We were excited to have Sean McManus, Co-Founder of M+D, join our most recent Level Up CXO meeting as a special guest speaker. Sean’s specialty is launching events for high profile media and tech companies and in 2020, he has advised clients on strategies when it comes to pivoting to virtual. Check out his 5 key learnings for organizations tackling the new events era.
Learning #1: The Narrative Arc
It is crucial to understand that the customer journey for virtual events is different and must be reimagined. When it comes to content, take a modular approach. Start by creating high level frameworks of what the event is all about. What is your purpose? How does your event map to large scale problems that need to be solved in the larger landscape? From there, determine a customer journey that is ergonomic and keeps in mind what people are juggling in their day-to-day. Additionally, think about on demand content for those who weren’t able to tune in and how to promote it with urgency. What’s the sequence of conversations and experiences participants will have? What is the storyline of the event?
Learning #2: The Notion of Big Name Speakers
The speaker pipeline is evolving from famous names to more unexpected names. While before, it was common practice to go after big, flashy names like celebrity business leaders from famous companies, now, those people are more and more ubiquitous and securing them doesn’t hold as much weight. Promoting rising stars, unexpected names, and people who are doing innovative things that people haven’t heard of is ultimately more enticing. In the digital space, you have the opportunity to explain why these people matter and why they’re relevant to your audience. This ties into the larger concept of an opportunity to rethink the model around content and what it takes to produce something compelling that people want to tune into. Your constituents trust you to create something interesting for them. Bringing in unexpected voices is also beneficial in terms of your speaker prep process. You don’t need to go through as rigorous of a process doing things like bringing in senior consultants on the engagements and making sure the discussion maps to certain company values.
Learning #3: Event Preparation
As you design the program, content, and speaker pipeline, it’s essential to keep in mind how much preparation each component will require. Things like tech prep calls, managing virtual backgrounds, making sure speaker rehearsals are conducted, QAing internet capabilities, conducting platform training, etc. are new elements to your event preparation plan. Work through these aspects in an empathetic manner, be sensitive to people’s personal circumstances and make your constituents’ involvement in your event as stress-free as possible. You must develop new models and frameworks to get people comfortable with participating and ensure you’re able to offer additional support to those partners who need it. The speaker, sponsor, and attendee experience is different than it is during in-person events and requires a different prep checklist.
Learning #4: The Importance of Ad Tech
Rethink how you incorporate your sponsors in virtual events. Sponsor engagement, experiences, and integrations are all done differently. When you bring in sponsor messaging digitally, you have the ability to do so in more pronounced ways. For example, you’re able to create modules of content that map back to sponsor interests and are trackable. You now know what people are clicking into and have a clearer understanding of what the engagement is. You’re bringing the entire weight of digital marketing to bare on live events. We should’ve been doing that all along.
Learning #5: Community Building
Before, live events were about reaching elite audiences and getting very important people together in a room. Now, clients are seeing the value in expanding the total number of eyeballs that are on the content and capitalizing on the ability to bring the conversation out to everyone in the world. The event institutions that are excelling in the new event era have reoriented their mindsets and augmented their previous business models by creating new models, content, and ideas that reach entirely new constituents, audiences, and underserved communities.
Potential for 2020
In sum, what has emerged this year will lead to entirely new business lines. Traditional revenue models have been augmented by revenue-generating opportunities in the virtual space. If they embrace innovation and remodeling, event organizers will come out stronger with an ecosystem that includes opportunities to touch constituents, audiences, and communities along the way that they previously didn’t imagine could be a part of the content experiences they were producing.
More About Sean McManus
Sean is a content specialist who regularly advises companies in areas of strategic communications, digital media and thought leadership. He is the co-founder of M+D, an advisory firm that launches editorial platforms for clients including Bloomberg, Facebook, and the Knight Foundation. Connect with him on LinkedIn or contact us for an introduction.