There are some key steps you should take before hosting your great virtual experience. In this video, we break down those steps for you. This is a transcript of a 30 min live webinar for The Fold Live.

PLANNING

When you’re looking at any virtual event, start looking at what your plan is going to be. You need to know what it is that you’re trying to get across and then plan for it based on what that is. Now that could be anything from a cooking experience to a session like this where I’m trying to educate you, but I need to have a plan and you need to know what structure you’re going to take. So, what kind of experience do you want to deliver? Then put yourself in the customer’s shoes. What experience do THEY want to receive, so that you’re delivering against their requirements?

Backgrounds

For this session for me, I had to think about a plain background behind me so that you’re not distracted by me or my environment. I really want you focused on what these steps might look like so that YOU can plan for them in advance.

Live, On Demand or Both?

When you’re thinking about your event, is it going to be live, on-demand or both? I have made this presentation available as both. I want to be part of webinars but I don’t have the time to be there live, or I might have a conflict in my diary. So I’m making sure that this is recorded and I can send it out, and use it as a second piece of content as well. You’ve got to remember when you do something live, people are right in that moment, but that might not suit them, so always consider your customer, not just yourself.

What do you want in terms of the content? Where do you want it to be seen? Do you want this to be in lots of different environments? You need to decide this as part of your overall planning. If you’re planning for a Facebook or a YouTube experience, the format really matters.

Gated or Free?

Is it going to be gated or free? Gated simply means that you might need to register as a user so that you can have access to this content. That’s what most people will do, because they would like to know who’s actually attending and most of all, do a follow up with them. If you’ve been interested in this event, you might be interested in my product or service.

Equally, free content means that firstly, you’re not going to create a barrier for people, be that by registration or be that by price. Most of my work in this environment for The Fold Live is free because I want to get this into the hands of so many people who need direction. I’m trying to educate, not generate revenue.

You need to understand the consumer sentiment that says “If I’m going to pay for something, I want to make sure that it’s really valuable.” Is there a willingness for the customer to actually pay for that piece of content/event you’re planning?

Timing

What is the best time for the event? I’ve picked 10.30 today. This means that school drop off has happened. If you’re homeschooling, you’ve got your kids set up. It’s not in the middle of the morning rush. It’s not the late afternoon. This time works well for my particular audience and that might change based on what you’re trying to deliver. For example, if it’s in the food industry or cooking, that might be best suited when people are naturally in their kitchen, so that they can learn with you.

Event Registration & Technology

I’m using Zoom today. I find Zoom very easy to use, and I think most people do. I’ll talk about some platforms later on, but make sure it’s a platform you’re comfortable with. And practice with that technology so that you know how it works and what some of the features might look like.

Promotion

If you’re going to do an event like this, please make sure you’ve given yourself the best chance of success by promoting it in the places that your customers, or potential customers are going to be. At a local level, The Fold is where a lot of this content is sitting. It’s a great place to promote the event because it’s also a place where a lot of your customers are spending their time. Make sure that you’re promoting that event.

Access

Once the event is over, how are your customers going to access it? This video will be shared to you directly from The Fold. That’s why you had to register to attend this event, so you can receive the materials. It’s also going to be a write-up on this session (ie this blog!), I’ll have it most likely on my website at bantergroup.com.au and likely across all of our social channels, sharing all of this knowledge with you.

Measure of success

How are you going to measure if your event is successful? If you’ve never done this before, you don’t have a benchmark and that’s what you need to consider. Create a benchmark to start with, to say, “look, if I get five people, I’m okay with that.” The next video, if it’s the same in a series, I’m expecting more than five. This is a one-off video for me. I’m soon to be doing an email series and I’m looking at growing my measurement of how many people actually participate. But it’s not just about participation, it’s about the feedback I receive and how valuable people have found it. My goal, was educating people.

TIMING

Timing is crucial because when someone advertises a 30-minute webinar, that’s exactly what they expect. Not a 35 minute webinar. They’re expecting you to start on time, finish on time, be respectful of their time.

Competing events

You need to look at what you’re competing with. If you’re competing with a public holiday or other large events, you are competing for attention. You’re already setting yourself up for failure because you’re dividing the time that customers can allocate.

Time Zones

Time zones could also impact you. If you’re going on a national level, don’t forget that we have a massive time difference with WA, a half hour difference with South Australia, an hours difference with Queensland. All of those could impact you, also where your customers are, where your audiences are and whether or not they’re even able to join you at that time. This is where recording your webinars and your live events could be really useful so that you can actually get these out when it’s comfortable for everybody else.

