Your Virtual Event Sucks, but Here Are 3 Ways to Make Them More Entertaining

Unfortunately, many miss the mark and land flat

While many are getting better at virtual events, no one has quite found the sweet spot yet. Getty Images

How many virtual events have you attended or tried to attend in the past six months? 

There are likely 1 billion virtual events happening in a single day, all around the world, but how many are actually energizing and memorable? 

This is pretty fascinating when you think about it. We’ve had the television in our lives almost 100 years now, since 1927. Humanity has a long way to go at making virtual events as engaging, entertaining and energizing as broadcast television. 

What we realized after producing our first few virtual summits was that most virtual events were missing the mark in three key production elements: user experience, programming and creative.

User experience

Humanity has a long way to go at making virtual events as engaging, entertaining and energizing as broadcast television. 

People are used to accessing their content with three clicks on a remote control or three taps on a touchscreen. In other words, your audience doesn’t want to have to create a set of login credentials. 

How is your brand’s ethos being presented from a user experience and user interface design perspective? An event or production company without staff that has website design or user interface design experience will inherently lack a framework about web-based experiences. 

Ideally, you’re working with a web design shop or freelancer that is prioritizing your brand’s pillars in designing your preregistration, virtual activation and post-event audience touch points. This is just the baseline on user experience. There are so many innovative and creative ways to design and guide your audience with intention while prioritizing your goals. 

Programming

Designing your programming starts with knowing your audience and your event goals. Whether your goals are to grow an audience, build a community, drive awareness for sales conversions or fuel professional development for a specific group. 

Understanding the goals will drive what your show flow, speaker selection, creative direction and experience will look and feel like. You have to take your onsite immersive experiences and convert them into engaging, magical and dynamic content. 

For example, in real life, exhibitors would have waited for guests to stumble over to their booths. Now you have the opportunity to support your exhibitors in producing an engaging interactive digital experience with them. How might you help the exhibitor cast a dynamic speaker to be part of a workshop during the event’s programming or produce a prerecorded video that is radically intentional for the audience and your goals?

Who is your favorite late-night host, and why? Think about their energy, charisma and tone. You want moderators, emcees and virtual hosts to be as enthralling and engaging as your favorite host. What are the emotions you want your audience to have during, after the event and lingering forever? If your host can provide a level of intention and improvisation, your virtual event will shine. 

Your objective is to ensure that your audience stays glued to the screen and isn’t distracted by an email, a dog or a hunger pain. You should be designing dynamism and entertainment with your programming.

Creative 

Your brand is your brand; it has emotional benefits and functional benefits. 

These benefits are the ingredients to producing creative and content that should leave your audience at the edge of their seats and sharing insights with their friends and colleagues. Just like your favorite shows on Netflix, there is creativity that will draw you in and evoke an emotional reaction. 

This story first appeared in the Sept. 28, 2020, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@thenichols Nate Nichols is the founder and creative director of Palette Group.
@allyshipaction Steffi Behringer is the executive producer and partner of Palette Group.
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