Early this month I was honored to be the keynote speaker as well as moderate and industry leader panel at the Center for Exhibition Industry Research yearly event CEIR Predict. As with most events this year, it was a hybrid experience with in-person attendees and speakers live at MGM Inner Harbour and online attendees watching the live stream.
Below is a write-up from the panel that I moderated which included Joey Graziano, SVP at National Basketball Association, Melissa Ashely Advisor at AirFair and Leana Salamah, Vice President, Marketing | International Housewares Association.
Panelists from the 2021 #CEIRPredict provide key findings on how marketing and digital transformation will impact the future of B2B exhibitions.
“We are not going back to the way we ran events before the Pandemic. It is essential to rethink/reimagine what the future is going to look like.”
When speaking with panelists from the recent CEIR Predict session on marketing and digital transformation, a clearer picture of our industry’s future came into focus.
In this forward-glance, we measure our Total Available Market as the world, and we’re are no longer limited by physical boundaries because we’ve mastered personalization-and-customization-at-scale.
Joey Graziano, SVP Business Development & Global Events, National Basketball Association, also believes this profit/experience utopia need not be just a dream. It comes down to leadership, clarity of intent, and monetizing live, viral moments. The key to Graziano is,
“We need our engagement and monetization strategies to stop being mutually exclusive. The best strategy reimagines the experience for our audience AND drives the P&L.”
Joey Graziano, NBA
Melissa Ashley, Advisor, Airfair, put it this way, “Everybody shifted to using technology to navigate the marketplace. The customer has the choice of when, where, and how.”
This dynamic will not be shifting back. When given multiple choices of how you want to consume your content, why would you ever wish to have your preferences withdrawn? You wouldn’t – and our audiences won’t either.
So what now? How should our organizational leaders prepare and empower their teams for a digital future? How can they leverage an economy of creators and serve audiences who have extensive choices of where they receive their content?
The key to unlocking the value of the medium may live within the very nature of Communities.
Brian Fanzo believes that a key to unlocking value could live with relatability, “If influencer marketing is the business of trust or an extension of trust, the Creator economy monetizes and builds community across platforms.” He goes further,
“This is the most connected generation ever. It isn’t that the younger generation has no attention span; they just have no tolerance for irrelevant content.”
The opportunity is there.
Graziano believes firmly in the responsibility of leadership in plotting this future, “As leaders, it is our job to take a problem, develop simple success metrics, push them forward, and enable people to decide the ‘how.’” Empowerment drives ownership. This shift in mindset could be the difference between holding onto traditional ideas and becoming poised to capitalize real-time on moments of live engagement.
He gave a few examples:
Think about a soap opera, right? The writers know what’s going to happen next. In many events, you know the viral moments because you scripted them with your speakers and entertainment. How can you monetize that?
You have an online event with 50,000 people, and they’re all paying $99. Perhaps 20,000 of those same attendees would pay $250 for a personalized experience. How do you find that out and offer that experience?
He added an important distinction. I call it out as a distinction because there is something our industry has been hesitant to mutter. Graziano’s perspective is, “We need to shift our mindset from ‘nothing is as good as live’ to ‘live is one valuable entry point’ and use our content to reach hundreds of thousands of people globally.”
Throughout the Pandemic, we’ve all spoken the phrase, ‘Nothing will replace the power of face to face.’ We believe it, and we’re not wrong, but it could be that we’re unintentionally limiting our sphere of influence – and at the same time, eroding our teams’ confidence in other mediums.
Specific to COVID-19 and our response to it, Graziano sees it as, of course, a tragedy but also an opportunity. “COVID-19 destroyed our sense of connection. It gave us new fears and futures. And yet, it created an opportunity for us to innovate, define new audiences, remove bureaucracy and emerge stronger.”
This perspective became even more powerful when we learned that Graziano’s father is a retired NYC firefighter and 9/11 survivor. He taught Joey and his siblings that it is the sum of our responses that define us. He would ask, “If your neighbor’s house was on fire, would you run into it?”
The sum of our responses.
If anyone reading this hasn’t yet leveraged the Pandemic to innovate with your teams and prepare for our collective future, now is the time.
