Digital Futurist, Keynote Speaker and Virtual Event Producer Brian Fanzo shares his tips for not only creating a successful virtual event but the mindset shift required to build out goals, measure and track success. He also touches on selecting the right platform and using a combination of video collaboration tools and live streaming tools to engage today’s digitally disconnected audience.
The process in a nutshell
Brian has perfected the process needed to create a successful online event after producing over 3,000 live streams, speaking in 76 countries and helping Fortune 100 brands deploy their virtual events. He’s pretty much broken down to this:
1. Define Success and Set Measurable
Success looks different for everyone involved in an offline conference – sponsors are looking for potential clients, the hosts may be looking to increase loyalty and the attendees might be looking for people to add to their network.
An online conference has the same dynamic, but often people don’t take that into consideration when they are planning. So, the first thing needs to be first when planning a virtual event – define what success looks like for everyone involved.
Where most people go wrong is defining success without setting goals. If success looks like creating brand loyalty and an engaged audience, your goals should be return customers, social media mentions and numbers of messages in the live chat. The number of attendees doesn’t matter, nor does the amount of money made.
Just remember, these should all be things that can be tracked and measured.
Once you have your goals laid out, it’s time to determine what kind of content can get you to your goal and create the experience you want to. In this step, you’ve got to think about what is going to get the point across, live video? Produced video? Ask me anything style?
How are you going to create your experience? Themed chat rooms? A choose your own adventure style event? What about podcasts for those not interested in the live video? There are so many ways we can facilitate a similar experience online to offline, but they require planning (something most forget with online events).
3. Choose Your Platforms and Speakers
Now that you know what kind of content and experience you want to create, you can start to determine the best platforms for hosting and interacting. Here is the thing though, just like everything else, the best results come from collaboration.
There is no such thing as a “do it all” platform.” They all have their own strengths and weaknesses. It’s about finding the platforms that can work together to create the perfect experience.
After you have the who, what, when, where and why of your event set you can focus on hiring the best speakers. You want to make sure that the speakers are ready to make a great virtual event and that they understand that it’s not the same as a 30 – 90 minute keynote. You also want to make sure that they are able to create the type of content you are hoping to have.
4. Create a Digital-First Mindset
Creating the best virtual event experience requires a digital-first mindset. Again, what goes on offline can’t just be replicated online, it’s a much different venue, so you have to retrain everyone on what it means to create an engaging event.
Why haven’t virtual events or online conferences replaced offline conferences? Because they can’t!
But… If we redesign the experience from a digital-first mindset, it’s possible to provide a complimentary digital experience that bridges offline conference experiences 365 days a year and can supplement the value we aren’t able to deliver during times like now with the Coronavirus.
What won’t work and hasn’t worked:
❌ Back to back webinars called digital events
These are impersonal and often time unengaging.
❌ Live video platform streaming offline keynotes
While these may be more personal, they’re still not super engaging if the speakers don’t engage with the audience comments like they would if it were any other live stream. The problem with that, is that this makes it less “conference like,” how do we find the happy medium?
❌ Speakers using the same slides, story, and presentation structure for digital talks
Virtual events are far more accessible for most, so how will we ensure that our audiences aren’t seeing the same thing over and over again? How can we create a unique experience without feeling the mood of the room?
❌ Events built with tech-first their your mindset still have to focus on format and audience experience
We can create all of the tech-first events we want, but the tech itself won’t be enough to create a great customer experience.
✅ Great creators such as YouTube stars don’t make great speakers.
Being able to speak at a live event and creating well-produced, audience-specific content require very different skillsets. Virtual summits, specifically ones that happen live, will require keynote level speakers.
✅ Just as many speakers won’t make great digital keynote speakers
Just like YouTubers don’t always make great in-person speakers, we can’t expect that many “traditional” keynote speakers will be great in a digital format.
? Sadly, just like offline, the host/emcee of digital events are key, yet seldom valued or included in strategy!
Cutting corners is not acceptable. Not even in the digital space. The host/emcee of your event is the only constant in the attendees’ experience and you’d be surprised how important that constant is. So don’t leave them out!
? Virtual Reality isn’t the answer either
However, understanding VR content, storytelling with creating 360 degrees of access, and how those interactions work is a mindset digital events must factor in.
The questions we must be asking for digital events are:
1. What experience and interaction will maintain attention with an audience that is easily distracted and has unlimited other options for content?
2. How do we connect the theme and hypothesis of the event throughout every aspect of the digital event without it being obvious?
3. What does success look like for our digital event and how does that differ from our traditional events? How do we manage those expectations for audience, sponsors and executives?
4. What is the emotional link to the content we want to create.. FOMO no recordings or JOMO exclusive access?
5. What are the measurable touchpoints that we can track for success & driveability to adapt and pivot?
6. With no venue but no doors to keep the audience in, how do we use that money from butts in seats to butts not clicking off?
We Must ReInvent
When designing a virtual event we must go beyond the platforms and even beyond the conference experience to build a truly digital-first experience! I’m working with multiple companies and associations on doing just that with what I’m calling a “Choose your own digital event experience” framework. Stay tuned for more insights and information on how we are doing this and if you want to learn more or believe your software platform would be a great fit send me an email at Brian@isocialfanz.com.