A Year of Virtual Events: 5 Things We’ve Learned
by Amber Mac on March 26, 2021
We’ve just wrapped up one year of virtual events at AmberMac Media and I thought it was time to reflect on what we’ve learned. To start of with, when I say virtual events, it’s important to define the term, as our client work has included all of the following scenarios (including event production for both live and taped experiences):
- Live virtual keynotes
- Live virtual moderated conversations
- Taped virtual keynotes
- Taped virtual moderated conversations
In other words, like the rest of us, these events have found new ways to exist over the course of the pandemic. Let’s look at five things I think are essential for a successful virtual event.
In-person events offer energy that’s difficult to recreate virtually, but it’s not impossible. In fact, when our clients are open to turning on real-time (and accessible) chat, the conversation flow is a legitimate second-stream experience that can be more inclusive than having a bunch of people packed in a ballroom.
What’s important in this scenario is that the event host (sometimes me!) addresses those comments in real-time. A few months into the world of virtual events, I started breaking my live virtual keynotes into four sections and taking a Q&A/chat break between each section to ramp up the dialogue. This has been well-received.
For all of the event scenarios described above, we do a 3-camera shoot. This switching allows our director to use these various shots as a way to achieve pacing. Instead of watching one single camera for 45 minutes, attendees will get have a TV-like experience to keep them interested.
We also have to add that having symmetrical gigabit Internet is a game-changer. This ensures that we have a seamless and polished stream. Finally, we are firm on doing all tech tests in advance (not on event days). That way we can troubleshoot the various platforms, which seem to be growing every day.
Speaking of platforms, we have used them all – Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Attendify, Hopin, among others. On the tech front, Zoom offers the least friction for our complex set-up and for attendees. However, for a more robust event experience with easy engagement, Hopin is proving to be a favourite here at AmberMac Media.
When we do log in on event day, we also insist on doing so a minimum of 45 minutes in advance. As most (virtual) event professionals will know, 30 minutes is not enough time to properly troubleshoot any last-minute issues. In fact, our preference is to log in one hour in advance.
Thankfully, the content I present, which focuses on learning and the Innovation space, works well virtually. I am a knowledge-based speaker, not an inspirational speaker. This is a key point as my job is mostly to educate in an accessible (and entertaining) way.
For anyone who is watching me speak, this means that being in front of a screen might actually be an advantage since you can easily check out technology that I’m featuring, take notes on the side, ask live questions in chat, and pay close attention to a fast-paced talk. In a ballroom, the learning experience can sometimes be more difficult – from not being able to see slides to sitting on uncomfortable chairs, there are many in-person distractions.
Not everyone can travel. I can’t emphasize this enough. I know many, many single moms and dads who have been entirely left out of the live in-person event experience (and others who do not have the financial means). Moreover, the cost of in-person events is not possible for many organizations. Rental fees, especially in urban areas, are sky-high and often out of reach.
In saying this, I still believe that in-person events will return and many people will be enthusiastic to attend. However, I do think that virtual events will play a growing and important role in the future, and it’s a trend in acceleration that is worth pursuing.
For more information about my presentation topics and/or our insert studio production services, please visit my AmberMac virtual event speaking page.