Going Virtual:  Bringing People Together in a Time of Quarantine


Many of our clients are asking us about how to successfully implement virtual events. As experts in bringing people together through live events and keynote speakers (self-tooting horn alert!), we created the primer/FAQ below to help meeting planners understand and execute virtual events. 

For some of you this may be very familiar – consider it a refresher.  For others it could be your first foray into virtual content delivery.  We hope there is a lot here that you can learn from and implement.

This post will cover four key areas of virtual events: 

  1. What specific actions meeting planners should be taking in the short term as we adjust to the new normal. 
  2. What are the different formats and delivery options for online content. (Hint: You can’t just slap a keynote onto an iPhone camera.)
  3. What platforms are most effective for virtual meetings.
  4. What are the different pricing structures around virtual content and how can meeting planners maximize the value and long term impact of online content.

The Agents of Gotham are ready to get creative with you to bring your audiences together in unique and engaging way!

Let’s GO!

What should I be doing RIGHT NOW?  

Get Content Out NOW!

Successfully working from home and staying engaged in a remote environment is a learned skill that is honed over time.  Start offering robust online content as soon as possible to your audiences in order to keep them engaged and inspired. We have compiled a list of the most requested topics and speakers that can be found here. This list will be updated regularly, so bookmark this page for continual inspiration and trends! 


Prepare a Virtual Event Contingency Plan:

With the uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been advocating to Buyers to have a Virtual Event Contingency Plan in place. By educating your audience early and often that your event will take place “rain or shine” (“live or virtual”) you will be able to mitigate any potential drop off in attendees (and sponsors) should you need to move your event online. The educational component of your conferences should go on no matter what.





CONTENT: What Topics are Meeting Planners Asking Us About Right Now? 

Organizations are immediately focused on keeping their employees happy and engaged and hopeful during these challenging times.  We are seeing a big push for content covering work/life balance, maintaining company culture, happiness, mental health and wellness. We are even being asked for speakers to provide live concerts, body movement and yoga exercises as part of their presentations! 

Other groups are interested in hearing about business and the economic landscape. They want nuts and bolts advice on how to survive this economic downturn, how to minimize damage to the bottom line or avoid making layoffs, and a road map for the next 6-12 months so they can accurately forecast their business, weather the storm, and be poised to bounce back in a big way once life returns to normal. 

Leadership in general has always been a popular topic for our clients. Now more than ever we are getting requests for experts on leadership, specifically Leading Through Crisisto help business leaders and organizations maintain a steady hand at the wheel in turbulent times.

For more ideas on topics, content and the specific speakers that can deliver on them, check our other post here.


FORMAT: What works best for virtual content?  

Unlike a standard keynote presentation which ranges in length from 45 to 60 minutes, a virtual presentation is not constrained to an hour format. In fact, it’s pretty hard to keep people’s attention for that long through a virtual meeting.  Many of the speakers that we’ve spoken to are recommending breaking up their content into smaller segments. 

For example, a one-hour keynote could be broken up into four 15-minute sessions followed by Q&A delivered once a week for four weeks. This format gives you a chance to dive deep into specific topics without losing the attention of your audience. 

Another possibility is to have four different speakers on four different segments spread out over a month. This slower drip of content will have a longer lasting impact than a one-hour keynote.

Other Options:

  1. Pre-recorded keynotes
    1. It can be challenging to have everyone connect at the same time – especially with so many people now acting as school teachers and full time caregivers.  A pre-recorded keynote can be shared so that audience members can watch at their convenience. A live Q&A session can be scheduled with the speaker following.  
  2. Live Q&A Sessions 
    1. Bring in a topic expert!  Question can either come directly from the audience or through a conversation moderated by one of your executives
  3. Virtual Speaker Series
    1. Engage multiple speakers across a range of relevant topics to bring together a collection of highly focused single topic videos that can be sent as a series to your audiences.  
  4. Executive Coaching and Consulting
    1. Speakers are happy to consider virtual consulting and coaching.  In fact, this is usually one of their core lines of business in addition to their keynote speaking.  Use this time to take your team or your career to the next level!

Basically, the sky is the limit on formatting options.  Gotham will work creatively with you and the speaker to customize a program that meets your specific needs.  These programs can be up and running very quickly (which goes back to our first point: Get content out now!). 


Let’s Get Technical: Which Software or Services are Best for Virtual Meetings?


Many large corporations and universities already use an in-house software or service provider for online meetings. In these cases, hosting a virtual meeting can be as simple as having your speaker sign on to your existing system and update their slides to match your in-house design. 

For smaller organizations or those without the technical reach, there are several off the shelf solutions. We recommend Zoom. It’s the most well-known and reliable service on the market. Their webinar solution costs as little as $40 for up to 100 participants, with the capacity to go up to 10000 attendees. (The pricing chart is below). Features include having multiple speakers in multiple locations simultaneously (e.g. so your CEO can do a remote Q&A with the speaker, showing just their two screens), the ability for participants to ask questions in real time, and to allow the speaker to interact with the audience through real-time polling. 

Additional options include:

  1. Google Hangouts
  2. GoToWebinar
  3. Adobe Connect 
  4. Skype for Business

How Much Does it Cost?  Leveraging Uncertainty To Your Advantage

Even though we are all Social Distancing, speakers still want to do what they do best: connect, engage and help audiences.   

Traditionally, virtual programs are priced lower than a live in-person keynote as it takes less of the speaker’s time if there is no travel involved.  Given this “new normal,” many speakers we’ve spoken to are open to discounted rates for virtual events at this time. This reduced pricing structure offers an opportunity to bring in a speaker virtually that may have been out of budget for a live, in person keynote.  

You also have the opportunity to have a speaker build a custom, online experience for your audience around your budget.  This could include Q&A with teams and executives, follow-up sessions, online tools, personalized sessions, social media promotion etc.  The long-lasting value of such programs is invaluable.  

What’s the Bottom Line:  

Gotham Artists is here to help you as we always have.  Our knowledge and experience and creativity can help you navigate this uncertain time in ways that will bring your teams together and position your audiences to not only weather this storm,  but to also be stronger and better ready to maneuver in whatever new environment we find ourselves in once this crisis has passed.