Virtual events might not be something completely new at this point. But people everywhere are still learning how to navigate all the tech aspects that go into it. While there’s a lot that planners now need to focus on, from engagement to networking and more, we want to talk about something else today. Or rather, someone else. Because much like event profs had to adapt to the new normal, so did presenters and attendees. And these are two very important parts of any event that deserve a smooth virtual experience!
So on this week’s episode of the Event Tech Podcast, Brandt Kruger and Will Curran are tackling this head-on. Since we’ve been putting so much pressure on remote speakers and audiences, it’s time to wonder: what can we do? How can we make their roles easier? And what sort of help can we provide? Press play and join us to find out!
It All Starts With A Story
Not long ago, Brandt had an experience that all of us can relate to. “I could not get my system to connect. We had the video for a little while, and then there was no audio. And then I could hear them, but they couldn’t hear me. I do not blame the organizers. I don’t blame the tech person that was on the call. He’s literally down to make sure that you didn’t accidentally take the lens cover off the camera. And I didn’t even know what to do to fix it either. But it was a very weird situation”.
“I could not make it work at all. Had to move over to my backup computer, which is fine. So there’s a couple of things that I want to talk about out of that experience. So we’ve pushed. We’ve pushed a lot of responsibility onto our presenters”, he says. “So I want to try and just peg through that a little bit. And see what are the things that we can do to try and reduce those circumstances, as much as possible, when we’re dealing with our presenters and our attendees”.
A Smooth Virtual Experience Requires Support
“When it comes to speaker support, I think there’s gotta be some change that happens in this next year”, says Will. “Maybe the speakers have to level up, but you can’t sometimes do that. If you’re dealing with people who are doctors and lawyers, their job is not to be broadcast level people. The next option is that clients need to pay more money for support, which might be the potential option that we’re gonna start to see”.
“Or the third option is just to let the chaos continue to happen. But I’ve definitely noticed that it’s so hard because you still get these crazy scenarios where just Murphy’s law entails and things go wrong. And it’s just absolutely crazy, but it’s totally not off base because even the best speakers have these issues. So what is it going to look like now moving forward? Because there needs to be more support. I think that it’s probably income from the planner’s end that there does need to be more money, to spend more time doing these long-winded rehearsals”, he adds.
Time To Level Up
“It sounds like the first thing that we need to do is as production folk is we need to level up our game. And learn more about the ins and outs of internet browsers and troubleshooting for a smooth virtual experience”, says Brandt.
“Well, it reminds me a little bit of the conversations we used to have as AV companies”, adds Will. “Which is like, why we don’t wanna use your microphones, why we don’t wanna use your projectors and things like that. Yes, you’re gonna save a little money. But you know, at some point too, the question is, when is the production gonna level up to the point where people are like, look, let’s just ship everybody laptops and let’s pay that huge cost when it comes up. But ironically, I think, maybe the problem isn’t necessarily cost right now. It’s more so the availability, the timing too. So maybe we don’t have a monetary cost issue. We have a time and logistics-related issue more than anything”.
“I think people also don’t recognize how much work goes into it too. Because before you maybe had one person who is in charge of speaker management, and that was it. But now it’s a team effort. You need a help desk software that has tickets and the ability to mark things as answered and email templates that you can recurrently message. So I think it’s going to move towards that white glove of you can’t have an account executive, your one point of contact for support, for speakers, you need to have a help desk software”, he continues.
A Smooth Virtual Experience For Attendees
“That’s the whole other half of it. What does that support look like the day of and in the weeks leading up to it? What is your platform? Is it the type of platform that’s going to have just a generic help page? Or is it going to be able to have a help page that’s specific to your event? If someone’s having trouble, are they contacting platform support or are they platforming your events?”, says Brandt.
“I always like it to be a conversation too. I think there needs to be a conversation in-depth about what’s the level of support that you’re looking at. What does it look like during the event? What’s it look like afterward? Because a lot of people are also treading into this, hey, we’ll leave our platform open so they can keep watching content for a month afterward, but then no one ever talks about what’s the level of support that happens then? Is it the same level at which the events continually going? Is it that then it shifts over to the planner?”, says Will.
“I think that never really gets brought up, but that’s where the conversation needs to happen as part of that RFP. Not just do you have support available? It’s what exactly does that support look like? And you know, is there something specific that you expect? Because that’s the thing too, what you consider good support might be different for someone else. For a very high-end event, they might expect more concierge level. I know your name, I know who you are. So I definitely think that more conversations around that can definitely help a bunch”, he adds.
Numbers Going Up
A smooth virtual experience will probably mean more money involved. “I’ve noticed a lot too, in this transition that a lot of people are trying to figure out where did their costs now go. It was really easy when I always knew exactly how much for catering, exactly how much for production. But now the whole budget is rearranged. And I think that events are going to grow and be better and better. And I think that along with that too, people have to expect the budgets to increase”, says Will.
“I know that gets complicated when you’ve got a paid event and you’re feeling pressure to reduce the prices because it’s online. But don’t start with cutting, instead start with just rearranging your budget. Chances are, you’re probably still going to come out ahead because you’re not going to have flights and you’re not gonna have hotels. But at least you’re not starting at a deficit. You’re not starting in a hole where you’ve cut all of your budgets, and now you’ve got to claw it back in order to pay the $325,000 that your platform of choice is asking for”, adds Brandt.
“For the cost of a good camera, a couple of lights, and a good microphone kit, we dropped that on centerpieces more often than not. And for the cost of a good centerpiece, you can send a speaker kit to each and every one of your presenters”, he says.
At the end of the day, the best we can do to ensure a smooth virtual experience is to “mitigate the challenges. And then at some point, you know, we just got to let go. If you’ve legit done everything you can do to give that person the best foot forward, there’s still going to be times when it just doesn’t work”.
“And so if we can’t make it work, you have to be open to the possibilities that you might have to let them go as a presenter. If you can’t get it to work during the practice sessions. And the flip side of it is there’s probably always going to be attendees that have issues that you can’t help with either. So I think there’s also a little letting go that’s going to have to happen. We can’t keep it all under our control”, Brandt concludes.