How do you seamlessly match the in-person experience for a large-scale audience who are now connecting through a screen?
An unprecedented roadblock
2020 and lockdowns caused havoc with campaign plans across the world. Almost overnight, the opportunity to connect in-person with clients disappeared. Suddenly, the demand to connect with audiences was met with a blank page. No well-groomed routine, no pre-populated workflows and no tried-and-tested solutions. In an instant, everything had to be re-imagined, engagement plans needed to be reformulated and a new approach had to be adopted.
And this all had to be done at a great pace to keep important communications in front of an important audience. With this new reality acknowledged, Liberty’s trade marketing team approached us with one core brief: Re-imagine the year’s programme of events with a new emphasis on digital and virtual platforms, to ensure that they could still effectively service their clients and connect with their key advisor community.Re-imagining the event experience
To create the same lasting impact and impression with their audience, we knew we had to swiftly reposition the core elements of in-person events to be appropriate virtual solutions instead. Knowing that it would be impossible to recreate the experience that someone would have at our live events, we took the core elements and configured them to suit the digital screen-first approach. An exciting opportunity
Backed by the exciting opportunity to now give each and every event delegate the very best seat in the house, we took this as a chance to redefine the limits of the event space. While in-person events could only reach a limited number of people due to geography, our new virtual solutions allowed us to talk to a national audience simultaneously.
Through the use of greenscreens, we were able to dramatically modify the virtual stage and set in a way that would never have happened at an in-person event, putting our speakers live on stage with presentations and supporting screens, just as if the audience was right there with them. In fact, the virtual landscape allowed us to bring our Cape Town-based MC and our Johannesburg-based speakers together seamlessly, blending their two virtual backgrounds to make it seem as if they were in the same place, but without having to put anyone at risk of travel. Backed by an incredible team of digital magicians, and his own wealth of experience, the MC was able to run the entire show without seeing a single speaker in-person, crossing easily between a range of different speakers without any time lags or interruptions. This unique approach has now been modified and used multiple times to host thousands of guests per show on multiple occasions, from external campaigns to awards ceremonies, staff town halls and the CEO’s check-ins with the team. The fight against screen fatigue
Screen fatigue is real and we know that our client’s audience, like so many others, would already be tired of staring at a computer all day, so it was key that these events are so much more than just another conference call. With a disparate audience in a lot of different places, we took on the challenge to create events that would be just as upbeat, modern, motivational and inspiring as in-person projects would have been. By partnering our team with theirs and co-creating the solutions together from the start, campaigns sprung back to life in a new and innovative way. The opportunity to match our
virtual skill set and creativity with Liberty’s deep appreciation of their audience’s preferences and fast-moving communications team meant that the year’s campaigns were back up and running at scale again despite the chaotic time. Our key outtakes
When it comes to reengaging with a disparate audience and connecting with them during a difficult time, virtual
events shouldn’t seem like a necessary evil – you should view them as an incredible opportunity to do something completely different, and to do it brilliantly. Viewed as an opportunity to create a truly dynamic and modern experience, virtual events can be a fantastic competitive toolset to win in your markets.
Here are our six key outtakes that enabled us to continue to thrive in the events space that we’ve grown in over the past decades.
- Don’t try to replace an in-person event with a virtual one. Instead, create the best virtual event that you can, and you’ll have far more success.
- Don’t think about technology, think about people. Audience participation and engagement should still be top of mind, so try not to get distracted by all the shiny tech – instead, how do you stimulate your audience in the virtual space and create the same levels of engagement that you’d find at an in-person event?
- Virtual minutes are much faster than in-person minutes. If you’re running a virtual event, dead minutes feel much longer than they might do in person, so always factor that into your planning, and remember that when people are watching from home, the competition for their attention is that much tougher than if they were in the room. Engagement and, therefore, good quality production are key.
- Virtual events change the size of your lens. When you have hundreds (or sometimes thousands) of people in a room, your entire audience is viewing the event through a huge lens, but when you go virtual, suddenly their entire view is changed to the size of a small computer screen or sometimes even a smartphone. So, the discipline of being able to imagine an event through the lens of a camera instead is the real skill of the day, and you’ll need an amazing production partner and supplier to help to translate it.
- Virtual budgets are just as important as in-person ones. There’s a general misunderstanding out there that, just because you aren’t gathering in one room, a virtual event will be much cheaper. After all, you’re not paying for food or drinks or décor. But it’s key to remember that this isn’t just another Zoom call, and if you want your virtual event to truly stand out and have the same impact, then when it comes to the content and the show, you need to be prepared to put in just as much effort and budget as you would with an in-person event – if not more. This can work in your favour though – remember, you may now be able to reach hundreds or thousands of people with one virtual event, when before you would have had to have held several different in-person events in different locations to have the same reach, and you would have had to fly your speakers around the country too. So, how can you use that budget to really ‘wow’ them? Our audience will have some sense of expectation around this event, so use it as a chance to reward them for that.
- Embrace the advantages. When you’re running an in-person event, you are limited by geography and logistics such as the size of the room. But with virtual, you have the ability to reach so many more people, and in new and exciting ways – so, use this as an opportunity to create a vibrant, positive, energy-filled show that could never be replicated in real life.
As leading thinkers in the events space, we had already started looking at how our clients could extend the reach of their in-person events by embracing the digital world when the global pandemic hit, which gratefully made it easier for us to jump straight in. That’s the beauty of partnering with professionals – we saw this as another opportunity to take events to the next level.
Looking forward, we are excited to have in-person events again, but we’re even more excited about a future where our wide set of tools will enable our clients to take on any kind of event – so that in partnering with us, they can make the decision whether their audience will be best reached and their objectives best achieved through a virtual, hybrid, or in-person event.
Ready to embrace virtual, in-person, or hybrid events? Get in touch