#Coronacomms: Building a compelling virtual event – 4 key steps – Formative Content

#Coronacomms: Building a compelling virtual event – 4 key steps

With the coronavirus pandemic forcing everything from daily meetings to conferences online the world is getting a crash course in the processes and technologies needed to make the switch to virtual possible.

We recently held our own event, Insight Live: Creating Engaging Virtual Experiences, where a range of speakers shared best practice on creating engaging live business events.

Here are some tips based on what we learned from putting it together.


  1. Think about the experience

Consider carefully the aspects of your event that could be a challenge.

I’ve produced a lot of TV programmes in my career, so in planning our Insight Live event I knew how important it was to build something that, alongside being useful and informative, was enjoyable to watch.

Taking the audience with you throughout the duration is key to this, as is ensuring everything is presented with a human touch. For our event, top marketers and communicators like Ashish Babu, CMO for Tata Consultancy Services – Europe & UK, and Deborah Turness, President of NBC News International, brought their considerable experience to that role. Interactivity and engagement are key challenges for many corporates and businesses at the moment, so be mindful of how these elements can be included too.

Some of the other ways to create an engaging experience include:

  • Using a mixture of pre-recorded and live sections to build differences in pace into the flow
  • Getting your audience to add comments and ask questions throughout
  • Keeping things short and meaningful – don’t commit to a running time that’s too long.


  1. Fast, efficient planning is key

Before getting started you need to know the basics. Who are you talking to? What are your key messages? What actions do you want your event to lead to?

You might only need a small but finely honed audience. Or your event could have broader appeal, so why not spread the net? Who you’re seeking to engage will inform the platform you choose and who you approach to take part.

Things to consider when planning:

  • Refine the structure and messages based on who you’re targeting. This will help you build a running order and map out your interviewees
  • Work within your means – if you only have a small team don’t try to take on something too big. And be mindful of the technology that’s available to you
  • Draw on your network for help and insight – people want to help at a time like this, and everyone is looking for support and information
  • While meetings and events often need to be delivered quickly, especially in the current climate, make sure you build in the time to get the right participants on board, give training where necessary, and to promote your event.


  1. Test and learn

Our goal for our event was, of course, to deliver a slick and professional experience. But as the current crisis forces businesses to reinvent many aspects of what they do, we also knew this was something of a trial run – for our team, for the tech, and for everyone else involved.

We tried out different approaches and technologies and refined them as we moved through test runs and rehearsals. This allowed us to practise many times before we went live.

A key element of this was to script the event down to every word. We might not have always stuck to it during the show, but it provided a firm structure for proceedings that everyone involved could follow.

Here are some other things we learned while testing:

  • During rehearsals, it’s important to practise with the panellists and test the user experience
  • Bring in a test audience to trial things like Q&As, chat and comment functions, and polls
  • Use an instant messaging app while on air to communicate between the production team and panellists.


  1. Build a resourceful team

Whether it’s Zoom, Microsoft Teams or WebEx, if you’re taking a test-and-learn approach with your chosen platform you need to be able to pull on a group who can efficiently execute and deliver your programme.

Be sure to get people who have done this before or, failing that, are happy to experiment and practise multiple times – entrepreneurial people who are quick to solve problems and are content to work on projects where there is a degree of ambiguity.

Here are some other things to think about when putting together your team:

  • When planning Insight Live, we realised early on that we would need both a video partner (which we had in Mike Sedgwick from By This River) and a streaming partner (Peter Wilson) with the experience and tech to deliver a live mixing experience
  • A little live TV experience goes a long way. My background in TV made it easy for me to structure the programme. But if you don’t have this expertise in your organization, you can bring in an agency or freelance producer
  • With the first virtual event you deliver, be prepared for everything to be more detailed and time-consuming than you expect. When you’re breaking new ground, things are rarely as simple as they first seem
  • Despite all your best intentions, there’s always a possibility your tech will let you down. Make sure you and your team are flexible and any expectations or promises aren’t set in stone.



#Coronacomms: How can you create a successful virtual event?

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If you want training or guidance in how to migrate your events online, creating meaningful content, or training your people to perform and communicate effectively via webcam please email me – gay@formativecontent.com

About the author: Gay Flashman is the CEO and founder of Formative Content. Last year, she was named in Thrive Global’s Top Female Creatives of 2019 list. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

Gay Flashman
Author:Gay Flashman

CEO, Formative Content