Photo by Nicholas Green

Live Event not possible? Make it a digital success

By Libby Weiser

What do you do when you find yourself in a position where it’s not physically possible to hold your planned live event?

Just prior to lockdown, one of our clients was in this exact position…

An important new strategy was set to be announced at an event that had been anticipated for some time. One week out, as the picture became clearer and people began feeling less comfortable travelling, the call was made that it was no longer safe to go ahead as planned.

Determined to deliver the same event, the same key messages and the same sense of inclusiveness & engagement, we set about pivoting to a virtual alternative. A smaller venue was booked, the set re-purposed, the content tweaked and the audience in the room was replaced with cameras & a socially distanced crew – all in the same time frame… The attendees gathered in smaller local offices or at home and got involved using the audience engagement platform Glisser. The event delivered on its objectives with attendees appreciating the flexibility.

If you’re in the uncomfortable position of having to rearrange a live event as a virtual event, by remaining agile and making key decisions quickly, you can produce and deliver an engaging webcast if you take the right steps. Here’s what you need to know to convert your planned live event into a successful virtual event.

Design your virtual event as a live TV show

When going digital, segments that you planned to feature live may not be as effective or interesting to a viewer watching remotely through a screen. To make sure your event remains engaging, you need to ensure the content is re-thought to keep viewers entertained. Simply live streaming a presentation won’t cut the mustard; you’re producing a TV show now… Break your content down into shorter snappier segments to keep the pace moving. Give someone the role of host to help guide the audience, make links and keep the energy levels high. Involve more people to add variety and involve different perspectives with interviews and pre-shot videos.

Create compelling content

Videos can help the audience appreciate the context around a topic. Bring back the human aspect to your event through pre-shot customer case studies and interviews – or even user-generated content from employees or go live to them at home. This will help viewers feel involved and bring a sense of community that your webcast will need to help compensate for it not being a live event.

Use video stings

As you’re now designing your live event as a live TV show, you could create opening graphics and stings in order to bookmark different features and to break the webcast down into bitesize and watchable sections. Using ‘The One Show’ as an example, it’s made up of multiple smaller sections so to maintain the audience’s attention and other shows use video stings to trail what’s coming later to help build anticipation (and give presenters a momentary break).

Simplify your slides

Using simple, well designed slides and well thought-through video segments will aid the viewer in understanding complex points quickly. You’re no longer presenting on a large screen as you would be at a live event, so you don’t want to put overly detailed content on your slides. Critically, slides aren’t there for the benefit of the presenters – If your audience is trying hard to decipher what the small text on your slides is saying, they won’t be listening to what you’re saying. Your slides should be well designed to support the narrative with detail to compliment your points, not distract from what’s being said.

Drive viewer engagement

It’s all too easy to default to presenting your webcast as a one-way lecture as opposed to an interactive two-way street. It’s therefore essential to utilise various interactive tools in order to keep viewers engaged with the event content. You can increase communication between the viewers and presenter using tools like Glisser with interactive polls and hosting Q&A’s.

If there’s a big announcement that everyone’s waiting to hear on the webcast, make sure you schedule this towards the end to keep them watching and use ‘coming up soon’ graphics to tease it.

Use a multi-camera set-up

You’d never see a TV show filmed in a single wide shot. So, for maximum impact, you’ll need a combination of shots to choose from to make it more interesting to watch. Using multiple cameras will allow you to mix from presenter to slides when the presenter is covering a lot of detail – or you can cut to a wide shot of the set so that the viewer can see more of the theme and surroundings. And don’t forget the use of close-ups to emphasise big points.

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!

Unless your presenters are very confident, you could consider using some prompting software but make sure you practice before the big day. If you’re the presenter, consider how best to present different parts of the webcast. You could look down the lens and address the audience directly, but keep in mind that this may need practise pre-event to master. Never forget to allow for rehearsal time, this will pay dividends and give everyone more confidence. And if you’re feeling unsure, get help from a professional coach on how to present on camera.

Make the most of it

Get the most out of your content and make the webcast available on-demand for viewing later to increase the number of people who can watch it.

Plan for success

Webcasts can be a great way to communicate if you plan them carefully. They’re time efficient, they can be a cost-effective way to reach lots of people and can enable people to attend who couldn’t usually.

Be as creative as possible, use the tricks of TV production to keep people engaged and introduce human and personal touches to bring your content to life.

The WHY Agency are creative communications specialists, creating engaging live & online events. We help companies & individuals tell their stories by creating inspiring, engaging content: video, animation, presentations, design & technical event production.