Different types of Content and Delivery

Josh Harrison, Producer
vConferenceOnline

Different types of Content and Delivery

The good news is you have options. The other good news is that it’s not hard to choose your option.

I’ve seen many types of events and helped produce content for all of them. The important thing to remember is you have to make your content available in a manner that suits the information presented and in a format that your audience wants to consume it in.

Example #1:

You run a yearly conference. Typically you get 2000 attendees to your 3 day conference in Las Vegas. Your attendees are used to days full of educational sessions and exhibits. We won’t talk about the evenings cuz what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

You don’t want to alienate the crowd that attends the in-person event, but you know there are thousands if not tens of thousands of other interested people that couldn’t make it for 1 reason or another. If you were to do a hybrid event that runs alongside your in-person event you might stream live video broadcasts of the keynotes or sessions. You could offer online exhibitor booths and charge a fee for all those attending online. Or you could use it as a free teaser and limit the content to entice possible in-person attendees to your next event.

Example #2:

Your company needs to train new sales staff around the world and you’ve been asked to cut costs on the training program. Why send trainers all over the world for days on end at high cost to deliver the same information over and over? Do a continuing education event that is ongoing and place training modules and videos on-demand or scheduled with trainers manning the chats. Still need that person-to-person training? Trim down the amount of time needed by placing the material that doesn’t require person-to-person in an online event.

Example #3:

You need to market a product or service and your company wants new marketing avenues. Do a webcast where you have an expert in your industry do an informational talk on your product and make it invitation only or release it to the whole world to watch whenever they want? Further, don’t just do slides and a phone call, make it a video where you can see the presenter. Webcasts and webinars are great for fostering interaction with potential customers and clients. Keep an open email portal for the on-demand period so potential customers can contact you with questions and see other viewers questions and answers.

These are just 3 examples. There are many other possible scenarios and each event is a little different. I’m really trying not to be a sales guy right now, but I have to say that that is why our platform can be a great choice. We are not a template you plug your info into and push go. We really do work with each event to help you pick the delivery, format and options that best suit your event.

I’ll get off the sales horse now and get on my video producer horse for a minute. It’s important, now more than ever, to create compelling content. Viewer expectations are up. Slides and telephone audio aren’t going to do the trick like they used to. Video production can be had for little investment and it makes a world of difference in keeping your viewers attention and instilling a good impression of your organization. Granted, it’s not always the best way and at times is just plain overkill. Either way, always keep in mind how your viewer wants to consume the information you want to deliver.

That takes us to the next Article: Scheduling… Live, Simulated-Live or On-Demand.

Is Your Virtual Event at the End of the Marketing Cycle?

One thing that seems to come up quite a lot is that marketing leads up to the virtual event.  The event is the target or goalposts for the marketing work.  People get all involved putting together the different campaigns that will support the event, make sure the word gets out, etc.

Some food for thought – the virtual event really should be somewhere in the middle of your efforts, rather than the end-point.  Some quick tips:

  • Your event should reinforce your messaging presented in your campaigns – it should provide additional information for attendees and provide them a “what’s next” plan – should they contact you?  Will you be contacting them?  What is the purpose of the contact?  For example, if you’re event is in and industry you provide a service for, the next steps might be how you can help the attendee apply the things they learned at the event.  This helps them get started and realize the value of the event.
  • Your event can provide opening comments to talk about the things that will be presented, then closing comments to talk about application of those items.  Close the circle, help attendees get their arms around what’s been presented.  You can help with this by organizing your event into sections, tracks or rooms depending on how you’ll be doing your event.
  • Consider a pre-event webcast or short video.  This will help attendees get moving on their understanding of your content.
  • Pre-publish your slides, if possible.  This gives you another touch point with attendees, and it helps them come to your event with your messaging in mind, and they’ll be and feel more prepared.  You can, of course, use this as a good point to not only point out the slides available, but point them in the direction of your site, your blog or other items that are helpful.
  • Contact attendees after the event – let them know where they can watch on-demand, let them know about related items on your own site or blog – basically connect the dots between the event and your offerings.  “We had a great session (watch it on-demand here) about XYZ – when you’re finished watching, be sure to check out my blog post on the subject here” — that type of thing gives attendees a good handle on the items and helps move them beyond the event with a purpose.
  • Consider offering sessions from the event as exclusive webcasts – you can run them in the future to reinforce the value of the event content, to re-establish contact and provide information to new potential attendees for your next event.

