would provide the mics, tips for lighting, and the same audio and visual checks you would have in the studio. The presenter’s broadcast would be fed through an interface and then presented through your live-streaming platform.

Replacing in Person-Networking at Your Virtual Event

There are many ways to give attendees the opportunity to network with each other even when they can’t meet in person. It is important to get this part of your event right to make sure the virtual experience really does give the same value an in-person event would. After all, We know event-goers LOVE to network and enjoy connecting with other attendees. There are several ways to go about this you could allow attendees to set up 1:1 meeting rooms with each other, but this creates a lot of work on the attendees’ behalf to find connections. It’s hard enough to connect in real life, let alone find connections online through a virtual event. The better option would be to use technology and algorithms to help your attendees network and find like-minded people connect and bring them together. This will allow for more powerful connections and fantastic virtual networking. 

Keeping Virtual Events Secure 

Often overlooked but extremely critical. Cybersecurity should be top of mind when implementing a virtual event. Planners should take the most care when protecting attendees and partner data. This can be accomplished by making sure you have a secure and encrypted site, strong passwords, 2-Factor Authentication, and keeping up to date on security and technology trends.

Take the Next Steps Get Started on Your Virtual Event

Are you ready to make the jump and turn your in-person event into a virtual event? We are here and ready to assist you. Let us help re-create the experience your attendees would get from in-person events virtually- and keep your audience engaged. We want to help you recoup the costs from your in-person event by avoiding a full cancellation if you would like to see how we handle virtual events lets get in touch. These are just some of the ways we can help you as your technical producer. We know this is new to so many planners and we are happy to help guide you through this process!