When are your audience ready to engage?

What are your audiences already doing? When are they engaging with you? When are they ready to do this? That all comes back to what I said earlier. If you’re going to be cooking, make sure it’s a time that they’re in their kitchen. If they’re going to be exercising, make sure it’s a time that suits them.

Every industry has a different set of benchmarks that’s going to work. If you’re unsure, my best recommendation is chat to The Fold, ask them what their opinion is. They’re exposed to businesses and audiences all the time. There’s a huge amount of information that can be shared .

How to host a great Virtual experience, Banter Group

PROMOTION

Email is the highest return on investment channel available in digital, so I highly recommend you use email as a channel. You’ve then got Facebook and Instagram as your two primary social channels. There’s LinkedIn, and loads of other different environments to consider as marketing channels for your business. Make sure that you give yourself a good chance of having people register. They’re not just going to miraculously find you because you’re on the web. You need to put yourselves in front of them.

Leave enough time for promotion

People do plan their diaries a week to two weeks in advance – customers need to consider that before they’re going to register. A very typical behavior of mine is, I will register for a webinar or a live event – I have no intention of being there live, I’ve registered so that I can receive the recorded content and consume it in a time that really suits me. Make sure you keep thinking about that customer.

What’s your drawcard?

You have to offer a draw card or the problem that you’re solving for them. That comes down to how you frame a headline. If you think about newspapers, they sell newspapers based off a five-word headline. The sales success of the paper hinges on this headline. You need to have a ‘Yes’ statement, something people can agree with and go “I do need to know that!”

This session was called ‘how to host a great virtual event’ so you’re hopefully learning;

  • How do I do this?
  • What do I need to consider?
  • What sort of technologies should I put in?

And that’s how I’ve created my structure and my plan.

Use All your Channels

Looking at those channels, you’ve also got external media. Don’t forget your website. People do visit there. Your website is a destination, where people know that that’s where they’re going, you need to also advertise in places that inspire people to join you, as opposed to, “I already know that business, that’s where I’m going to go”. For this particular session I only promoted this through The Fold, and one post on our own social networks, and I only left a 10 day time period for registration. The reason that that happened was very intentional! Because of COVID-19, day to day practices are changing. We don’t know when schools are going back, although they’ve just announced Moss Vale’s going back on Monday. I’m trying to make sure that people are adapting day to day. If they plan too far in advance, I’ve got a huge chance that they’re not going to attend. So I’m trying to limit drop out happening.

Ramp Up your Activities

People are time poor. When you go out there and say, ‘Hey tomorrow, guys, don’t forget that I’m going to be doing this’, people can start to go ‘Oh yeah, that’s right’ ‘I forgot about that’ ‘Oh, I am free now’ ‘ I will refer someone else to this type of session’.

Don’t forget that referral activity is very, very high. People want to be part of a community, which is where virtual events work really well. They can do it together. They don’t have to be in the same place. It’s not about social distancing. It’s about flexibility and convenience for the end user.

Events

Putting an event on Facebook is a great way to be discovered. The way the Facebook algorithm works is when you have an event, it says here are a whole bunch of events that are happening near you, be it by postcode, location or pages that you follow. Now, when you, as a user accepts to join an event, or say that you’re interested, your network, all your friends and followers will also see that in their feed. This comes back to consumer behaviour.

“I didn’t realise they’re doing that”

“Hey, if they’re doing that and they’re interested, I could be interested too, and I might learn something”

They start to create this knock-on effect because human behavior is that we all want to belong. And we all want to be doing things together. It’s a very natural reaction.

#Hashtags

Hashtags absolutely matter when it comes to social networks in terms of having content be found. It could be:
#thingstodotoday
#posting
#webinars
#livetraining
All of these different hashtags matter when being discovered.

How to host a great Virtual experience, Banter Group

LIGHTS CAMERA ACTION

When you’ve got your plan and you’ve promoted it and you’ve now got people registered – lights, camera action!

Where are you?

Where are you going to sit? I’m in my workspace. I’ve got a plain white background. I’ve got the sun changing over my shoulder here, but I’ve really made a conscious effort not to have anything distracting in my background. I have to think about the sound, I have to think about lighting.