Essentially, the big takeaway is that you want to make sure your event is PART of your overall plan, not the endpoint.  It’s much more valuable to you, and your attendees, if everyone is able to connect those elusive dots.

Types of Events

Why Virtual?
Josh Harrison, Producer
vConferenceOnline

Types of Events

I realize that the name of our platform might lead some to think that we only do conferences online. I assure you  that is not the case and my bosses didn’t make me write that either. There are many different types of events that can be done online. I’ll get into the  types we work with most often. Starting with the most obvious… in person events.

Conferences

These may be the most popular and well known types of events simply because there are so many and they generally happen in every area of interest. From finances to comic books, there are people with like interests that need to gather and communicate. For the most part these consist of keynote sessions to start off and general sessions combined with a show floor or exhibition hall for vendors to tout their offerings to attendees. Depending on the area of interest you’re probably going to a conference for the sessions or the exhibits. A subgroup to conferences would be shows or exhibition events for vendors. The attendees at these events only represent a very small portion of the actual audience for their topics. Many can’t get away from their daily lives or simply can’t afford to travel and attend.

Education

This is  also a very popular type of event. In most professional industries there is some sort of Continued Education implemented to keep pros up to date. There are requirements and standards that must be met to qualify for these CE credits. Professionals are usually busy, and time is money, so fitting in travel or even leaving the office for CE is usually a struggle.

Training

Training events are usually done on a smaller scale in person. There will be an instructor going over hours if not days worth of courseware with a select group of people. Some training programs will do a circuit or tour run to try and reach as many people in different locations as possible. Still, the reach is limited and you have an instructor repeatedly delivering material to a small audience. This requires higher registration prices due to trainer costs and can eliminate some potential trainees due to travel or costs.

Webcasts/Webinars

Marketers have long been creating events to attract attention to their product or services. A company may be releasing a new product and they want to tell the press or educate potential customers/clients. In many of these situations these are small events that require their attendees to travel.

If you are starting to see a trend I’m hoping you are starting to see the advantages of Online Events. Factor in time and costs for travel, food, lodging and attendance charges and you may see why in person events have seen a decline in attendance.

I said all of that to say this. Give the people what they want. In today’s world, individuals and businesses are accustomed to instant gratification. Everything is at their fingertips thanks to the internet. If your information isn’t easily available to the world they will find another option as quickly as type, point and click. The good news is all of these events and more can be done online.

Any craftsman knows that you need to use the right tools for the job. In the next article we’ll start to talk about what type of delivery suites your information.

“Honoring” the Attendee

It sounds pretty corny, but I think it’s a point that’s often lost with events.  Honoring the attendee – the fact that they’re spending their time and attention on your event means you owe it to them to have the best event possible.  While I’ve talked a bit already about content, planning and such, I think another piece that is often overlooked is the presentation of that content.

Content Is King… Presentation Must Be the Prince
OK, so it’s a weak analogy, but bear with me a bit.  So many times when you attend a webcast or virtual conference, you get to watch a PowerPoint slide and listen to someone reading you the contents of the slide.  It’s pretty crazy to think that that requires a webcast or virtual event.

The point of a presentation is to have the presenter embellish on the content shown.  Add to it, enhance it.  Show a demonstration.  Have a discussion.  I know, it’s pretty one-sided when you’re doing a presentation but actually looking to have a conversation with your attendees, providing information they can’t get from reading the slides, talking clearly and honestly… all of these, combined with your Q&A, mean you’re having a discussion with them.  Think about you sitting in the audience.  Would you want what you’re showing/providing/talking about?  If not, it’s time to re-think your presentation approach.