For an industry that has always been about its people, we can make that happen. We can look after one another’s houses – even when they aren’t on fire.
To help your teams, we’ve summarized all the findings from the Thought Leaders – Focus on Focus on Marketing & Digital Transformation for you.
The future of marketing is relatability – people want to connect and understand what is important to them. Your brands can be relatable through authenticity.
The future of business is Community. You can build Community with customers, staff, clients, etc.
Individual creators create their own communities. The creator economy monetizes and builds Community across platforms. (Platforms changed the word “attendees” to communities)
Digital enables us to do more in-person. How one uses tech will ultimately enhance the in-person experience. Repackage content and release it over time.
Most obstacles are imaginary and are really opportunities.
Organizers need to create exclusivity, scarcity, personalization and customization.
Research indicates trade shows are coming back, but you can supplement them with other content year-round.
You can do nearly anything digitally. Organizers must drive additional value and raise the bar.
Tapping into emotions:
Organizers must address the emotional reasons people go to trade shows. Foster creativity; do not control it.
Prioritize engagement and Community – look at where you are not positioned and look to outsource to organizations that do this well.
Empower creators and embrace that they think differently.
Want people to feel ‘these are my people, people I can trust.’
Brands aren’t great. The people behind the brand make it great.
Join us again next week as we continue our conversations with CEIR Predict panelists. Next Up: Focus on Industry Disruptors.
Ps. If you’re thinking, ‘Wait, wasn’t this week’s content about disruptors?’ You’re not wrong. Everything covered above is about digital and marketing disruption specifically, but as we know, disruption isn’t limited to those topics. Next week we’ll explore ways you can support your teams as they build a culture of inclusivity, navigate the future of work, and protect their employees, attendees, and customers from physical and cyber security threats.
For hybrid events and meetings to create unique and valuable experiences, they must focus on three things: shrinking the distance, building a 365 always-on community, and a mindset shift from a 2D world to a 360° one.
Hybrid seems to be trendy at the moment because, for many, the uncertain future of offline events and the ever-changing world of virtual everything is overwhelming; focusing on hybrid allows for overarching statements such as “the best of both worlds.”
The mistake most are making when they get excited about the hybrid future is to connect the worlds that existed before the shutdown—linking in-room offline attendees with the virtual audiences and the belief that content and the speakers can bring both worlds together, interacting as a group.
But let’s keep it real.
Zoom fatigue, boring webinars, and underwhelming pre-recorded virtual events is what we’ve been living with for the last nine months. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise as we’ve undervalued the virtual experience for the previous ten years, and we believed we could repurpose what we did offline. It would be magical and unique online.
The hard truth is that the event and meeting world will never go back to the way of the old.
The attendees of the future have witnessed the good, bad, and ugly of a virtual experience, while many are discovering how to supplement what they thought was only available offline conferences and meetings.
Disconnect and false hope migrating online
As I learned in my days in cybersecurity, then in cloud computing, and most recently with social mediamarketing, there’s a massive disconnect and false hope that happens when migrating online.
This disconnect starts with the notion that “more is better” as we can reach more people and gather more data, leading to more experiences and, ultimately, more revenue.
The false hope begins with the idea of going online means it cheaper, and we get more thanks to reduced travel, less overhead, and minimization of risk.
This might sound like doom and gloom, but the good news is that we can learn from those past offline to online experiences while also managing our expectations.
Remembering this pandemic has forced a change to virtual and is unlike anything we could have ever prepared for, and the future will be unlike anything we’ve experienced before.
So, where do we start?
First, we must re-invent, not repurpose, every aspect of both virtual and in-person experiences.
Second, we must move from believing this is a pivot to embracing that this is a time of creative innovation where we will shape the future.
Lastly, we must focus less on the technology and limitations involved in creating a hybrid approach and more on what problems we can solve and new solutions we can make with a 360° experience.
1. Shrinking the distance: re-invent vs repurpose
As with cloud computing and digital marketing, the idea of more possibilities, thanks to online, will inadvertently lead to making decisions that make our interactions feel less human, increase the difficulty in building trust with our new audience, and ultimately weaken our connection with the existing audience we’ve worked so hard make.
