It’s time to talk about engagement at virtual events yet again. And yes, this is a topic that we’ve covered in depth before. However, as the world keeps changing around us and the industry shifts, these conversations need to be consistent. Pushing the boundaries of what we’ve been doing so far, learning about new and emerging technologies and how they can be harnessed is vital. Attendees will expect more and more from virtual and hybrid events and it’s up to event profs to deliver!

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So on this week’s Event Tech Podcast, we’re happy to welcome William Warren. He’s the founder and CEO of The Sketch Effect, an exciting technology that contributes to improving engagement at virtual events in novel ways. Our host Will Curran has a lot to ask, and William certainly has a lot to teach! So waste no more time and let’s get playing!

Introducing The Sketch Effect

“In brief, we are a visual communications company”, explains William. “And what that means is we use visuals to help our clients communicate their ideas more effectively. Specifically, we offer animated video services, motion graphics, we’ll do graphic design infographics. But probably the service that’s most unique is our live event, sketching service. It goes by a couple of different names. The industry term is graphic recording, but we like to use the phrase live sketching”.

“With live sketching, an artist attends an event. And while there’s content being discussed in the room an artist is actively listening, they’re synthesizing that content in real-time. And then the magic happens. They draw it out. They translate that content into pictures and typography and color, producing a visual artifact of the meeting. And we’ve been doing it for about seven years, and 2020 has been a disruptive but exciting year. And we’re having a lot of fun”, he adds.

Why It Works

Why exactly is The Sketch Effect an amazing tool to add engagement at virtual events? Because it helps people learn! As Michael explains, “any visual form of communication is tapping into the essence of visual learning. And the science backs it up. Because of the four main learning channels, which are verbal auditory, kinesthetic, and visual, science has settled on visual learning being the most effective of those four channels of learning. Effective in terms of comprehension of ideas, retention of ideas, idea efficiency, so how quickly you can communicate an idea, how fast. And then also a shareability, it’s just easier and more fun to share a picture or an image”.

Engagement At Virtual Events & More!

“Every type of engagement you can think of, we have most likely sketched for”, says William. “We’ve been brought in for a 20-minute keynote where the client brings in some really powerful speaker or it’s the CEO. And we’ve also done five, six day-long workshops where we come in, we’re working with a small team, and we’re working through a customer journey or a value chain We’ve also done massive arena events, a big conference or in a bigger arena. And we’re on stage with spotlights on us.  We’ve also done a small session where it’s just the CEO and maybe his like small leadership team. And we’re trying to work through a specific question or problem. So it’s every type of event and everything under the sun”.

Engagement At Virtual Events

The Sketch Effect has been ahead of the curve, even before virtual and hybrid events were the norm. William recalls that “in 2019 our team had a discussion and they said, you know what? We think digital is the future. As much as we love analog, we think digital is the future. And so at that point, fall of 2019, we equipped our entire team with iPad pros”.

“It was a big investment, but we thought, you know what? This is going to be where we’re going”, he adds. “Little did I know that a few months later the entire world would be going digital. And in early March of 2020, when all of a sudden the live events were just gone, we still had a team of artists that were equipped with digital tools to serve a digital event. We didn’t have to rush and scramble to get our gear out there. Because the artists were already well equipped to do that work”.

Going Virtual: What Changes?

“We’re still learning how it’s changing every day. But one thing that we’re learning, from a business standpoint, is that turnaround’s a lot quicker. Before, with in-person events, people would reach out months before. But now we get people to reach out days before and say, hey, we have a virtual event. Can you come sketch? So it’s just a faster sales cycle”, he explains.

“With everything being virtual, now that pre-event call is also a pre-event tech run through. So we make sure the artist is logged in. We’re covering all that pre-event stuff, learning about the event, learning about the subject, covering the agenda. But we’re also doing a tech run through and making sure the artists can log in, they can share their screen, they can access the platform”.

“Because there is an added layer of technical difficulties to figure out, to work through. We’re not worrying about missing flights or getting stuck in traffic like maybe we used to. But now we’re making sure that we can connect to the platform and the artists can screen share without any hiccups”, he adds.

New & Exciting Things

Optimized engagement at virtual events is The Sketch Effect’s specialty now. With the advent of virtual, they actually developed new and exciting deliverables! “Before, we would offer our clients a physical sketch. If it was physical on foam or paper, they would get to keep that and they would also get the digital image. Now they get the digital image, but they also will get a time-lapse recording of the sketch. And it sped up, it’s anywhere from 60 to 90 seconds. But it’s a really compelling form of followup”.

“And we always encourage and tell our clients that with a virtual event, they need to be thinking through the before, the during, and the after even more intentionally than they did before. With in-person events, it was all about the event, how great can you make that onsite experience for attendees. But with a virtual event, it’s important to hook them before, during, and also after”, explains William. “So we help assist with that after-phase of engaging attendees by equipping them with really cool, interesting forms of followup. It’s just a great way to improve engagement at virtual events, to reengage with the content”.

engagement at virtual events

What Does The Future Look Like?

“We’re already thinking through the next iteration of this virtual sketching thing”, says William. “And we’ve hashed out a lot of ideas. We’ve thought about building out a virtual sketching booth here in our office where there are cameras around the room that are doing different angles. And we thought about a tandem sketch where there are two people doing it at the same time. But a lot of the best ideas are coming from our clients. And I will say, we’re not the tech platform experts. We’re the creative experts, we’re the sketching experts. But we’re learning a lot of things from our clients who have really great platforms and really great tech and how we can integrate into it”.

“Our mission at The Sketch Effect is to help make ideas understandable and turn them into actionable visuals. That’s just how we do it. So we’re married to our mission, but we’re not married to the method. So if there’s a cool approach or some new way to carry out our mission and serve our clients, we’re eager to try it. And so in fact, 2020 has been a really difficult year, but it’s also been a really exciting year. Because it’s forced us to try stuff and to innovate and to push the boundaries and not be so locked into how we’ve always done it, but to be looking forward”, William concludes.

One Final Thought

When it comes to engagement at virtual events, William leaves us with top advice. “Don’t copy-paste what you would have done for an in-person event into a virtual event. It can’t be the same. It can’t look the same. And there has to be more intentionality put into the before, the during, and the after. And so from a tech standpoint, I would encourage you to try to make it as creative as possible. I think there are a lot of ways to push it beyond just the way it’s meant to be done”.

Conclusions

And that’s a wrap on yet another exciting episode of the Event Tech Podcast! Remember to consider everything William has told us about engagement at virtual events. The importance of going beyond just the typical Zoom webinar is growing and growing as the world and the industry shift around us.

If you’re looking for help with your upcoming virtual or hybrid event, don’t hesitate to contact us – the Endless team is here to help. And stay tuned for more amazing content, every week!

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Will Curran

Author Will Curran

Information junkie, energetic, and work-a-holic are just some of the words we can use to describe Will Curran. Aside from spending 20 out of 24 hours a day working as the Chief Event Einstein of Endless Events, you can catch Will ordering a chai latte or watching The Flash with his cats. He is also well known for his love of all things pretzels.

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