Slides Are Important
Sure, slides are key to a solid presentation in many cases.  It gives the attendee a reference point, it gives you talking points and some people are visual and just really need to see it to get it.  But consider having different types of information presented, perhaps a graph on the slide, then talk about the numbers in your presentation and offer a spreadsheet download of the factual backup details.

Don’t just read the slide, talk about the why and how, use the slides to show the what.

It’s Really Storytelling
If you think about it, movies, TV, webcasting, virtual conference sessions… it’s all about storytelling.  You’re passing along knowledge of an experience, a happening, something you’ve learned that you want to share.  Storytelling has evolved online and moved beyond 6 bullet points and 6 words.  As you build your presentation, think of slides as backup information, downloads as the details and your verbal presentation is your story – the meat of the presentation.

Be Seen, Be Heard
Consider using that webcam.  It’s more uncomfortable for some to get on-camera, but it’s really just the two of you – you and your attendee.  Just talk to them like they’re your best friend that you’re explaining your points to.  Your attendees will appreciate the personal touch, and they’ll take in your information, your story, much more quickly and effectively.  There’s just something about seeing someone, seeing them think as they present and seeing them work through the presentation that makes it easier to “get it.”

Honor the Attendee
By providing information that isn’t redundant, that is in different forms that people can ingest and by providing it in a way that can be best understood, you honor that attendee.  You make it worth their time to attend your session, webcast or virtual conference.  It’s important to keep that in mind, and keep your attendee’s goals in mind for your event.  To learn about what you have to present.

They want to hear and learn from your story!

Why Virtual?

Why Virtual?
Josh Harrison, Producer

Before we dig into the more technical stuff, I have to get this out of the way to be sure we’re all on the same page (No, my bosses did not make me write this).

Chances are, you’re reading this because you have something you need to distribute to an audience. It’s also possible that you are considering distributing it via a “virtual event”. Before we go any further I should clarify what I mean by virtual event. To me (YMMV*), a virtual event is a happening that people attend online or over the internet. This could mean a presentation, a meeting, a learning session, or a time and place to eat pizza together… virtually. The sky’s the limit! It’s also important to note that I personally think that the word “virtual” when applied to an event sounds a bit like we’re all going to play a game in a 3D environment so I will substitute the word “online” for “virtual”. Call me crazy, but it makes more practical sense to me.

In our case here at vConferenceOnline, the need for online events came about via conferences. Organizations usually have members and interested parties. These entities need a way to communicate with each other and share their information. In the old days what we now call “in person” conventions or conferences were organized in large cities where people would come from all over to take part in the “event”. This also applied to meetings, continuing education, and many other forms of organized events. This worked pretty well for many years.

In recent years event organizers have seen their “in person” attendance drop. People were busier than ever and their time and budgets were limited. A solution was needed… “Hey, what about the internet?” Online events were born. It became possible to include many more people in the events by offering a “virtual event” online to those who could not come to the “in person” event.

Today, some choose to do online events alongside in person events. Some do them at separate times, and others do online only. There are many factors (which we will discuss in future articles) to consider when deciding HOW you will do your event. Overall, the main reason WHY you should do an online event is to widen your audience options. From there the rest starts to make more sense.

In the next article I’ll discuss types of events and how you might choose what is right for you.

*Your mileage may vary

 

Sessions, Content and Your Attendees

Some keys to great virtual conferences, webcasts and e-learning courses.  It’s all about the presentation and a great environment to take it all in.

For your event, you will be working on determining the best possible mix of how-to and promotional materials.  It’s this mix that will drive the success of future events, will drive expectations of this and future events and will help your attendees make the most of your sessions…

“But wait, I’m not selling stuff at my event!”

Sure, you might not be selling goods and services directly, but you are selling, at the very least, your event.  Your services.  Your next event.  Your content.  You are “selling” because you have to convince people it’s worth it to spend their time on your event.  It’s critical to keep in mind that you have to earn their time and attention.  They call it “spending time” and “paying attention” for a reason after all. 

A couple of quick tips on putting together sessions.  

