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How to give your virtual audiences those ‘goosebump’ moments

Top Banana managing director Jemma Peers shares her top tips on how to give your event audience, no matter the medium of delivery, that ‘goosebump’ feeling…   

During 2020 we did more learning, more innovating and more reinventing than we’ve done as an industry in the last decade.

Jemma Peers

We had to adapt to survive and from it has blossomed this incredible virtual world where we are only limited by our imagination. And now it’s time to do it again as we enter the next phase of this journey, and take our new skills, technology, and experience and combine them with our love for incredible live experiences.

For years brands have been creating physical events with a virtual element for global audiences. However, in the majority of cases, these audiences have been passive viewers and not active participants, limited to listening in and at the very most submitting questions for Q&A. It was just the surface level of what we now know is possible. It is no longer the norm, nor should we benchmark this as an engaging way to host a virtual event. Virtual audiences are both demanding and expecting more and more from their viewing experience, they want to be engaged and to feel part of the event, experience those goosebump moments, but from the comfort of their own home, or office space.

Too many people are getting lost in the lingo

However, some clients are still working with a medium-first mentality, focusing their attention on whether it should be a live, virtual or hybrid event and what technology or infrastructure they should use to achieve this. In my opinion, too many people are getting lost in the lingo and focusing on buzzwords. I laughed to myself when a colleague asked if a new enquiry was for a live, virtual, hybrid or studio hybrid. It just shows how the lingo is more consuming than perhaps we thought and continues to evolve as we do.

As we start to transition into creating experiences for multiple audiences, we need to keep in the forefront of our mind what experience do we want to create. Content continues to be king. Looking at the content should be at the forefront of the event. Ask yourself, “If I want to make this an engaging event for everyone, what experience and content do I need to have?”

Them and us

To create a truly shared experience we need to avoid creating two separate camps of live and online audiences. The more planners and businesses see them as one audience, the more likely it will be that they receive a shared experience.

Zoning out

If we’ve learnt anything over the past 12 months it’s that timing is everything. We already knew that a live audience’s attention was limited, but for virtual audiences, it’s reduced even more. Content needs to be more concise and more engaging than ever before providing real value and packs a punch!

Engagement at every level

A live audience can clap, cheer, and engage with the live content, so why shouldn’t a virtual audience be able to do the same? We’ve seen millions of emojis sent via live streams by delegates – it’s a great way for them to feel part of the atmosphere and react in a virtual world, but now it’s time to combine the two and have everyone doing the same thing. It’s so simple. If everyone in the in-person audience has emoji cards that they can hold up, just as the virtual audience would at home, then it’s a truly shared experience.

Virtual doesn’t mean alone

Although most of us have been attending virtual events from the comfort of our makeshift home offices, it doesn’t have to be this way in the future. Organising smaller groups of people and creating ‘watch parties’ is a great way to create a virtual audience, but with a shared experience. As restrictions continue to lift, use the rules to your audiences’ advantage, creating smaller physical and virtual groups to experience the event.

The Golden Ticket

With a hybrid solution, there is the age-old challenge of who gets the golden ticket of attending in-person, but why make this a concerning factor and pre-plan it? Give people the choice of how they wish to attend. The results may surprise you, remember everyone likes to be communicated differently! Why not look at the attendance of the live event as forming part of an incentive or reward programme, where golden ticket winners form an exclusive live audience, while others watch virtually.

Networking

It’s something that virtually hasn’t been completely nailed. There are great solutions and we mustn’t forget the people at home when we are networking in a live environment. Why not set up networking lounges where people can connect between live and virtual worlds and catch up. The conversations that happen during the coffee breaks and walking to breakouts is so important. Make sure the virtual audience is included in this vital and often undervalued content.

It’s just about keeping it simple and yet considered.

What is clear about the future of events is that it’s all about choice. The prospect of changing how your audience engages with you is daunting, and there isn’t a one size fits all solution. However, giving people the opportunity to choose their event experience will make your audience feel more confident in returning to the post-Covid world and have more trust that you, as an organisation, have their best interests at heart.

The fact is, lots of people are craving human interaction, collaboration, and those serotonin inducing moments that can only come from live event environments, whilst others are really happy with this new world and the freedom it gives to experience events from the comfort of their homes. We see this becoming a key focus in the post-pandemic world. Giving people the choice to develop their own experience in the way they prefer – whether that’s live, virtual or at a watch party. And as we can now seamlessly link the live and virtual worlds – audiences will get the same experience whether they are there in person, watching from their office, or sitting at home on their sofa.

The future of events really is exciting, and I can’t wait to keep on learning new ways to produce some of the most engaging and interactive experiences, armed with our new knowledge, skills, and creativity – making unforgettable experiences regardless of medium.

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