Although many of these trends have already begun in 2020, I believe shrinking the distance must be our focus and top priority.
To do so, we must redesign our hybrid strategy to create a centralized mobile-first hub that the hybrid attendee experience, connecting the online virtual world to the offline in-person experience.
That centralized home will exist within a mobile-first experience that will shrink the distance created both virtually and in-person.
This will give the online audience the ability to bring what they do online to offline experiences while also enhancing virtual events, allowing for more robust notifications, chat, and content management.
The mobile-first hub will also shrink the distance created with offline events, which often feels disconnected from online, besides maybe an event hashtag on Twitter. The mobile hub will empower offline events to develop more in-depth data drive strategies such as session prerequisites and community meetups.
2. Building a 365 always-on community: virtual is here to stay
For the past ten years, when someone mentioned the need for an event to have a community, the simple solution, or what I believe was a band-aid, was to create a Facebook group or website forum and call it a community.
It prioritized the months leading up to the event, the days of the event, and then until the event surveys were submitted. The rest of the time, it became a random dumping ground for event marketing and networking spam from attendees.
Yes, communities can and do live within Facebook groups and website forums, but for these communities to be a success and indeed be 365 always-on, they must be empowered to grow rather than build.
We must build event communities centered around the attendees’ shared passions and the common purpose that are focused on providing value and engagement 365 days of the year.
Ultimately if the community is designed to grow and has proper investment, not only will it be the key to the success of hybrid events, but it will be the glue and the lifeline that allows for future pivots and unforeseen changes that happen in the future.
3. The mindset shift from 2D to 360°: leave offline limitations offline
There are several reasons virtual events, webinars, and online meetings haven’t replaced offline events, conferences, and meetings over the past ten years. The main reasons are the lack of time and resources from all parties, from production to planning to platforms to speaker presentations.
These reasons created a very low baseline of expectations when it came to virtual events and stifled any innovation or dedicated redesign of what was possible virtually. If anything good comes out of COVID-19 it’s that it forced us to invest the time and resources in what was possible virtually.
Over the last couple of months, with each failed virtual event, we’ve been forced to look at how we can reinvent virtually and open an entirely new world of innovation.
All of this is great but is only transformational for hybrid events if we are willing to not limit that re-invention to virtual by looking at every aspect of an offline meeting and event.
This starts with asking ourselves important questions such as:
Why does this concept exist, is it needed, and if so, how can we reinvent it?
How can we leverage new technology not only to create new experiences but to simplify existing processes?
What role does educating our audience and managing expectations play in the success of our hybrid event, and how can we do that bigger and better?
What role can speakers and emcee’s play that goes beyond the stage?
Do we need projection screens, or can we leverage digital overlays and immersive stage design to go beyond PowerPoint?
I do believe hybrid events are the future in the short term and the long term.
But to avoid the mistakes of other industries, we must manage expectations, focus on redesigning over repurposing and prevent the band-aid ideas of “more is better” and the concept of “best of both worlds” from driving us to merely bridging a gap.
Together we can build a successful hybrid future by focusing on a centralized hub that’s community-focused, that’s driven to innovate and create new experiences that leverage the 360° world around us!
Brian Fanzo, Digital Futurist, iSocialFanz is just one of many talented speakers taking part in PlanetIMEX, the October Edition on 12-16 October.
We’ve all heard it. I don’t care if you’re a speaker, you’re an event, organizer or even if you’ve attended a webinar or a virtual event of virtual learning, everyone is pitching how interactive their event or experience is.
But the real thing they want is the presentation not to SUCK. So the question I’ve been asking when someone tells me they want something interactive is:
Is your audience prepared for interactive and is that what you really want or do you want to maintain the audience’s attention and include them in the virtual experience?
Here is the thing, there are very few ways to truly make something interactive. Not every presentation needs to be live – nor should it be! In reality, the only thing that a presentation needs to do 100% of the time is to keep the audience’s attention.
