Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ depicted a future in which mysterious black rectangles marked fundamental changes in human evolution. Now, here we are, staring constantly into our phones, tablets, televisions, laptops and desktops.
As we switch seamlessly between devices, what we view on these black boxes has also evolved. As high-quality AV technology becomes more accessible, the familiar look and feel of watching a film, television series or documentary has blurred under the rather ugly catch-all term, ‘content’.
In an era of unbounded choice, your virtual event must compete on the same footing as the other content you view
Virtual events – which saw a huge evolutionary leap during the pandemic – are also victims of this, as Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube raise viewer expectations into the stratosphere.
In an era of unbounded choice, your virtual event must compete on the same footing as the other content you view, so event agencies are now called on to not only master this software and hardware, but to produce inspiring, creative content using it.
In the battle for attendee attention spans, mastering your event narrative and leading creative people to make amazing ‘content’ is the key to truly engaging event audiences. But how can you engage and surprise online and live event audiences alike?
- Plan early: your agency will work better if it has the space to let its creatives flourish.
- You can’t sell something you don’t understand: get to know what makes the brand you’re working with, and its audience, tick, then start a mood board to help them decide on the look, feel and style of content that they might want to represent them.
- Make technology serve your creativity, not the other way around. Agencies with a warehouse full of kit might feel that they have to use this equipment purely because it is there.
- Find people who understand the entire workflow of a project: those rare leaders who can interpret the techies as well as the storytellers.
- Consider the public perception of your brand and the limitations of this to avoid ‘brand stretch’: that moment when a brand over-steps its credibility. Your storytelling should be in-keeping with the character of the company. How they wish to be perceived should inform the storytelling.
- Understand the classic tenets of storytelling: technology has moved on, but Setting, Character, Plot, Conflict, Theme and Narrative are as vital as ever. A good agency takes a ‘creativity first’ attitude. No two events should be approached the same, and authenticity requires building an event from the ground up.
- Take inspiration from everywhere: we’re living in an era where experimentation and innovation is celebrated across genres. A virtual event is a fairly new medium, with lots of untapped, unfamiliar potential.
- Decide on measurable objectives. What does success look like for the client? What is the budget? How much time do we have? A blank page is unhelpful, so these factors help define the much-needed creative limitations.
- If you’re working on a hybrid event, know that the screen size is a creative limitation. This might mean, for example, picking a venue with amphitheatre seating to capture the audience in shot, or having a virtual screen present, showing the faces of the online viewers.
- What is the big takeaway from your event? If the client has cautious news – for example a product delay or weak financial results – this might call for a toned down, less expensive looking set. If the client wants to appear technologically savvy, however, the opposite might be suitable, and creative use of layering or illusory technology might work.
It’s time to embrace this brave new world. Television production and live events have merged and it has changed the game forever. Event agencies are out of their comfort zone and still adapting, but there is plenty of help out there from the storytellers: the AV companies and the integrators that can join the dots and create truly engaging, meaningful narratives.