Top 20 Virtual Event Answers
There were so many great questions about virtual events during our “Virtual is Not a Solo Mission” virtual event quiz show hosted by AVFX and AE Events we decided to share with you the Top 20 Virtual Event Questions and Answers. To learn even more, you can down load all of the questions and answers.
AVFX – Any topic involving platforms will get us into a pretty deep discussion very quickly. AVFX is currently tracking about 30 different platforms that are each capable of various functions for your virtual event. Some are simply delivery platforms, while others are designed for complex functions, from registration to hosting live sessions and breakouts to virtual exhibit spaces. We will not be able to do justice to this discussion here, but we will give you as much information as we can today.
Video conferencing / webinar programs such as Zoom are likely your best bet. We are all learning the ins and outs of Zoom, and while it has its shortcomings, it is a pretty good program overall. Especially if you want to manage your meeting yourself.
If you do use Zoom, do make certain everyone that is speaking is on the most recent version of the software. One person on a slightly different version can create issues for the event overall. And, we recommend reading about the various releases as they come out to make sure you understand what has changed in the latest releases. Functions and features can change or move in the program from one release to the next, and no one likes surprises on the day of your event. In your case, with roundtables, you will want to use Zoom Webinar to have the best control of your presenters.
AE Events - This depends on which platform is used for programming, however one option is to ask for questions during the registration process. Questions can also be moderated during programming either through the virtual platform or for the live attendees there are apps that can be utilized for real-time questions. It is important to have a moderator who can not only communicate the questions to panel speakers but also pre-screen questions in an effort to address those that feel most pertinent to the topic. As we are doing now, it is also important to answer all other questions that are not addressed during the program.
AVFX – Yes, this can be platform dependent. You can also go outside of a given platform and create either a custom email address for questions to be submitted or we have used Slack very successfully too. You then need a moderator to check questions and pass them along to presenters.
Slack works well again if you have remote presenters. In our studio, we have live prompters (DSMs) for questions to the presenter(s).
AE Events - I suggest first taking a look at the crew size that was planned if this was live. Don’t underestimate how many people it will take to run this all smoothly. After reviewing all the elements and assigning jobs individual areas of responsibility to each crew member, then also be sure to include people to help address any guest technical issues (similar to a help desk), someone to help presenters with any technical issues, ask for presentations with plenty of time for testing. Set up a clear line of communication between crew members so any issues can be resolved quickly throughout the program. Lastly, we always suggest having a headshot of anyone presenting. If there happens to be an event time tech issue with connectivity, you can quickly pivot to using their headshot while the presenter can call into the event, if needed.
AVFX – Surprisingly specific question Mike. We will do the best we can to help. From your description, we would typically have a video switcher op (director), playback/graphics op, audio engineer, producer/director (calling cues), network/streaming technician, and sometimes a director to work with presenters during the show for countdowns or other questions.
AE Events - Everyone is missing the community type of feel of interactions between guests. Perhaps there is an opportunity to break people into chat rooms, by topic or by “table”. When was the last time you sat at a 60” or 72” round table seated 10-12 people and were able to speak to more than just the two people on either side of you? Breakout rooms allow you to have a round-table discussion with more than just a couple of people. Assign a moderator to each table to guide a conversation or have a “celebrity” guest at a table for larger sponsors.
AVFX – This is a platform question. We have done “table sets” with guests pushed to their table for conversations with great success. It works. It is a little risky however, since registration lists and logins have to be managed tightly to work smoothly.
Other platforms, like InEvent, can manage this type of effect very well too. Some platforms can manage these breakouts by points of interest, geography or other affinities too.
AE Events - Sure...why not. Perhaps look at this less as a fake background and more like an enhanced backdrop. This is done on the news all the time and could offer a good branding opportunity when done well.
AVFX – Generally, yes. But a lot of the success of those backgrounds rides on bandwidth of the presenters’ computer feeds and that they have adequate lighting to have enough contrast to pop out in front of the background.
Using green screen backgrounds and then adding a branded background in a production switcher is always an option too.
AE Events - While we have not officially tracked this, we do look at it this post event. The advantage of a virtual event is that you likely have a greater reach for to potential guests - you are not limited to the max guest count in a ballroom and have the opportunity to connect with guests who may not have been able to carve out a day or more for travel to come to your live event. With a strong marketing strategy to create pre-event buzz around your topic of conversation, and post event follow up, you can see a great ROI. Even for this event, we had approximately 225 people register and sign in to attend live, and others can watch the recording afterward.
AVFX – We have done a number of events that actually saw an increase in attendance. That comes with a strong publicized agenda however. And maybe a surprise mystery guest mentioned in the promotions.