That’s it. Easier said than done, but that’s really it. So, how do you do that? In this 12 minute video not only do I cover exactly why this is wrong and the mistakes most are making but I breakdown how we can do this differently and some virtual presentation examples that are changing the virtual game.
Here are a few of my top tips that I cover in this video!
???? Manage Expectations (success is 50/50)
???????? Educate Your Audience
???? Choose Your Own Adventure
❓ Answer All of the Questions
???? Participatory Content and Conversations (when necessary)
???? Have an Event Guide
Full transcript of video here.
I’ve done 48 of these, this year, I’ve done 3,500 live streams. If you’re building a presentation to be interactive, which means the content is going to be going back and forth and you’re using the Q and a, the chat.
And you’re going to use all of those things. You have to build a presentation specifically for that. Funny enough, almost everyone when we’re talking about webinars and virtual events, especially for the free ones, which a lot of them are. They’re like, Oh, don’t worry. Give us the same presentation you do on stage. Just make it interactive.
I mean, it’s like, where’s the interactive button. Is there an interactive button, like on my board or something that I can, doesn’t exist. And so here’s the, here’s what we have to think about. Right. What does interaction mean? How are we going to make an interaction part of this event, and is interaction what we want? Because here’s what I know for some people, there’s probably making them a little nervous seeing the monopod over here. Still, I can use the five cameras that I have set up here in my, in my office production of one to provide a very, you know, change, different angles.
We can change the intimacy, you know, the empathy of that, you know, emotional connection with the audience, and I can maintain their attention without having them to be active in the chat or using what they’re saying too, you know, to, you know, impact you know, the presentation itself. The other thing is I find very interesting on this concept is that we’re hearing lots of things about this is going to be a very interactive online event. And yet everything’s prerecorded. And now I will say I’ve done some interactive sessions where I knew that I was going to be prerecorded. And what I did was I knew I would be in the chat answering and engaging during my recorded session. And so in my recording, I actually was like, okay, you’re going to see me in the chat. I’m going to pull up a question in the conversation, and based on whatever your answers are, I’m going to get, you know, give you guys some direction from this part of the presentation. Still, I don’t think that’s what they’re looking for.
And so the reason I think that the, when someone says, Hey, you know that someone when most people say, Hey, I want to interact with the presentation. What they’re really saying is we don’t want it to suck. We don’t want it to be boring. We don’t want it to be robotic talking head. And I think we’ve learned this the hard way, right? Like a great utuber is not often a great speaker. A great speaker is not usually a great YouTube or high on video or understanding live video. But here’s what I think of when I think of virtual events and reinventing virtual events. And the events that I’m working with. This is a lot of what we’re working into the content strategy, as well as the strategy for the overall event is if you want interaction, if the interaction is your goal, which means you want your audiences full attention, here’s what you have to do.
The first thing you have to do is you have to manage expectations. What I mean by that is you need to make sure the audience knows that there are 50% responsible for the success of this event. And the presenter is 50% successful at this event because I don’t care how amazing interactive a presentation is set up to be. If the audience isn’t planning on it, being on their laptop, maybe they’re just listening to it in podcast mode on their phone. I don’t care how great of an interactive presentation. It’s not going to matter. So you have to manage expectations. And the second part there is you have to educate your audience on, Hey, why is it interactive? What is the level of participation? Are you going to ask them to be on video? Do they need to be on their desktop so they can open a second tab?
Does it work on a mobile device? Right? Like, how am I going to make those connections? The other thing about this is, you know, if you’re doing like a multi-hour event, most of the events that I’m hosting or emceeing now are three to four hours. Some of them are eight hours. Here’s the thing. You don’t want an interactive event that entire time, you want presentations that are educational and entertaining and, you know, and, and engaged, you know, and even that participant or element. But here’s what I think we also do wrong is that we just say, Hey, everyone stay in zoom. Or everyone stayed in Cisco WebEx throughout this entire day, but there’s only really one session that’s going to take advantage of that, right? We’re just gonna play the replays. What we need to do is we need to be very strategic with them when we send someone to an interactive hub so that they understand it is a different type of consumption, right?