Speaker Intros, Bios and Contact Info
Speakers should focus on the meat of the session.  By this I mean that speakers should avoid bragging about their accomplishments, should avoid talking about their products (unless the session is clearly a demo-based session of course).  Instead, consider having an event host that talks about and introduces the speaker.  Spend 60-90 seconds at the start of the session to outline the presenter’s qualifications and their background, projects and how to contact them (and whether they’re available for consulting/gigs/etc.).  

At the end of the presentation, consider coming back in the session and thanking the speaker, again offering contact info.  Using these two informational points (the intro and exit points), you can show that the speaker is authoritative, you give the audience a handle on the presentation so they know what to expect.  In addition, the audience knows you won’t be talking forever about the presenter, it’ll be a quick intro, then into the meat of the presentation.  It let’s them know they’re not wasting their time or attention. 

Content (content, content, content)
It’s far better to have an information-packed 20 minute session than a too-long-for-the-content 60 minute session.  Attendees are much more concerned with excellent information, tips, experiences and real-world information than they are with filling an allotted time slot.  Make sure your speakers are keeping presentations on track and that the attendees can take in and use the information as quickly as possible.  

In today’s “short attention span theater” type world, it’s critical to give points that can be used immediately, while also giving direction and food for thought type guidance for looking a bit more to the future.  

It can also help to follow the rule of:

  • Tell them what you’ll be telling them
  • Tell them what you want to tell them
  • Tell them what you told them

This lets you present what you’ll be talking about – then the topic at hand.  Wrap it up with a summary and touch on the key points and attendees will have a great opportunity to really ingest the information you’re presenting.  

It’s About the Attendees
No matter if you’re producing a virtual event for sponsors, for continuing education, best practices, tips, tricks or something else entirely, it’s about the attendees.  They need to be able to get the most from your content and speakers.  If you don’t have attendees for your virtual event (webcast, webinar, virtual conference or online learning course), you’ll have a hard time continuing with the virtual event in the future.  

Content (and presentation) truly is king.  

Introduction from The Producer

Why Virtual?
Josh Harrison, Producer

Introduction
As a provider of virtual events, the company I work for has a vested interest in putting “the right foot forward” in these articles. That is my disclaimer and I’m sticking to it. On the other hand as a technical staff member for said company I am able to offer a slightly less marketing/sales perspective on the whole thing. Which may be why my wise bosses asked me to write this in the first place. You’ll probably find these articles to be mostly about the “production” side of producing events. Which is where most questions arise once the overall concept is understood.

Just a little info about me so you get where I am coming from. I love all things technology, digital and analog. I grew up taking things apart and putting them back together (although sometimes as different things). When digital became a reality it opened a whole new world of possibilities for taking things apart and putting things together (although sometimes as different things). I started playing with machines when I was young. Coming from a musical background, I enjoyed the engineering side of audio. This lead to enjoying the engineering side of video. All of that lead me to where I am now with vConference Online as a content producer for video.

Now a little history on vConferenceOnline. Founded by Stephen Wynkoop, our parent company, Bits on the Wire, was working on a project for a community site we own known to the Database world as SSWUG.org. We wanted a way to share all of the technical knowledge from our partner experts in a way that was intriguing and interesting. Further, we had learned that people like to watch way more than they like to read (exceptions to every rule of course… as you are reading this). We decided to take what were daily audio podcasts and make them into a video show, “Like TV” said Stephen with a twinkle in his eye.

That’s where it all started back in 2006. Online video was just starting to poke it’s head out along with the infrastructure to support it. What we found in that particular space of technical learning was a lot of telephoned in audio and slide presentations, with little to no production value. We set out to change the way techy’s take in their techness. We said, “Let’s take broadcast level production and merge it with top end IT knowledge. People will love it!” So we started with a small camera, a green screen and a lot of really hot lights. The first virtual event we did was in Spring of 2008. We had 1 camera, a plasma screen with slides, and a huge desire to show the world that technical presentations didn’t have to be mind numbing. 1 year later we had grown from 1 10×20 foot room to a 4500 sq ft office with 2 full studios. Then we had another great idea (pat selves on back)… “We have this platform for virtual events built, why not let the rest of the world in on it?”  That’s where vConferenceOnline was born. The whole premise behind our virtual event platform was to offer HD video with supporting materials like slides rather than offer slides with supporting thumbnail video. We built studios with one purpose, to allow presenters to show their computer screens and slides while making a connection to their audience via the camera. “Like TV” said Stephen with a twinkle in his eye.

