Have you been looking everywhere for tips on engaging in virtual experiences? And do you feel a bit lost in the midst of all the craziness? Well, you’re not alone! With everything going on in the industry, planners are facing several challenges. But thankfully, not everything is lost. Because thanks to virtual events, planners everywhere can keep on doing what they do best. And that is, of course, bring people together and create amazing experiences. The paradigm might have changed, but if there is something industry professionals know how to do, it’s keeping up with the motions.
So this week, we’re continuing the trend of bringing you exciting virtual event tips. And we have a very special guest to help us out! Brian Fanzo is a digital futurist and full-time keynote speaker who’s here to share his knowledge about engaging virtual event experiences. Joined by our incredible host Sarah Christl, Brian has quite a bit of good stuff to teach us. So press play and join us for another amazing episode of #EventIcons!
Brian’s Origin Story
Before they dive deep into the topic of creating engaging virtual experiences, Sarah wants to know how Brian ended up in the events industry. “In 2005, I had a manager tell me that since I was one of the non-gray-haired people in our cybersecurity department, they would love for me to speak on cybersecurity. They sent me to training and taught me public speaking. I ended up speaking on behalf of the government as well as the cybersecurity initiatives that we were doing. As that world took off, I left the government, went to a startup as an evangelist, and then, I started one on my own,” he says.
“Every single week, my team was deploying up to four classes a week at different military bases around the world. So we got really good at leveraging technology. We shipped laptops and then we had servers that went with it. We were taking virtual, or I’d say digital, on the road with us to teach these classes,” he adds. “If we embrace virtual experiences in a very holistic way, it will allow us to be better humans and feel more connected. And I’ve been trying to get people to see that light.”
A Shift From Skype To Zoom!
And now, we’re all seeing that light, whether we want it or not. “Fast forward to 2020, all of a sudden people are all virtual. Now, we care about cyber, but we also want our jobs to be easy.”
“If you look at Zoom right before Zoom as we know it now existed, we had Skype. They were number one,” Brian says. But there was one problem. “When you invited someone to a Skype call, it was like downloading three different pieces of software. You get an update and get logged in with a new account.”
Zoom simplified that process. “All of a sudden, I could get my dad or anyone on the Zoom. Because of that, we’ve seen some interesting results,” he laughs. “Lots of people that don’t know what the mute button is or how to conduct themselves in that arena.”
Engaging Virtual Experiences: Socio’s EventHack 2020
So, let’s talk virtual events. “I was able to see a really engaging virtual experience a couple of weeks ago,” says Sarah. “Socio’s EventHack 2020 was truly one of the most incredible virtual events that I have seen.”
Brian was a speaker at the EventHack. “For the last five years growing my speaking business, I’ve live-streamed my podcast to grow my offline business. But when it comes to virtual events, beyond a webinar, I’m all about doing things in different ways. And so Socio reached out to me and said: ‘Hey, Brian, we love what you’re trying to do from a speaker’s perspective to reinvent engaging virtual experiences – be a part of our event’.”
“We used breakout rooms and shared documents by using Google slides and Google docs,” he explains. Sarah tells him that she was particularly impressed by Brian’s use of a Prezi video in his talk.
Engaging Virtual Experiences: 3 Videos, Multiple Cameras
Brian shares his knowledge of designing engaging virtual experiences. “Every virtual event should have three videos. If it’s live, it should be interactive. We should see the comments. Something should be personalized. If it’s going to be a talk that isn’t going to be interactive during the talk or incorporate comments, or you’ll be really in that moment, I believe that should be prerecorded. With prerecorded, you have a chance to edit lighting. You can do multiple takes to say different things, but it’s not something that’s overly produced. At the same time, it allows you to add a live Q&A at the end.”
And the third type of video? “Produced video. Think about how you can integrate an interview or some B-roll,” Brian adds.
“I saw Andrew Davis do an interactive blackboard. He was drawing on it. On the screen, we could see it the other way around, so he used a mirror and a DSLR camera. He was using neon markers, for example.” Kind of like what Will Curran does on Whiteboard Wednesdays!
Just like many event profs, Brian thinks that you can do wonders with multiple cameras in virtual and hybrid event productions. “In my office here, I have three cameras set up with different vantage points,” he adds.
Engaging Virtual Experiences: Bite-Sized Content
“Do you have any other tips for people that have to be a speaker at this virtual level for the first time and maybe don’t know that they need to make their content specifically for virtual?” asks Sarah.
“It all comes back to thinking about the fact that we have to capture the attention of our virtual audience. In a virtual space, the audience has all the power and all of the decision-making to go where they want, when they want, how they want, and consume content in whatever format they want. If we respect the fact that the audience has that ability, then it’s something that we have to rethink,” says Brian.
Brian says we have to think about the best way to deliver content in the virtual world. “When’s the last time you’ve watched 60 minutes in a row of a video piece of content? The easiest advice for creating engaging virtual experiences is taking your talk and asking yourself how can I divide this into bite-sized pieces of content. I tell a lot of my speakers that I’m coaching to turn one 60-minute talk into six episodes of content and start thinking of them as episodes on Netflix.”
Let Your Audience Get To Know You
A great virtual event speaker‘s responsibilities go beyond talking on the stage. “When you start a presentation, even the words that I put into my bio for the intro, all of them are strategically placed so that it can start to build trust and convey with the audience that this is worth their time. I can start my presentation off of stories and connect all these dots. And for me as a speaker, one of the things I’ve done with every event that has hired me is I send them a couple of different videos and tell them to send that out to their team,” say Brian.
“Use the one as a Facebook ad. I would love for them to get to know me before I get on stage. I wanted to use every minute of my talk to provide as much value as possible, not spend time having to convince you I’m worth your time. And so, the virtual component to me has so much new value. Imagine if you’re engaging with a speaker twice a month for the nine months leading up to that event. Not only do you already trust them, you also know what to expect.”
Remember: Limitations Inspire Creativity
Brian shares one last piece of advice before he bids Sarah farewell. “Limitations inspire creativity, but don’t let endless limitations stop you from implementing anything.We look at virtual and we get overwhelmed fast. There’s live video. There’s produced video. There’s YouTube, Zooms, fireside talks, breakout rooms. All of a sudden, we start worrying about everything.”
“My tip is this: let virtual inspire you to do new things. So many things can be done in virtual, from hosting a virtual happy hour to engaging audiences with a gift card.”
Create Your Own Engaging Virtual Event Experiences!
Download our free virtual event planning checklist today and learn what you have to do every step of the way to create an unforgettable experience for tour attendees. And if you’re looking for the best virtual event production company out there, chat with us! The Endless team is here to help.
Make sure you join us again next week for another iconic episode. In case you’re interested in extra virtual event content, click here to learn more while you wait for another #EventIcons!
Editor’s Note: This post was updated by Anja Grcar on September 30th, 2021.