Lighting & Changing Light

If you’re going to find yourself in really bright, light, over exposed in the sun, you’re going to start squinting, pulling faces, then you need to find a different set up. Really look at your camera, look at how the light actually looks on the screen and reconsider everything that is happening in your background.

Sound & Changing Sound

This includes sound and changing sounds. My meeting room here at Banter is right on the Bowral train line – I’m not in control of the trains. I’m hoping that that won’t make any difference in this webinar based on where I’ve sat, but it might. So if you’re somewhere outside, you need to consider sound like wind, wind in a microphone makes a big difference. You need to think about children in the background. And as I’ve learned over years and years of doing recordings, you need to think about the birds squawking. So the morning and the afternoon is a bad time to be outside. You also can’t control your neighbours with whipper snippers and mowers and trucks etc. All of those things you can’t control. You need to create an environment where you can control it.

Camera Angles

Different camera angles and the use of tripods are really important. Depending on what you’re trying to share. I’m doing a face to face video so I don’t need to consider tripods and angles. But if you’re doing a cooking program, or a craft program, you need to think about how you’re going to move a camera. Cameras that move really rigidly actually make people feel a bit seasick. It’s difficult to watch. You really need to consider what it looks like for them. On top of that, you need to think about closeups. When a camera is quite far away, they can’t see the detail in what you’re doing. You may need several cameras to pull this together. Really consider and research and look at what you’re going to do.

It’s All About You

One thing that I’d love to get across today is hosting a virtual experience largely comes down to the person doing the presenting and how well structured they were in their preparation.

Practice OUT LOUD

I’ve picked this image on purpose, not because it’s female, because it’s a smiling face, looking direct at the camera, trying to create engagement. When it’s all about you, your credibility is on the line so practice out loud. You’ve heard this a hundred times. You tell your children this I’m sure when they’re going to school. We’re tolerant of things not working out perfectly the first time, but we’re not tolerant of that being a consistent issue. So practice, and practice out loud! Every word that you’re going to say, how you’re going to introduce yourself, how you’re going to set up your live experience.

Check Your Timing

What normally happens with inexperienced individuals doing a webinar or a speech or a talk is they haven’t actually practiced out loud so they end up over-compensating with words and then they will run out of time. Now you’ll notice with any event that you’ve likely attended, as soon as it goes over time, you start losing an audience. Check your timing. Slide by slide, practice by practice so that you know how long something’s going to take and that you can structure your delivery to meet all of these requirements.

People forget to smile. They think they’re just talking to a screen so they’ll stay very serious, but a smile is what makes webinars, particularly live events, engaging. I’m going to engage with someone If I can see that they’re receptive to that.

Energy

Bringing energy to this is a big ask. A lot of people aren’t experienced in this space. I’m fortunate enough to have practiced many, many years of teaching in a public environment. Public speaking for me is quite comfortable. It’s not comfortable for everyone. And I certainly didn’t start that way. You need to decide to bring energy to what you’re doing and excitement. And I love marketing and I love helping people. And I really hope that those two things come across when I’m delivering education material like this.

Simple

Think about the audience and their sophistication in what you’re delivering. If this was a Yoga studio, you need to make sure that it’s yoga for beginners, intermediate or advanced. You need to tell people about the space they need to have to be able to do this comfortably. You need to make this as easy for them and encourage that engagement and interactivity.

Engagement / Interactivity

There are two ways that ‘live’ can work when it comes to asking for engagement.

Firstly, if I’m asking ‘back and forth’ questions, I have no body language to work from. I have no facial expressions to work from. And if you send me through 20 questions, I’m going to try reading those questions and then I’m going to try answering them. The first thing that happens, is my timing goes straight out the window. I’m trying so hard now to read over here and look over there that I’m distracted from what I’m doing. I’ll lose my train of thought. So be careful about asking for the engagement, depending on what it is you’re delivering.

Actions

If you’re asking someone to take an action, make sure that you’ve built into that timeframe that you’re asking them to do something. Something that typically happens if I’m holding a very long training session is, I’ll ask my participants to take a 10 minute break. I don’t say “take 10 minutes” – I say, “We’re leaving at this time. We’re coming back in that time. And I want you, in that 10 minutes to get a drink of water and go to the bathroom. Do not look at your phone.” I am really specific about the actions that I want people to take or not to take.

