When Everyone is Home, Will Everyone Watch?
Keeping Your Virtual Audiences Engaged
By CeZanne Albright, Creative Director, InVision Communications
We continue to navigate the “new normal” that is life in the wake of COVID-19. Companies are currently facing the decision to cancel an upcoming live event or pivot to a virtual/digital/broadcast/live-stream/on-demand experience.
For those that elect to pivot to a virtual solution, the mechanics of how they deliver their message may vary (selecting a platform, etc.). Nevertheless, the strategy behind the creation and delivery of the messages is rooted in one source – the audience. However, the audience is not necessarily a captive one. With the majority of the viewing audience working from home, distractions can creep in. As noted in a previous InVision blog post, condensing the original live event into “two hours of magic” is essential.
So, how do you develop content that resonates with your audience and keeps them engaged for the duration of your virtual meeting?
Outline a Practical Agenda
Creating a cohesive deliverable packaged for virtual consumption requires some considerations:
- Work with stakeholders to streamline the virtual meeting agenda down to what is absolutely necessary.
- Determine the overarching message and the “red thread” that will unify all of the meeting elements.
- Diversify the way content is delivered (e.g. video, panel discussion) and intersperse between presentations with graphic support.
- Select individuals who are boots on the ground to help keep topics such as best practices, authentic/proven in the field, in addition to guest presenters and those in leadership.
Enlist a Host
A host offers consistency and helps the audience move through the agenda, similar to a news broadcast or talk show format. Select someone who is high-energy, charismatic, and comfortable in front of the camera. This host will wear several hats:
- Introduce segments and toss the baton to each remote or in-studio speaker.
- Conduct fireside chats with interviewees.
- Moderate panel discussions.
- Encourage audience participation (if two-way interaction is utilized).
- Raise and acknowledge audience questions.
Define the Space
Even though the audience can’t physically be together, a virtual meeting should still be grounded within an environment. This defined location is where the audience regroups with the host to check-in following a presentation, interview, etc.:
- Create a few different vignettes or stages that set the tone for the content if a broadcast studio or converted venue is available.
- Leverage a mix of physical set pieces (e.g. soft seating for a fireside chat) and greenscreen technology.
- Select an inviting location within the host’s home such as a living room or home office if a broadcast studio or converted venue is not available.
Provide a Presenter Playbook
Send universal guidelines for filming at home to all individuals who are delivering content. This can include tips and tricks regarding attire and makeup, the best way to maximize natural or artificial light, and how to frame a shot. If budget allows, send mini production kits to participants so that everyone is working with the same equipment. Include items such as a small camera, backdrop or microphone along with a return label so that the equipment can be repurposed in the future.
There are two approaches to how a virtual experience could take shape in terms of delivering content from remote presenters. Select what makes sense for your company culture:
- Create visual continuity in the form of a green screen backdrop or single-colored wall to limit visual distractions.
- Demonstrate a sense of solidarity (everyone is in the same boat) in an otherwise unprecedented situation – have the presenters show the viewing audience their corner of the world.
Deliver Bite-sized Segments
Content is king, but with the lack of face-to-face interaction, the attention span of a virtual audience might wane. Use the quick-paced show flow of a news or sports broadcast as a guide:
- Create snackable segments featuring key content; don’t overload the viewing audience.
- Deliver actionable takeaways that individuals or teams can build upon.
- Build-in palate cleansers or “commercial breaks” in the form of best practices/case studies or patient stories, which can also serve as great transition references for the host.
- Offer an on-demand option to house robust presentations or presenter notes as on-demand content (podcasts, whitepapers, etc.).
Keep It Moving and Keep Them Talking
Some audience members may be reaching a saturation point since their daily workflow has shifted rapidly to online only. We can only imagine how the attention span of viewers will be impacted over an extended period, particularly if there are limited opportunities for two-way engagement. Try not to structure this virtual experience as a passive one. Viewers are content contributors too:
- Use a chat forum or hashtag for social media to monitor comments/questions and incorporate them into the broadcast (take a cue from taped entertainment programming when participants interact in real-time via social media when the program airs).
- Let viewers craft questions for guests or subject matter experts in advance (this is particularly effective if some pre-work is circulated), these responses can be baked into the live stream or taping.
- Develop virtual forums/breakouts for networking or small group work to expand on topics and allow for best practice sharing.
Amp it Up
When delivering onscreen content in a broadcast to tape format, enhance the output by incorporating graphics and footage:
- Leverage still imagery or video footage as B-roll to help cover edits.
- Consider using a split screen during presentations to visually break up selfie footage.
- Ensure any presentation materials (e.g. charts, graphs) are legible.
- Utilize motion graphics as transition elements and to underscore key information.
Until face-to-face meetings can resume, virtual meetings are the wave of the foreseeable future. InVision Communications can partner with stakeholders and content creators to develop a strategy that translates planned live meeting content into dynamic virtual content. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.