Like Hollywood Movies, Virtual Events Need Compelling Stories

February 2021
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As the world faces COVID-19 fatigue, online and virtual events are no longer novel. But to keep audiences engaged, events need to pop. For inspiration, where better to look than Hollywood?

Like the rest of the world, Hollywood is offering virtual events these days. Some notable recent films have skipped theaters and gone straight to online streaming services. Regardless of the platform, however, what hasn’t changed with Hollywood films is their dependence on storytelling and stars that hook an audience and keep it clamoring for more. The best stories present an immediate conflict and then work toward its resolution. 

Every business, regardless of its goals, wants to connect with an audience and keep it engaged. Transitioning from in-person events to virtual or hybrid events can work for companies of any size.

While virtual events may never entirely supplant live events, they nonetheless empower companies to reach new audiences and connect with existing ones in fresh ways. Virtual events offer significant value and return on investment, but their success requires forethought, a compelling story, the right messenger and a different approach to planning.

Determine what the audience needs to hear.

As with telling a good story, planning a virtual or hybrid event requires understanding the audience’s point of view and what they want to hear. And as the director or planner, what do we want them to take away from our event? 

With those questions answered, we can set about producing an event that follows a compelling sequence. By creating as much of its content in advance as possible, we can avoid last-minute complications. 

Find the right speaker.

To draw audiences to in-person events and conferences, companies often recruit big names as speakers or presenters. But whether in-person or virtual, corporate events don’t need celebrity names to succeed. Instead, we can look for interesting entrepreneurs or notable figures within a particular industry.

Companies often use their executives as presenters because of internal politics or because they think the executive will attract people to their event. But we should consider other talented people such as customers, partners or employees. The remedy for a lackluster event is to have a speaker who captures the brand and motivates the audience.

Inspire the audience.

Even while working from home, audiences won’t be held hostage by events that don’t interest them. With people’s attention pulled in more directions than ever, we need to give them good reasons to join our events and stay focused. Merely hosting an event isn’t enough to make people want to attend it.

Going back to Hollywood, people often gravitate to stories with positive messages that resonate in the moment. Similarly, to hold an audience’s attention, a virtual or hybrid event can’t merely rehash corporate talking points or company sales sheets. Instead, the event should be relatable and tailored to the audience. 

The goal is for the audience to walk away believing they can accomplish anything. The right story can do that, and attendees will have you to thank for their newfound confidence.

We could all use a little inspiration right now. I suggest making the storyline for your next event a heartwarming and inspiring one. After 2020, we don’t need a horror sequel. 

Return to Current Issue The Art of Storytelling | February 2021
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