How to host a great Virtual experience, Banter Group

EVERYONE CAN OFFER AN EXPERIENCE

I’ve put together a list of different types of experiences that anyone could be putting together. If this is your particular category, I’ve tried to give you a starting point of something that you could look at, and it really comes down to – solve people’s problems and make an experience out of it by something they can’t really get elsewhere.

You have to remember we’re up against YouTube, the biggest “how to” channel that exists in digital. You need to find a way to break through that noise. YouTube is enormous. We’re talking about local, we’re talking about live and there’s a huge opportunity to capitalise on that across all of our industry.

If you’re feeling a bit stuck, like not really sure what I’ve got a right to talk about, that’s where you become unstuck. Once you’ve worked out what you have a right to talk about, an authority on, and have experience to share with people, it becomes much easier to say “I’m the expert here, I know more than anyone else on my webinar or on my live experience, I can provide this for them.”

Fitness and health – We are seeing a massive switch, not just from COVID, but all about flexibility and the flexible model of being able to exercise in your own home. But people still need the motivation. We’ve got all the books, we’ve got all the diets, they still need that one on one mentorship and being supported through their experience as well.

IDEAS FOR EXPERIENCES

  • How To’s
  • Tutorials
  • Classes
  • Training
  • Courses
  • Behind the Scenes Tour
  • Interviews
  • Performances
  • Conferences

A couple of different ideas of experiences, as a headline, that you could use and apply it to your industry and to your product and service as a whole.

Don’t feel like you have to use one of these. Make your experiences short. I don’t think anyone enjoys looking at a small screen for a long amount of time. So you really want to make sure that it’s digestible, bite-sized chunks of content. It’s something you can do in a half an hour and then take an action.

One of the big things that you can do live, which people love, is behind the scene tours. They want to know what happens before they experienced the end goal. So showing them what that process might actually look like is a big part of people’s experiences. That’s also how they can appreciate, particularly premium products, the meticulous detail that might go into something to end up with that product.

One of those products for me is definitely the production of honey. I don’t know that everyone really understands all the processes that happen before you get to pop a blob of honey on your toast. And I think that’s where people can underestimate what they’ve got as valuable content.

As a business owner, as an experience creator, you just really need to go back to “what are some of those things you hear” And I call that ‘pub talk’ when someone says, ‘Oh, so what are you doing?’ ‘How does that work?’ And, ‘Oh my gosh’. All those little questions. Every one of those could actually become a different piece of content.

I’ve included interviews in here as well. People like to have a candid approach in discussing things with people. So bringing in, whether it be a celebrity in your field or a very well-known individual, but that interview could just be something around ‘humans of the Highlands’. About discovering people and what makes them tick and how they got into certain things. People find that engaging and interesting and different, and that’s where you can create a connection with your audience as well.

Conferences; not so much at the moment, we are starting to see some of the lifts of COVID-19 and being in bigger groups, but conferences and actual experiences sharing some of the content of places that you’re participating in, including shows as well, which is a little bit limited at the moment.

How to host a great Virtual experience, Banter Group

DELIVERY PLATFORMS

I think everybody has heard of Zoom. And if you haven’t, I suggest you watch the news. Zoom is one of the biggest platforms and it’s been around for a really long time.

Consider the platform and security. I find that Zoom is a great platform. You can have 40 minutes for free accounts and, and endless users, but you do get cut off at 40 minutes if you have more than 3 locations in the single event.

If your event is going to run longer than that, you need to look at different options.

Obviously The Fold Live is a great platform for its promotion and easy delivery integration with one of these platforms.

I’ve included a quick resource ‘how to use Zoom’. It’s a very quick YouTube video to show you just how easy it is to set up an account, and then set up a webinar and then you have a link just like when you registered for today.

BE BRAVE

You have to be brave and give things a try. It’s no different to anything else that you’ve been uncomfortable with before. You’re going to fumble the first time, not hit the right button. Like I said, people are okay and they’re tolerant of things being new. We’re seeing new experience’s happen all the time and we’re just tolerant of it. Don’t be afraid that you haven’t done this before. You’ve just got to give it a go – practice out loud, watch, review, and learn from other people. My best advice, to prepare for your next live event is to do a little research and watch some people doing these videos and see what you like or don’t like about them. Background noises, background staging as well, lighting changing and read about those developments in hosting a live experience.

I really hope I’ve given you some easy tips to follow, but giving you the basics of getting out there vs doing this live is different. You’ve got to start somewhere.

How to host a great Virtual experience, Banter Group