Here’s a story, a true story. The story of how we built a virtual event that rocked the house.
You may think it is virtually, haha, impossible to create an engaging virtual event for your many employees. You may be thinking, ‘how can an online session grab everyone’s attention?’
If you’re so afraid of another boring virtual session that you’re hesitant to move forward, think again. There is a way to make your virtual meeting rock. It’s all about finding great elements to create a fast paced, visually appealing, genuinely interactive program.
Follow along with my little story and you’ll become a believer too.
Chapter One – Preparation
This story began with a call from a past client. His ask was, “Could we tailor our Team Building Through Song program to work for about 1,000 employees online, scattered across the globe in 3 separate webinar sessions?”
I took a deep breath and then replied, “Hmm, yes of course.” Challenge accepted!
With a commitment, and with faith from a great client, my team and I took a leap off the the plateau of familiarity into the unknown. From conference center ballroom to webinar platform.
There are several key elements to a great virtual event, in fact to any event. The first highly important element is planning. Prepare, prepare, prepare. We spent countless hours with our client’s key stakeholders to understand their goals and then figure out how to deliver in an online format.
We had to first imagine and then to ideate how to take our face to face program into the virtual event realm.
We constructed a series of questions and answers – that Q&A you’re used to seeing these days on so many Zoom meetings and webinar sessions. Since during the session we wouldn’t be able to hear our virtual attendees, Q&A was a logical way for us to ask leading questions and get answers that would become the foundation to our song lyric.
We also planned to allow for me to ask open ended questions on microphone and have people answer by typing in thoughts and suggestions; a free form brainstorm.
We conceptualized a good mix of pre-set questions, open ended brainstorming and musical performance. Now the challenge was how to make it happen!
Chapter Two – Producing The Show
As lead for our team here at Kidbilly Music and with a plan in hand, I dove into research on how to go from ideation to implementation.
I knew we had to look good, that we had to grab the attendee/viewer’s attention to keep everyone engaged. So we invested in cameras, lights, monitors, switchers etc. If you want your virtual event to rock you cannot skimp on the tools to make it look like it rocks!
We decided to broadcast each webinar session live from the legendary Ocean Way Nashville recording studios. We spent hours trying different stage sets, studio camera angles and testing audio to ensure the presentation would look and sound great. It takes research and customization to get audio sounding great on webinar platforms like Zoom. But it can be done – in fact we did it.
With our broadcast, cameras and music production planned to perfection, we then focused on how to interactively engage our virtual event attendees.
Did I say interactive? Yes, yes, yes – the key to making this successful.
We discovered the best way to deliver on our promise of live back and forth interaction and high engagement is to use a is a great audience response system. One of my favorites is Slido. It’s easy to use, looks good and performs well on smart phone, tablet, laptop and desktop.
What does a great audience response system (AR) mean? It means fun graphics, colors, movement and eye catching word-clouds. It means providing kinesthetic fun so virtual attendees stay tuned in. It’s great to have buttons to push and stuff to fiddle with while you’re on a virtual program.
Our production planning wrapped and it looked like this.
- Program content designed to gather the data we’d need to create a song in real time with hundreds of people spread out everywhere.
- AR system to deliver the content in a super fun, rockin’ way.
- Music and video with staging to engage virtual event attendees in a visceral way and to keep them interested.
Chapter Three – Execution
Practice, practice, practice. We practiced the AR system with our client in dress rehearsal. We did a full day of audio visual run throughs in the studio. We spent time fixing latency issues to align audio with video and offset the Zoom lag time that varies from meeting to meeting.
We practiced responding to pretend audience Q&A in real time, seeing how well we could keep our stage banter going while turning the Q&A and brainstorming answers into song lyrics.
One thing we couldn’t practice was adjusting to multiple time zones. Sessions for people in the JAPAC region started at 1:30 AM central time…ouch. EMEA sessions started at 5:00 AM…ouch.
Ultimately, the time zone performances made us feel like we were on a road trip. But instead of flying to the gig, (which used to be lots of fun), we hung out in the studio in the middle of the night, swapping stories and getting pumped for the live, albeit, virtual show.
Chapter Four – Success
Once we were live on the webinar, and with the AR system burning up the cloud, the feeling of connection and engagement was palpable. Judging by the flurry of activity we received from hundreds of participants during each question, the engagement level stayed high and consistent throughout.
Our client’s feedback, “Wow, amazing…I don’t know how, but we collectively created a song in real time with everyone across the globe”
Ideating, planning, producing, executing – This is where the magic happens!
Our last session start time, 1:30 AM. And so now to all, a good night…ZzZzZzZzZzZzZz