It was Alexander Graham Bell who once said, “When one door closes, another door opens.” Even if he was just complaining about a drafty old house, he had a good point.
More likely, though, he was talking about setbacks and opportunities, and the benefits of learning how to adapt and move forward. So how do we make sure to do that when it comes to hosting events? Though many in-person events have been put on hold or canceled, there are still ways to create an impact and host a live virtual event that people will remember.
It’s been a strange year, to say the least, but we have become accustomed to online events and meetings, and make do as best we can. However, it’s important to ask yourself, is this the best we can do? Are there ways to make virtual events better?
Think of how you can take advantage of this sometimes surreal reality in which distance doesn’t determine which people can participate, and space needn’t put a limit on the number of attendees. You could invite a well-known actor to answer questions live and online and not worry about security detail.
You can have a hundred people in the audience from across the globe, and not reimburse any travel expenses. Having an event online is a little like messing with the space-time continuum, but without the need to worry you’ll change the past and prevent your parents from kissing at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance (though you may still want to consider getting a DeLorean), but I digress.
Let’s get to our list of ways to make virtual events more memorable. And just to clarify, we mean memorable in a good way.
See Related: How To Encourage Participation In Virtual Meetings
1. Add Value to Your Virtual Event
What’s in it for Me?
That’s what people want to know when they decide to attend an event, whether it’s an in-person conference or a virtual event online. Why should I go? What am I going to get out of it? Will Ellen or Oprah pop up and toss me the keys to a brand new car?
Oh – it’s an online event where I get to sit and listen to one guy talk about some other company’s content marketing strategy and it’s not even Neil Patel? No, thanks. That could very well be the response you get if you don’t convey to potential attendees the benefit of attending your virtual event.
You don’t have to hand out new iPads or toasters to get people to pay attention (though you can do that, too). There are many other options.
Provide people with something of entertainment value at your virtual event, and hint at what it will be ahead of time so they’re sure to sign up. If it’s the type of event where you’ll have an expert in the field, you could let attendees know that they will have a chance to ask questions and maybe even more.
- If you’re part of a resource network or community center that supports authors and would-be writers, invite a literary agent to be one of the speakers at your virtual event and allow attendees to submit their first page for a live critique. This will be something of value and memorable as well, since everyone can benefit from seeing an expert in action.
- If you’re planning to host a virtual event for real estate agents, you could have a professional home stager show examples of their work, answer questions, and even gift their staging services to one lucky winner.
- If you work for a meal kit company you could hire a chef for a live demo during your online event. (Budget permitting, you could even hire a celebrity chef to make sure the virtual event goes viral on social media and gets you those extra credit and clout points). This makes for a more entertaining and educational live event as well as a way to highlight your product.
Whatever type of event you’re planning, giving attendees something of value is a great way to engage people and make it memorable.
2. Make ’em Laugh…or Cry…or Both
The power of emotion is what propels us into action. It wasn’t a face that launched a thousand ships, it was the feelings that King Menelaus of Mycenaean Sparta had about Helen’s face that fueled such grand action (if we are even able to untangle myth and history in our studies of antiquity).
But again, I digress. The important thing to consider is how people respond to information in real time, and how you can enhance that in your virtual event by tapping into emotions.
If you have points you want to convey or data to share, you may be tempted to lay it all out there and let attendees digest it as they like and use it as they please. However, you can help yourself and your audience by injecting it with some emotion and drama.
That’s what telling a story can do. Seasoned speakers will tell you that this is your opportunity to engage. When you take people on a journey with storytelling, you trigger their interest and they become more invested.
Sure, you could tell your virtual event attendees all about your company’s sales numbers, social media marketing stats, and why they should keep investing in or working with you on the great many goals you plan to achieve, but, why should they care? I’m already bored by what I just wrote, so how can we expect virtual event attendees to be captivated by endless slides and data points?
With an online event, people have the easy option of tuning out, so don’t make it more appealing to do so. Find the why and who cares of what you’re saying, and see if there is a story behind it that the audience would want to hear.
Identify the highs and lows in the history of your company. What are the stakes? Where is the drama? Telling attendees a story is a great way to get your virtual event to look and feel more like an in-person event where folks are focussing on what you say, and not on the screen that separates you.
Below are many tips and tricks to keep in mind, so you can pick one or more to work on before that next virtual event.
- Use visuals to help put attendees in the right frame of mind.
- Know your audience, and use specifics that are sure to speak to their experience.
- Make sure the platform supports whatever digital tools you need to tell your story.