We have not seen real data on this, but right now people are tired of TV and yearn for excitement. Give them something unexpected and they will be there!
AE Events - Just like in a live event, the elements of entertainment and surprise aid in the engagement for guests. Don’t forget about incorporating music when possible. Sitting with dead air and a scrolling slide show during “cocktail” hour is not engaging. In your live event, you likely had either live music or piped in music during cocktail hour. Another possibility is a famous “celebrity” guest. Many a-list musicians, actors, comedians, political figures, chefs are able to “zoom” into your event with greater ease and less expense than if this were a live event.
AVFX – Be thinking about some of the ways you would do this in a live event. Interview attendees (live or pre-recorded). Ask during registration if anyone has a story to share or a special talent, and then use Zoom to record it in advance. The sky is the limit.
You could also teach interesting skills to your audience. Send them a drink kit and have a professional bartender teach them how to make a tricky drink. Same goes with a chef and preparing a type of food. Maybe a juggler to teach everyone how to juggle bananas or items you send to your audience.
AE Events - In our experience a guest’s attention bandwidth on a virtual event is shorter than a live event. In a live event you may be together for a couple hours or more and there are likely snack breaks, breaks to check your inbox, and time to chat with other attendees. This can all be accomplished virtually as well. Perhaps there is a chef that can walk guests through a healthy snack recipe, or there is a breakout room for guests to pop into for a round table discussion. Then the challenge is getting guests to re-engage. Maybe there is a door prize, or raffle that is pulled as guests return after break...but, you have to be there to win!
AVFX – This is very much about planning content and being mindful of the time you are asking an audience to sit in one place. The most successful programs we have worked on have been short and to the point. No one speaks for more than about 20 minutes, and that feels long. And then we work to add in those interstitials that entertain the audience and give them a pay-off for staying with us. These can be so many ideas, and sometimes the crazier the better. So creativity reigns in those moments.
When doing a pre-recorded event, or even mostly pre-recorded, you can still add live components into the program. Even Q&A can be added back in, as long as we are conscious of wardrobe and hair styles. You can even use a program like Zoom to pre-record interviews or comments from remote attendees and play them back during the event.
In general, interstitials are underutilized. Live hosts make a big difference. Consider professional talent to fulfill this role. Telling stories about attendees or topical subjects related to your event will make the audience feel like you are listening to them and that they may be a part of the programming.
AE Events - Two elements we feel are important are a countdown clock for your breakout session and a moderator, depending on your group of guests. The countdown clock is to ensure people in a breakout room don’t get cut off in the middle of a thought or sentence to be bumped back into the main programming. The moderator can be nice if guests don’t know one another or if there is a certain topic to be discussed in the breakout.
AVFX – This is a platform question for the most part. Different platforms provide varying levels of control over breakouts. Some only allow pre-recorded breakouts. Some allow live. Some with, some without live questions. It gets very deep very fast. We have tried Zoom for this and did not like it.
AE Events - We will leave this one for AVFX.
AVFX – This is a pretty big question. For the most part, engagement will come from an agenda that builds. Tell the audience up front what is coming and make sure there is a big attraction late in the broadcast. In addition, use interstitial videos or performances to keep the audience surprised and entertained along the way. Anything from a singer to a magician will do. And the audience will look forward to the next piece. You can also use short interviews with experts or attendees to liven it up.
AE Events - We suggest a technical rehearsal (if not multiple rehearsals) with all speakers involved. Have your speakers set themselves up in the exact space where they will be on event day and try this at the exact time of day of the event as well so the natural lighting will be close to what it may be on event day. There are tips and tricks like, moving closer to the router in your home for better internet connectivity, or setting up an ethernet connection. For lighting, avoid sitting in front of a window, and if you have an extra lamp that you could place behind the camera, it may help. It’s important to test all these things out before the event day.
AVFX – Test and rehearse. Ask for 1-1 time with each presenter and ask them to be in the room / space they plan to present from. Then watch to see what the background looks like. If there are windows, are their shades? If not, then have them change the angle or room until you find the right space. Also, do not be afraid to ask them to stand and put their computer up higher at their eye-height. It adds to the effect of them “presenting” and makes the presenter feel more expressive on camera.
AE Events - Platforms utilize algorithms to monitor usage of copyrighted music and can shut down your event in the blink of an eye. You have to play by all the rules here, don’t risk the success of your event on something like this.
AVFX – We do not recommend using licensed music for virtual events without a license. And even then, as AE Events points out, the algorithms in the platforms may stop you from using it anyway. Surprisingly, it is not that expensive to get permissions to use copyrighted music. If you go to the BMI and ASCAP websites, which cover about 80% of the music out there, you can sign up for an event license pretty easily. Note this is only for end-user clients / corporations. They will not license their music to a production company or planner. The cost is very reasonable as well.
