Show Notes

In this episode, Bishop-McCann’s Head of Creative & Production, Shannon McSpadden, discusses virtual events and how to elevate them to meet growing attendee expectations. Topics include: 

  • How to create visually appealing virtual events
  • Ways to combat Zoom fatigue
  • Virtual entertainment considerations
  • Key elements of virtual event production

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Hi, and welcome to The Events Experience, where we take a deep dive into everything event planning. I work for Bishop-McCann, an agency devoted to creating JOY through meetings, incentives, and events for big name brands. On this podcast, myself and our company's experts will discuss all things events, so keep listening to hear all about the latest tips and trends for virtual, live, and hybrid events.

Hi, everyone! On this episode of The Events Experience, I have Shannon McSpadden, our Head of Creative and Production, with me. Shannon is a gifted graphic designer who for the past 15 years has created unique designs for a variety of clients across the globe and has been recognized industry wide for her layout and photo-retouching skills. Now, as our Head of Creative and Production, she leads her team to create beautiful, engaging events for Bishop-McCann's clients. Today, we'll be discussing virtual events and how to bring them to life on your attendees' screens. Thanks for talking with me today, Shannon!

Yeah, thank you. Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here!

So on a previous podcast, we had discussed how virtual attendees are expecting very high quality content from our virtual events, which only makes sense after everyone has been consuming so much virtual content for over a year. But what are some ways that you and your team are stepping up to meet and even exceed those expectations?

Yeah, you're right. This is a great question. The expectation is really, really high. One of our creative directors actually made the point that we are all professional consumers of media, and he's right. Think about it. It's at our fingertips at all times. It's on our phones, our tablets, our computers. We're literally surrounded by it at all times. And attendees are definitely going to notice when something isn't as it should be because of that. We really look at each virtual event that we produce as a complete broadcast experience. We all know that it needs to look great, but having that valuable content is crucial. Because of that, there's a lot of content strategy that goes in behind every event that we produce. We actually have creative strategists that work closely with our clients and really dig in to find the purpose of their meeting. Like, what are those sticking points that we want the attendees to walk away with? And once we have those locked in, we help develop that messaging across all the presentations from general session to breakouts. And it's not only in what the presenters are saying, but also what the attendees are seeing through the supporting graphic.

Right. So what are some other ways that you can make your virtual event even more visually appealing specifically?

Yeah, where do I start? Like you said, I was a designer before I was this, so this is really my wheelhouse and my bread and butter - what I love. There's truly so much you can do to bump up the look of your virtual event. From the very first email that your attendees receive all the way through to the closing general session, every aspect of your event should be visually cohesive. During the program itself, the easiest way to make your event more visually interesting is by adding animation. From your program logo to the lower thirds, animation is truly the easiest, most effective way to keep your event visually appealing for your attendees.

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So in your article on upping your graphics game that was featured in Successful Meetings, you mentioned captivating transitions and commercials. Can you expand on what these look like for attendees?

Yeah, sure. So think about what we see when we watch TV. Let's take a newscast, for example. When they switch topics or anchors, they'll have a little two or three second stinger in between, and you can - and truly should - do the same in a virtual event. So when you're transitioning to a new speaker or a new segment, use a stinger. It not only shows the viewers that you're changing topics, but it actually adds visual interest as well. For the commercials, commercials are just as they sound. During breaks, it's a fantastic sponsorship opportunity for your event. They can be as simple as just the logo with a "brought to you by," or it can be a fully produced 15 or 30 second spot. If your event doesn't have the need for sponsors, you can easily highlight something exciting that's coming up in your event to get your attendees excited for what's next.

Right, I love that idea just to get them looking forward to what's to come.

Right, right.

So in this same article, you also touch on the idea of Zoom fatigue, and I know we've all heard about Zoom fatigue so much over the past, well, it's been over a year now. So do you have any tips on how planners can overcome this obstacle?

Yeah, there's a lot of ways. You know, now that more of us are working remotely, a lot of our day to day takes place on Zoom or similar platforms, and the fatigue is real. I feel it. I'm sure you feel it. I'm sure a lot of our listeners feel it as well. To help with that, we plan our events with shorter days and shorter sessions, and we include more breaks or opportunities for attendees to get up and walk around, maybe look away from their computer screen. It's also really important to add things that require audience participation. You know, we don't just want to watch things. We want to be active participants. So that could be something as simple as adding live polling to a breakout session or even creating a little fun competition between your attendees by adding trivia during breaks.

Just to keep them engaged and not so...

Exactly, right.

Staring at a screen for hours on end. Right. I think none of us want to do that at this point.

No, you can easily tune out, or even worse, turn it off. So engagement is key.

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Yeah, for sure. So I'm going to change topics a little bit here, but as far as performances at events, I'm sure you've seen both good and bad at this point. So what should event planners look for in talent to ensure that it's a successful performance?

Oh, yeah. We've all seen the good and bad of entertainment during virtual events. You know, not all live entertainment (like really great live entertainment) always translates well to the virtual world. So it's important to consider that when selecting talent. Working with entertainers who will engage with your attendees is key. It's back to that engagement again, right? An illusionist that can interact with audience members or a musical artist who congratulates the award winners before busting into their hit song. Interaction from entertainment is always your best bet.

I know I've seen a few virtual events, and I always think it's so awesome when they can get this big name band to shout out their company. I always think that's great.

So cool.

It's just an awesome personal touch to add in there.

Yeah, and the audience loves it. The chat always lights up. People are super engaged at that point.

So on top of sourcing quality talent, what do you believe is the most important element of a virtual event's production that we as meeting planners need to consider?

This is a great question, and I think time. Like a live event, the more time we have to plan, strategize, prepare, edit, and execute, the better your virtual event will be.

So are there any other key insights that you would give our listeners to make sure that they nail their next virtual event?

Yeah, so there's a couple of things. First, make sure you have a contingency plan. Virtual events are reliant upon technology, and technology can (and does) cause issues. So make sure that you always have a backup to your backup. But if you truly want to impress your audience, think outside of the box. Don't continue to do something just because that's how you did it last time, and it happened to work. Find ways to take what you know works and elevate that experience for your attendees. Each event that we produce should be better than the last.

Right, as you're continually learning, you can take that and then just enhance as you go instead of staying stagnant because you obviously never want to do that.

That's exactly right. Give your audience something they've never seen before, and that will ensure a successful event.

Well, thank you so much for talking with me today, Shannon, and sharing all of those great tips for virtual events!

Thank you, Brenna!

Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Events Experience. Don't forget to subscribe to our podcast, and create JOY wherever you go!

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