Many events, clients and features later, we feel we have one of the best (if not THE best) platform for online events. In this series of articles I’m hoping to walk you through the production side with a tiny bit of marketing and sales on the What, Why and How of virtual events. Stick with me, this is going to have a lot of quotation marks and parenthesis.

Encouraging Interaction During the Virtual Conference or Webcast

One of the biggest challenges during an event, whether it’s a webcast or a virtual conference or… whatever you may be doing, is keeping the attention of your attendees.  After all, Facebook beckons!

There are many things you can do – but you need a good mixture of options.  Some people love taking in the video, others want to follow along with slides, still others want related tasks. One idea that can help is email during the event.  Keep in mind that your attendees have many things on their respective plates.  Chances are, they’re keeping track of their email as well.

You can play to this a bit by sending out emails with additional information during the event.  Perhaps an email to those that are in a specific meeting at the time, or to those that visit a booth.  You can use email touches to provide quick tidbits and suggestions – perhaps additional tips, best practices or other ideas that go in line with the presentation.  You can even link to specific assets in the event and let them download them.  These emails are great touch points for offering check lists and other items that support the materials presented.

What you’re looking for are reasons to keep the attendee engaged.  A little tidbit here, a tidbit there and they will begin to really see additional value from related elements in the event.  This is really helpful when the sessions build on one-another as well.  Perhaps send out a session track map – one that shows how the current session will lead into another, with a preview of what to expect.

The key is to make sure the attendee knows all they can get from your virtual conference or webcast/webinar.  Many times people are so caught up in getting into the event and getting settled, then getting distracted, that they don’t realize they can get slides, can watch a short, related video or that there is a method to the madness of the session schedule.

This is also a great time to have the email include information about sponsors in a subtle way.  It’s more of a product placement logo footer than a “Go check out our sponsor” type message, but it’s valuable and reinforces the brands associated with your event.

 

Pre-Event Teasers

When you set up your event, you’ll be creating the information pages – the pages that people will use to find out more about your event.  Typically these include information about the event, registration, speaker information and sessions.

One of the areas you can make a big difference in your attendee’s perception and expectations for the event is the Thank You page.  It’s often missed because it actually comes after the registration is completed.

Add Video for Great Impact
After the attendee has registered, take them to a page that shows them information about the event, their confirmation and, typically, behind the scenes an email is sent out that confirms their registration.

You can increase the marketing impact though if you also include a link in that confirmation email to real, usable information.  Give them a taste of what the event has in store.  Put together a short, 2-5 minute video and provide a small take-away of what they can expect. Of course make sure you also talk about your presenters, the sponsors (if you have them) and so-on – that helps solidify the event in the attendee’s mind.

The key to the video is to put it on a page that is only accessible by having a direct link (like from the confirmation email).  But the trick is to suggest sharing the link to the video with others that may be interested in the event.  This can help build buzz, provide a reason for sharing and more.

Provide Follow-Up
Follow-up with your attendees – you can provide additional information about the event, the speakers, new speakers and/or sponsors you’ve added, contests you’ll be holding, etc.  Make your attendees part of the evolution of your event during the deployment of different pieces.

As with the Thank You video above, consider making the follow-up a short video – make it share-ready (even on YouTube or Facebook if desired) so they can let others know about the event.  Short, sweet and personable – provide a tip or two and suggest they share it if it sounds like something others would enjoy as well.

Both of these items, taken together, provide great outreach, provide reasons to share for your attendees and at the same time validate that they’ve elected to register for and attend a great event.