AVFX – This is tough as this is asking Zoom to work more like a broadcast platform, which it is not. There really are not many options for this unless you were to come into one of our production suites and let us manage the switching and cutting the program together and then use Zoom as the delivery platform.
If you use a production suite, then we can have an audio engineer manage sound levels and quality. We can use lower-third graphics to name and titles presenters as they come on. And we can use other videos like a pre-event loop and interstitials for liven up the program.
AE Events - The timelines for inviting guests to an event is different than a live event. Save the Date communications that include the date and time of your event are important so guests can reserve that time in their calendars. Depending on your marketing strategy, the actual invitation may arrive in their inbox closer to the event than the 8-10 weeks that you may think of for a paper invitation to a live event. Continual communication to guests can be key to ensure their ease in signing in on event day, you don’t want a guest to have to hunt for the link that may be buried in an email from 4 weeks ago.
As for virtual video production for a virtual event, we like for this to be shot and edited a month out from the event date. This allows for time in case there is a need for any reshoots. Our world is changing so fast now. Sometimes a reshoot of certain pieces may be needed to ensure your content is relevant for event day.
AVFX – Much of this will be best answered by AE Events. On the video production question, we recommend having videos complete and approved at least 72 hours in advance of a broadcast. That means shooting and editing start a week to two weeks prior to the event, which means rehearsals about three weeks prior.
AE Events - During an event, early in the COVID timeframe, we had a live event speaker speaking from their home. Their backdrop was beautiful in their home office, there was a stunning lacquer painted wall, elegant bookshelf, lit candles and beautiful artwork behind them. I believe there was also someone else in the room with them holding cue cards perhaps and as they moved, there was a reflection in the glass of the artwork behind them which felt like a scene from the movie Poltergeist.
AVFX – There are quite a few stories already. Of course, discretion is important to our clients, so we will not get into any real detail here. Our favorites as of today are:
1) The presenter that stood up and forgot he was not wearing pants.
2) The same presenter as #1 that did the exact same thing a second time!
3) An attendee that fell asleep during the event with their camera on (we subtly took down the image).
4) The presentation that was midway through when the lawn company showed up and started their leaf blowers.
5) The presenter that tried to do their presentation from their car on their cell phone thinking no one would notice. Everyone did.
AE Events - Most of our event speakers are not professional television news anchors...this is not easy and takes some practice. We have found that having your remarks printed in a large font on an easel or something similar just behind the laptop camera can work well.
AVFX – We see this in programs frequently – just not ones that AVFX produces. The simplest answer is for the presenters to memorize their content, however we recognize the issues with that. There are simple teleprompter setups for sale and a number of articles on making a homemade version. They work very well.
You can even use an iPad to host a teleprompter program (there are a number of them) and then have the presenter use an Apple Remote to scroll along with the content themselves.
Eye height is the key of course. Consider having your presenters stand when they present too. It makes a big difference in how they feel when they are speaking!
AE Events - Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse and rehearse again. Professional athletes don’t go onto the field without having practiced the exact play they plan to execute. Lin Manuel Miranda didn’t send his fellow actors out on stage without countless rehearsals to ensure Hamilton ran perfectly live, 6 nights a week!
AVFX – This is partially a platform question. Some platforms provide solutions for this problem. For most of the broadcasts we do that do not require a complex platform, we use a product called Internet Clicker to help us control the cues from the presenters.
AE Events - Yes, a moderator is helpful. It doesn’t need to be a professional or celebrity per se, but could even be someone from within the organization. It helps alert your guests of the transition between speakers and allows guests a moment between speaker to digest what they just heard.
AVFX – Yes! A moderator or host for a program makes a tremendous difference.
AE Events - Be sure to get your speakers either logged in, or calling in at least 30 minutes prior to the start of your event. You want to do a quick test of everything before the event begins and have that opportunity to troubleshoot right away.
AVFX – The only way is to test the lines that will be used on the day of the event and in the exact location and setup of their presentation. On your side, you will be listening for clarity, depth, and reverberation of sound. For clarity and depth of the audio, if their voice sounds thin or wispy, then buy them a separate mic that will plug into their computer. Typically, a lavalier will work best and they only cost about $50. Companies like AVFX also offer speaker packages you can rent with our services to send out to presenters.
If you hear reverberation or echoes in their sound feed, then have the presenters add soft pillows and/or blankets around their work space to deaden the echo some. Any hard surface will reflect sound.