- Keep it to a reasonable length, a.k.a. short and sweet. There’s a reason for that old advice KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid (that’s the acronym, not me insulting the reader).
- Take it to the next level. See if your story can culminate in a call to action at the end, once you have their attention.
- Ask rhetorical questions to elicit a nod or perk up people’s ears, in case some in the audience have spaced out for a second (hey, it happens even with a good story).
- Share a personal experience to make yourself more accessible
We’ve all been swept away by a story at some point or another. It’s a great way to get the attention of an audience and create a memorable moment. If you want to make sure you’re doing the best you can, here are few more tips on storytelling from Story Greenlight:
3. Bring in the Big Guns – Hire a Professional Comedian or Magician
If the section above gave you a slight panic about presenting to a large audience, you’re not alone. Public speaking seems to find itself at the top of every list of things we humans fear, often beating out shark attacks and earthquakes.
Perhaps having the presentation take place online will make it easier to deal with some of your reservations, as opposed to a live event in person. If you’re not sure you’re the best person to put forward as one of the speakers at your virtual event – and it’s not one of your job requirements – then you may wish to consider calling on a professional.
Hiring a professional speaker, magician, or comedian can be a boon to any event, whether it’s an in-person or online event. Professional entertainers know the ins and out of engaging an audience, and can use their experience to make it a success.
It’s a great way to garner interest in virtual events that might be otherwise overlooked. If people know it’s not just Tim and Erica from accounting putting on their annual somewhat-questionable dance routine, they might be more likely to head online and invest their time.
When people hear there’s going to be a professional magician or comedian, it will make marketing that much easier. People like to be entertained, and may be more compelled to share virtual events on social media if it seems like a good time will be had by all. Share a video clip of the performer via email prior to the virtual event to create a buzz.
If part of your virtual event planning includes arranging speakers and presenters, please feel free to contact Clean Comedians with questions or to get a quote. By now we are well-accustomed to the new normal of virtual events!
Bonus: How To Fight Virtual Meeting Fatigue
4. Make your Virtual Event More Social and Interactive
Speaking of social media, there are many ways you can stir up excitement and keep it going during your virtual event. There are creative options to encourage engagement with attendees prior to, during, and even post-event. Whether you’re hosting virtual art therapy sessions, a software product launch, or a climate conference for budding scientists, you can consider smart marketing strategies for social media.
Find ways for attendees and others to create and share content leading up to the online live event. Visual content like photos and videos often get the best engagement, but it just depends on what makes the most sense for your individual event.
In all your marketing materials you’ll want to include an event hashtag, so people can include that in their social media messages. Take time to plan your digital marketing strategy, and make sure it’s easy and fun for everyone to participate.
5. Find the Fun and Add Some Physical Fitness
Okay, admittedly, this is kind of a two for one situation where you’re getting two tips for the price of one. Actually, this is all free advice anyway, so scratch that analogy. It’s just that games (fun) and getting active (fitness) go together, and there are many times where they overlap, so…
First, the fun and games. Pretty much any platform you use will support digital game technologies that enable you to have a virtual trivia night or interactive game time. From virtual prize wheels to live polls there are ways to engage the audience and create an experience where everyone is enjoying themselves and making memories.
Whichever option you choose, games are one way people can both compete and celebrate together. Humans like to have a good time, so if you want to be the host with the most, consider opening up your virtual event with a game.
Now that we’ve gotten through games, let’s get physical. It’s not just a suggestion from the talented leg-warmer wearing Olivia Newton-John.
Getting physical is good for your health, and increasingly critical in a world where we spend so much time seated in front of our screens. Plus, it’s fun. As both James Brown and Ringo Starr reminded us, you gotta get up to get down.
For your online event, the only question is what kind of activity makes the most sense for your audience? If the virtual event is one where you’re convening yoga instructors for a conference, then naturally you could share some techniques that will directly help the work of attendees.
If it’s a music marketing seminar, then it’s basically a no brainer to use the virtual event to play some music and get everyone out of their seats to shake it. If you think people might be a little shy, you can leave it up to the audience whether they want to turn their video off and dance like no one’s watching (because they’re not), or keep their video on and dance like everyone’s watching (because they are).
These are just a few ideas to inject your virtual events with some joy and make them more memorable. You know what will work best for you, so pick and choose as you please, and good luck with your next event!
Keep Reading: How are virtual meetings different from face to face?
Adam Christing is a professional comedy magician, virtual MC, and the founder of CleanComedians.com. He is a member of the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood and a popular virtual comedian, magician, and virtual speaker.