How do we get our audience members to feel engaged?
This is the big one! If a virtual awards show feels like watching a playback of an old show people won't stay tuned. Here are some tricks:
Have the stream at a dedicated time (even if fully pre-recorded) to add a sense of occasion
NEVER have the show published for people to view at a time to suit them, except a few days after the event. Doing this can dilute sponsor value and audience engagement as people will skip through the show.
Consider having “bubble shows” where a group of guests can be together at their home, local restaurant or even a small satellite venue such as a function room.
Create a unified experience where all guests are sharing something, such as a goody bag or same dining experience.
Push for maximum social engagement through social media channels - this can range from ensuring all guests know the hashtag of the event, to forming a messaging app group
Use your virtual platform properly! I love Intelligo as it has a great chat function, direct messages, polling, rich moderator functions and the best break-out room function I have seen - this is an ideal way for all the guests to chat and engage
Get guests to contribute to the content- they can send in videos or images that form part of the show - a great presenter and equally as good production team will make this a fun and engaging process
What about the serendipitous meetings of people? How do we deliver that virtually?
This is really important as many awards shows are about forming new networks and contacts. This is again down to your choice of platform. There is a delicate balance between allowing guests to have the freedom to create great contacts and people spamming each other. On Intelligo the extent to which people can engage can be adjusted. There is also a “bucket” function whereby audience members can be randomly hooked up.
The use of secondary social media platforms can work well also. A Facebook or LinkedIn group can be set up for the event which can allow the audience to see who is watching and make direct connections.
How big can a virtual event be?
Throughout my career we have been limited to venue capacity and this capacity has defined much of what is possible. With virtual events, we have a capacity that is effectively infinite. This means organisers can sell thousands, or even tens of thousands of tickets - often with very little per-guest additional cost. This is a huge opportunity to increase your audience community, drive income for organisers, exposure for finalists and opportunities for sponsors.
The model as I see it is one of a pyramid of audience engagement where some people are in the room, some are remote with engagement and others have less engagement- this allows for tiering of ticket levels and increasing audience size. I cover this in detail in this article which I invite you to read https://pytch.co.uk/knowledge/survival
What about the future?
“Events” as a sector will not be purely just events in the future. All major conferences and awards shows will have an online, virtual or digital experience attached to them. I see a future where we have a spectrum ranging from purely virtual to purely in person - all events will exist somewhere within that spectrum. It is up to us event professionals to identify the position each event should exist in so as to deliver a high-quality, engaging and memorable show at that point.
About the Author
Johnny Palmer is a live event professional and events-industry entrepreneur with over 20 years and 1000 events experience. He is founder and CEO of Pytch (formerly SXS), as well as the designer and owner of The Virtual Venue and VV London. Johnny is also a co-founder and shareholder of Intelligo which is the world’s most advanced event-specific streaming platform.
As well as leading the Pytch team Johnny is a commercial property investor, conservationist, activist and investor in other businesses including accommodation and renewable energy.