It’s no news by now that in order to continue planning and producing events in the current event landscape, you need to adapt and pivot. Knowing that doesn’t make it any easier because we all know some things are easier said than done. This pivoting to events has felt like uncharted territory to many event planners, new in the field or veterans alike. Many are still in the debating phase, wondering if it’s really such a good idea for their organization, while others jumped right in, figuring things as they went, learning new technology, making a few mistakes along the way but kept getting up and moving along. Those are the pioneers among us, some of the first to embrace this new way of doing events, developing new procedures, conquering and settling into this new reality, all the while preparing the way for others to follow.
We’re 6 weeks in today from our first virtual event and since then we’ve launched, planned and produced a little over 10 virtual events of the fundraising nature for many of our non-profit clients that trusted us to take their in-person event virtually. Below I’m sharing some of our top lessons learned so far.
Where in-person events can take from 1 hour to 3, 4 depending on how much time has been allocated for the pre-event cocktail and post-event entertainment, when it comes to Virtual Events, we’ve learned that keeping your main program to 30 minutes or less is best, with 10-15 minutes of Pre-Cast and 5 minutes of Post-Cast with a maximum of 45 minutes tops of total event length time. Why that is important? Your audience at home is easily distracted, most likely is multi-tasking or trying to, and they’re already pre-conditioned to Facebook and Instagram Stories that last a very short amount of time and if you’re trying to engage them for to long, the chances are you’re going to lose them no matter how captivating your content is.
Content is King
Content has always been King, this is not news and in the light of the first point, your content needs to be short, focused, engaging, inspiring and captivating. That’s not a lot to ask at all, right? However, having great content is not some new concept in the world in general or in our industry, but right now is more important than ever before. It is a crucial element of a Virtual Event and the one-size-fits-all approach will no longer suffice.
Collaboration is Queen
If content is king, collaboration must be the queen in launching and producing a successful Virtual Event. As we first started the process of pivoting many of our spring fundraising events to virtual, we knew we needed partners to make this successful from all points of view, not just technically which is our main expertise. We needed communication experts, fundraising experts, online bidding experts and so on. Even without our team, we needed to shift roles and collaborate in new ways to make sure we’re not duplicating efforts and instead all our efforts are directed towards the common goal and we’re not overlapping projects and tasks, especially imperative as all of our team started working remotely for the very first time. Using productivity tools to stay on task and appropriate channels to facilitate open and continuous dialog with our entire team and our clients, which has enabled us to relay relevant event information and communicate updates as each event evolved. Don’t be afraid to over-communicate and over-collaborate during this time.
Always have a back-up plan
When we first launched our very first Virtual Event in Portland Oregon (see the client spotlight here), the COVID-19 was just becoming a public health concern and there were no crowd-size restrictions in place just yet and so we were able to pivot this annual breakfast fundraiser into a virtual event from the client’s own offices with featured performances, guest appearances, community leaders and a live fundraising appeal. That changed mightily fast and the very next day a new restriction was put in place by the Oregon Governor Kate Brown, and our next in-person event that was scheduled to happen that very weekend was pivoted to virtual in two day’s time. While that next fundraising event launched virtually exceedingly fast, the event was extremely successful and raised a record-setting amount of over $600000. Members of the auction planning committee comprised the small live studio audience with two bidding assistants managing the online silent auction, the special appeal donations, and live auction bids while a live MC and Benefit Auctioneer took the stage. The very next Virtual Auction Event had to change gears yet again in light of the shelter in place orders that went into effect at that time and with the support of our client and amazing partners who once again adapted and pivoted their gala event to a virtual auction live streamed from our AV Partner‘s Portland Studio all the while following all the social distancing and new updated group size restrictions in place, ensuring everyone was at least six feet apart. That speaks to the importance of having back-up plans which is critical for a virtual event’s success in our day-to-day reality that is changing fast with a lot of factors that are outside of our control. What might seem like a fool-proof idea today, could be almost impossible to execute tomorrow.
Test and Re-Test Everything
Run-throughs and Test-throughs are not a new concept in our industry of producing Live Events. In the light of Producing a Virtual Event, there are a few additional elements that as an event planner you’ve probably never had to worry about. Without much onsite IT support or your typical office or venue internet infrastructure setup, making sure that you’ve got the adequate and reliable dedicated internet connection, a way to access the Ethernet access point and your internet line has no upload restrictions or firewall issues can be a daunting task. Testing the streaming platform(s) for undiscovered issues, testing all the new technology you’re using, testing and running through all your content, slides or videos, simulating the actual live event before you go live, looping all off-side presenters and speakers in, making sure everyone is comfortable with this new technology will ensure that your Virtual Event will run smoothly during the day of your event. This might sound like a lot of testing to be had for just one event, but testing is critical to your Virtual Event’s success and I can not stress enough the importance of testing.
Alternatively, you could contact us and we will gladly Plan, Launch, and Produce your Virtual Event for you!