Because one of the most significant missing pieces with virtual events is coal of content. I have a whole nother video, all on coconut assumption of content, but that’s a big thing that’s missing. We don’t have anybody to share our content consumption with, which is definitely something that we have to keep in mind. But with that being said, I can maintain the audience’s attention without having it to be fully interactive. And one of the ways that I do that, and here’s a, here’s a real practical one is I actually do a choose your own adventure, or I call it, choose your own experience. We’re about five minutes into my keynote. I put up three different pictures on the screen, like just like this. And I’ll. Actually, I’m using the same tool that I’m using to record this on right now. He cam live and I’ll say, okay, I want you guys to vote on one, two or three for the story.
I’m going to tell at the end of this presentation. And then I’ll say, while you guys are voting, I’m going to throw this too, a quick little transition video, which would probably be a three 60 video because I’m using a lot of three 60 videos of my three 60 bros. And what that does is it gives people, all the stuff, new attention. We’re like, Oh my goodness, this is what’s going on. The next thing I do right after I asked that participation, I set the expectations myself as a speaker, Hey, for the next 15 minutes, I’m going to be very, you know, education. I want you guys to be taking notes. You don’t have to worry about the chat. I will see the chat. So if you guys are asking questions, don’t worry about it. And you can really manufacture that another secret of mine.
And this is probably one of the ones maybe I shouldn’t give away. And my speaker agent might be a little upset if I give this away, but I’m going to do it. Anyhow. When the other things that I love to do is that you want to make sure that you let the audience know that, Hey, because here’s the thing we always say, we want questions and answers. Please bring all your questions. You’ll use the Q and a box. Use the chatbox for chatting and Q and a for Q and a, right? Like we’ve all done that, right? Here’s the thing.
There’s a, there’s a level of what we’ve been. We used to in webinars where we’ve all done it, right?
There’s, we’ve, we’ve submitted three questions ourselves. They tell us they have 45 questions and they have time for two. One of the other things that I do is very early on.
I say, here’s what I’m gonna do for everybody. I want you guys to you use that question box, ask me every question under the sun. And here’s my promise. If I can’t answer all of your questions during this presentation, or during my allotted time, I’m gonna do a personalized video answering every single one of these questions. I don’t have it up on my Instagram account or have it on my Twitter, even yet, I’m going to send it to the event host so that they can send it out to you.
Therefore you have no worries about your question, not being answered. Bring me on your questions, right? This is a big piece and I can, I can’t harp on it enough. And funny enough, if you want an interactive presentation, the entire piece back and forth is extremely important. But if you want an engage, you know, and get the audience’s attention, you also have to figure out that back and forth.
So here’s the language that I like to use. I believe all virtual events must be participatory content. If it’s just broadcasting, if you’re just doing a live stream and there’s no interaction, that’s called YouTube a Ted talk or TV, but if it’s going to be, Hey, these are prerecorded sessions, but we’re going to have the speaker in the chat. And then after their session, we’re going to have them jump on Q and a. Because remember I liked that, you know, check out that other video of mine, where I talk about the three types of video content that every virtual event must have. But here’s the thing. I believe that every virtual event must focus on participatory style content and conversations, not interactivity because participatory means, Hey, when I see you guys in the chat, make sure, you know, I’ll see your chats, bring them on here. Right?
Some speakers are really good at seeing the chat, others aren’t for the event that I’m speaking at tomorrow, I’ve actually already, I have my community manager and she’s going to be editing and adding the questions to a Google doc that I’ll have on my screen right here behind the camera. And so, as I’m presenting, she’ll bring up those questions. She’ll highlight ones that I need to do that I need to answer.
She’ll delete them if I end up answering it during my talk. But having that, that, that element is extremely important and making sure the audience knows what to expect. I firmly believe the number one failure, maybe. Well, there’s two number one failures. The two failures that I believe virtual events are, are struggling with right now. The first one is they don’t invest in a host or an MC. I believe a host, an MC as the face of a virtual event is more valuable and more important than any speaker or any event platform technology. I have a whole video on that, breaking out all those resources. But the other piece of this that I don’t believe we are focusing enough on is the education of our audience. I must educate them before the event, the day of the event, letting them know, Hey, for the first three hours of the event, we’re just going to be broadcasting some of our presentations. So feel free to listen to it on your phone, but around 1:00 PM, we’re going to have Brian Fanzo come on here. And he’s going to have an interactive choose your own experience, a presentation where we’re going to want to bring some people on video.
