Like event specialists everywhere, I have been researching ways to deliver creative and events in a virtual way. Many of us are feeling fearful that things will never go back to normal, fearful that what made us love this industry is gone forever, and fearful that we will no longer be able to bring people together like we used to.
In this little series of blogs I will look at the different facets that make an event work in our 'new normal'. This week I am going to look at what is at the heart of events - the gathering of people, making new connections.
How can we do this in a meaningful way online?
What really brings these people together is the storyteller, and the way it is presented.
"We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.”
Jonathan Gottschall, Author of The Storytelling Animal
Give something of meaning to your audience by inspiring engaging and educating them with a story. There hasn't been a better time to tell amazing stories and right now we're surrounded by forms of media and technology that enable us to engage in different and closer ways. I have been impressed by the way that various organisations have tackled this.
From the mammoth giant that is Apple, though to how charities are telling their stories.
Apple delivered its first all-virtual presentation to kick off the 2020 WorldWide Developers Conference in June. CEO, Tim Cook, walked onto the stage of an empty Steve Jobs Theatre on the company’s campus in California, and sat on a stool to address the serious issues of race, social justice, and the Covid-19 pandemic. The empty theatre gave a real sense of how everyone is facing the same challenges. After speaking for about five minutes, Cook passed the presentation to Apple’s senior vice president of software, Craig Federighi. He delivered his presentation from an entirely different studio on the Apple campus. It was the first sign that this virtual meeting would be constantly changing to keep people’s attention.
By the end of the presentation which lasted nearly two hours, the audience saw 20 different speakers involved in Apple’s product development. Just have a glimpse at the video below. No one spoke for more than ten minutes, and many of them spoke for just two minutes to keep the action moving. The changes and backdrops were constant.
Their 'story' may have been product led, but the method of delivery was engaging and creative.
The Latino Community Foundation quickly pivoted their 'Coming of Age Gala' online. This must have been one of the first repurposed virtual events that I took part in. Taking place at the end of May, they had time against them to create something really meaningful for their audience, just weeks after Covid 19 restrictions were imposed.
It is testament to how engaging it was in that I had to set my alarm to get up at 2am to view it in 'real time', and it kept me captivated into the small hours.
CEO Jacqueline Martinez Garcel and VP Masha V Chernyak both delivered their welcomes from outdoor settings, breathing a real sense of life into their stories.
The whole event continued against a series of nature inspired or colourful backgrounds, keeping the audience stimulated in a time when they were in lockdown.
Not everyone has Apple's budget, but the Latino Community Foundation demonstrated that doing something as simple as 'taking the audience outside' could bring a different, more engaging feel to their stories. Everything from videos to images paintings and photography falls under the category of visual media. All these things can be used to create dynamic visually engaging sessions and thoughtful content, it's time to start investing in these tools, just like you would invest in a venue.
Or you may want to go one step further and utilise some of the venue hire or production costs you would have had to budget for to utilise local broadcast studios, and the use of green screens and multiple cameras from whatever your setting may be. Because this is how you can support the narrative and the storytelling of the talking heads that's so important in virtual events.
But you don't have to rely on tools like this to craft a compelling story through a virtual event. You might find yourself held to contracts previously made with venues, but instead of losing the deposits, why not repurpose a space you already have in some ingenious ways. You can organise a concert live in the venue and stream it, offering virtual audiences the possibility to be part of a peaceful and hypnotic experience for the comfort of their own homes.
Another great way to give a story some visual life is to employ the services of a scribe. These artists have been bringing events to life over the past few years, creating walls of content at conferences and other large gatherings, and there is even more reason to be using them now. A digital live scribe could be in a separate 'room' at your event, creating artwork during panel discussions to provide a visual representation of the topics covered in the session. They are great to provide to attendees post-event and share on social media.
Look out for some more tips on bringing your virtual event to life in next weeks blog!
Denise Yeats is an events director, communications consultant, endurance athlete and avid adventurer.