How to Design a Successful Online Event?

More and more events are streamed live online. Great. Only, the most are so boring to watch that viewers quickly drop out again. How do you design an online event that does work? You will discover it in this episode.

Kevin Van der Straeten
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New|2018-06-29 - 12:52u


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More and more events are streamed live online. Great. Only, the most are so boring to watch that viewers quickly drop out again. How do you design an online event that does work? You will discover it in this episode.


Hi, Gerdie, welcome to our studio.




It's been a few years since you've been here. We were talking then about organizing online events. It was something new, something exciting, nobody did it. Now, you mentioned backstage that most organizers are doing it. And, even more, that people online are asking, where is the live feed?


Yes, exactly. When we started six years ago, the first interview, we even called it hybrid events.


Oh, yes. Indeed.


And nowadays, we don't even hear it, the word 'hybrid events' any longer. Now we always use live and online events. And you were right, last week at an event, and it's not the first time, somebody asked on Twitter, where can I find the live stream? And that's what's happening all the time now. That people start requiring to have the possibility to join online. And it's not necessarily the people who are invited. But it's just people who pick up the buzz around the event on social media.


And want to know what's happening.


And want to know what's happening. And most of them ask for a specific speaker to be broadcasted. So, they are interested in a topic on this event.


Because they know him, follow him and want to know what...


Yes. Or are interested in this specific field, yes.


Okay. More and more events are streaming. That's the good news. The bad is, sometimes, it's a rather boring stream where you just see a camera on top of the room. And that's not very interesting to watch. How do you plan a good online event?


By planning it.


That's a good answer, yes.




And how do you start?


And that's new. Let me point that out. Because it's something new to plan an online event instead of, as you said, just have a camera put on what's happening live. And it's new to think about an online event as an event like we did, let's say, twenty, thirty years ago for the first time for live events. So you start thinking about the goals for your online event and your online target group. And an online goal can be that you want to increase the reach of your event. But it can also be a service for those who cannot participate. It can be something to connect people online. Quite different kinds of online events. Even to put just a camera on what's happening can be a goal as a service, for example, for those who cannot be there but wanted to be there. Just to have to get a taste of it. So this can be part of strategy. Although boring is something I would stay away from.


Yes, yes. Of course. But you just explained... Okay, you need to look at the goals for the online viewers. But I can imagine they can be quite different than the people who are at the live event.




How do you match that?


By creating two different programs and make use of the fact that the speakers and the venue and, sometimes, exhibitors are there. Make use of it. But create a different program for the online participants.


But on a congress, for example, do you mean, then, not just stream the speech but get the speaker off-stage.


Exactly. Get the speaker off-stage. Have a meet-and-greet with the speaker, exclusively for the online audience. Sometimes we don't even broadcast the plenary sessions or any session at all. Just have a studio program with the speakersor organizers or experts in the field. Exclusively for the online audience.


And how do you keep them engaged in a program? Because some events are short and then it might not be that big of a problem. But if you have an event for a whole day, a trade fair or something; how do you keep them watching?


By programming and planning with the online participant as a starting point. Instead of looking at the content and thinking about what do you want to share with them, we try to sit on the chair of the online participant and think about what they would be interested in. And then start programming and planning the online event from their point of view. With a lot of interaction, of course. And there are some rules. We picked them from story-telling. So we try, for example, to answer one question during the online event.If that is one of the goals, of course. And also try to open your online event talking about the content. Talking about the topic. What will I learn in these 45 minutes? Instead of starting with the house rules and how you can participate la-la-la-la.


Keep it going. A little bit of speed in the...


Yes. It's from TV. It's like we do on television. So it's the mix of...


Do you then also do commercials In between.


Well, even sometimes we do.


For the sponsors.


Yes. For the sponsors. Cause sponsoring is quite hot in online events. Sponsors are looking for new opportunities to contribute and to get their message spread with their audience. And then online events can offer a completely new opportunity for this, yes. I've seen, once, pitches from sponsors, for example. We just announced that now there was a commercial break and then...


And then a sponsor came in and he could talk...