We’re going to want you guys to answer the polls because you’re going to be able to participate in the actual event. You’re going to be able to be part of Brian’s presentation. You’re going to actually shape how my presentation is delivered, because I believe if it is live, then it should be shaped by the audience.
If you are not allowing the audience to shape a live presentation, the question I asked you is why is it live? And I will leave you with this. I believe another shortcoming here that we have to think about is why is someone feel like they want to attend a live presentation? What’s the value for that? If I can just get it, the download later, we all are busy, right? And we all, we’ve all done it, right? Like we go like, Oh, I’ll just download it later. We download it. We never watch it again. And it goes into that saved folder.
What I believe how this should all work is that if you are educating your audience and you are understanding the differences between interactive and maintaining the audience’s attention, right?
Having that episodic feel the preview and the teasers with a great host and MC then what I believe this all comes down to is that the things that will give the audience a reason to attend live is that they will be able to shape the content and the conversation of the virtual event, because it’s participatory content.
During this period of social distancing, you’re likely expected to speak on camera more than ever or if you aren’t excited it’s probably because you are being forced to speak at an upcoming virtual event or your teams next zoom video meeting.
Whether it’s for a Zoom call, a department meeting, a virtual speaking gig or a video storytelling project, it’s crucial to project confidence, calm, and authority to keep those on the other end engaged.
With that being said we are getting pressure to make sure our presentation is engaging and interactive and dynamic which lets face it makes the entire virtual presenting process extremely overwhelming. This is the reason I created this video below:
How to avoid the PLEASE GOD NOT ANOTHER WEBINAR with 4 Virtual Presentation Skillsets!
In this video you will learn how to: –
Evoke the right emotions through your body language and visual presentation
Establish authority and rapport with audiences of any size
Speak clearly and concisely without sounding staged or rehearsed
Beat on-camera nerves and project confidence and calm
Set the stage for an effective visual presence whether you’re on a webcam or professional camera
Maintain a high-energy presence and form a connection with your audience Whether you’re speaking to an audience of one or 100, you can’t miss this chance to unlock the secrets to a strong on-screen presence.
Virtual Event producers tend to get caught up in things like technology and speakers and getting attendees to sign-up…
So much so that they tend to forget about the piece that brings everything together and no it’s not the theme or the branding. Not only does this role keep a digital event on track, but it also encourages people to attend, interact, and stay engaged.
All of which are invaluable.
This video will not be a popular one amongst my keynote speaker peers but I believe the value of virtual events is dependent on the utilization of this role and re-inventing how this role is leveraged throughout the event planning process.
The NFL Virtual Draft leveraged this role to perfection which is the reason I still consider it the best virtual event I’ve attended in 2020.
Do you have an idea of which role/asset I’m referring to? Let me know your thoughts in the comments on YouTube!
If you are looking for more virtual event insights or want to transform your never virtual keynote presentation make sure to visit the Virtual Event Resources landing page which is updated weekly.
Here’s a YouTube comment that I felt summarized exactly how I felt and what inspired me to create this video!
“I don’t think I have ever been more on board with a video before this one. You are 100% spot on! Over the last few months (and even a little bit before) I have attended and spoken at online events that don’t have anything anchoring the experience, guiding us through our time together, except for that opening email and closing survey.
This past week I attended my FIRST virtual conference that had a host doing exactly what you say they should do. It changed EVERYTHING! While I still would prefer in-person events, this was the first experience where I closed my screen on the last day sad that it was over, excited about what I learned, and WHO I MET! I actually felt like I was in a community of people, gathering to learn together, to create something new, and to walk away richer in connection than when we started the event.
Thank you, Brian! Thank you! I hope many people watch this and put into motion what you are sharing with all of us.