And pitched, yes. But, in general, if you program for an online event, make pieces of three to five minutes max, where you do the same thing. And then you have to have something interactive or a new format for the next three to five minutes. So we put them in blocks.


So changing rather fast.


All the time.


Especially if you're doing a show whole day.


Yes. But we never do a show all day. For example, a few weeks ago, we created an online event on an exhibition in Bangkok. And there, at the end of the day we madea talk show with guests coming in. But also reporting what happened on the show floor today.


Okay. It's a short...


Yes. It's half-an-hour. And if you pick up the half-an-hour, then you know what happened today at the show floor in Bangkok. And we used the studio to create content. Because that's what we see more and more, that an online eventis used to create content for the rest of the year.


Yes, indeed. That's an interesting...




...interesting way of creating content.


Yes. It is.


We talked about interaction.




How do you do that in the best possible way with an online audience?


Well, if I had all the money of the world, or my customers would have, then we would be able to see each other and to...


Skyping or something like that.


Yes. But also together. So with thousands of people. With all these different countries in the world. Because that's, in itself, can be quite touching. To see that people from 80 or 90 countries, all over the world, are connected to this one event. This can be really touching.


A bit like the Tomorrowland example where you have multiple spots in whole of the world who are connected to experience the festival.


Yes. That's one I really like. Because it's touching your heart. You get a little bit of goose skin. But there, it's the events who are connected. And if I could say what I would like most, then it's that the people can be connected to each other. Because, it's so funny, people always say they go to events to network. But, in practice, they meet five or six new people. If you could join an event online and you could connect and could see each other, then you might be able to connect with 20 people. And that's what I would really like to do. But we are at the start of a more professional way of looking at the planning of online events. And this is one of these things which we would like to develop.


Planning and broadcasting is one thing, but getting people to watch is, of course, something else.




I can imagine you need a totally separate marketing track to promote the online events.


Absolutely. It's the opposite. This is the live event, and you start as early as you can by inviting people for the live event, for the face-to-face event. And the climax in your invitation process lies six weeks, four weeks in advance, and then it slows down. For the online event, it's the opposite. The conversion is 24 hours, 12 hours, 12 minutes, even 12 seconds before you go live.


Okay, that's a totally different approach.


That's a totally different approach. And it needs a totally different power and people and energy. Because normally, as a communication officer, you're ready when the event starts. Now...


It only starts then.


It only starts then. Yes.


But there's also a bit of good news in there. Because you can first try to get them to your live event, and if that doesn't work, you can still try to get them online.


Yes. We see that, actually, with new events. When they don't succeed in getting people in physically, then it becomes an online event, yes. And there we use social media a lot. And there social media's very helpful if you know where your target... First of all, you should know who your target group is, where they are, which hashtags they're following. And then you can promote the online event through social media. And, hopefully, your event doesn't have a registration. So you can just jump in, either through Facebook or YouTube or Twitter or Instagram. They all have live features now. And it doesn't have to be just you and your selfie-stick and your telephone. You can also broadcast professionally with more camera registration, through Facebook Live and through YouTube.


Yes. Maybe one question to conclude with. What's the most exciting experience you had yourself with live broadcasting events?


Well, I like Tomorrowland a lot, as you say. But very special for me was an interview I could do a few weeks ago, through a 360, virtual reality, livestream robot.


How does that go?


Well, I was interviewing someone. And I think he was called Victor, the robot. He was standing hereand online participants could choose their positions.


So they could say the robot to go there or...?


No, they couldn't. But they could choose their own position.


Oh, okay. Yes.


So they could look from the top or from the bottom. And I was interviewing him, and the camera, the robot was following. So it was quite exciting. And also we learned a lot. Because 360, which is quite hot, but it means that people can see everything in this room, for example.


It would mean we would have to clean up before we could start shooting.


Absolutely, yes. People will see the ceiling. So it's a completely new and different experience again.


Where a lot of new things are coming out of.


Yes. It becomes easier. You can livestream with one telephone and you're there. But just like with any other live event, we go through the same way of getting more and more professional.


I think we should invite you on a regular base now, to keep us updated on this topic.


Well, it would be a pleasure.


Gerdie, thank you very much for coming over.


Thank you, Kevin.


And you at home, thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next week.