Tips on Managing Your Virtual Events
How are you all doing? Hope you've been taking care, healing, and processing during these unprecedented times.
So many of our worlds have been completely rocked to the core - including my own as an events producer. Many of us associate our work's purpose with how we're able to connect and this has proven more challenging with quarantine, social distancing, and the mass changes/ mandates we're seeing around us. We all have our part to play and support in moving our communities forward.
My hope is that some of the art and processes I've adapted and created through my pivoting events can support in your journey to move your community forward.
I'll be taking more moments to reflect and share some best practices for the following in this article:
Moving events onto the virtual platform
Navigating connection through technology
Best practices and inspiring innovations
So let's dive right in and hope it helps a bit along your journey!
[Beyond life-changing virtual moment - Being on a Zoom with Arnel Pineda, Lead Singer of Journey, as he accepted the City of San Diego's Proclamation for Philippine Independence Day - June 14, 2020]
Moving Events Onto The Virtual Platform
Your first step will most likely look something like - "Ok. I want to connect with my community still despite everything going on. If I can't meet in-person, how can I connect with them?"
Well my dear friend, after you've made the choice to try and adapt, you'll most likely see that so many communities are being connected through the power of virtual platforms.
Here's some of the most common tips I could have used when beginning the trek:
Get comfortable with the virtual platform you choose to operate on. From the research and participation I've conducted over the past 3 months, the most common virtual platforms used for events are: Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Zoom Live / Webinar, WebEx Live / Webinar, Twitch Live, and Youtube Video Premieres. Each area has its own pros, cons, and logistics.
Knowing your audience and where they are most likely to engage with you is your key to success. Choose the platform your audience connects with you most and what they have regular access to. Where do you send them to follow your updates?
Streaming on multiple platforms can support multiple communities! If your audience happens to engage with you on multiple platforms, multiple streams gives you an opportunity to understand and quantify the differences between how they engage live on the different platforms. Lots of great metrics to observe since many of the platforms offer in-depth numeric insights on views, timing, and real-time interfacing. Being ready to respond to all layers and logistics may require a team to support the quality of the events.
Practice with the virtual platform a couple of times. In our event world, putting out 'fires' is often best done by taking the necessary steps and precautions ahead of time to prevent them. In the case of virtual events, testing your platform and livestream a couple of times before the day-of helps mitigate some of the most common event issues.
Don't be afraid to take the leap in trying new things. There is beauty in the world simultaneously recognizing we are all on new footing due to the pandemic. It means we should not be hard on ourselves for not knowing the answer to everything, but simply trying to move in a direction that still engages with the hope you aim to bring to your community through events and support services. Convincing myself to still try, still build was probably one of the toughest battles I faced initially. But I was glad every time I did try because it helped me seek inspiration, connect with new opportunities, and learn from my own trials to grow the space even more. I'll dive more into the new things sort of methodology I've tried in a separate article [ coming soon. ]
Navigating Connection Through Technology
Technology is moving at such a wildly rapid rate - it's no wonder our learning curve feels like we're climbing an endless upward ladder. The instantaneous 'news feed' many of us engage in is a boggling communication feat and tool/ resource/ entertainment/ weapon/ network/ and however else users can imagine on the spectrum.
While this article is primarily on engaging through virtual platforms and the highlights of connecting through the space, I will say that we all definitely need to remember and understand when we need to take a break mentally from it (and understand where others fall on this scale too).
Since my degree is in marketing with ample experience is in logistics coordination, I figured I'd share some other key tips on connecting your event to its marketing strategy:
Marketing via word-of-mouth will always be the strongest authentic connection point. Marketing experts around the globe will explain to businesses that word-of-mouth marketing (sometimes referred to as viva voce) is your STRONGEST form of marketing. It boils down to the fact that TRUST goes a long way in how a consumer will interact with your product/ service. Spreading your event (especially through personal invitations) to your immediate network/ community and the immediate network of your team is one of the best starting points for getting people to attend.
Don't get stuck in the echo chamber - consistent call-outs and connected groups can go a long way! Although our posts on social media feel like the center of everyone's attention and we'll say, "Wait, did you see my post?" Often times, our audience simply won't see it due to frequency online and the facebook algorithm which is now designed to crave ad dollars. Don't be afraid to be consistent with your posts, look into the business insights of your page on when your audience is most engaged, and speak directly into facebook groups you're well-connected with for a pop-up notification on the right people's feeds.
Make sure programmed speakers, artists, etc are familiarized and navigated through the virtual platform. Going back to the point earlier that event producers extinguish event 'fires' will also make you realize everyone needs to be well-informed and on the same page when it comes to these new virtual platforms. The familiarization and in-depth transparency of sharing your online logistics is crucial with individuals/ groups you're programming with and it never hurts to test out the platform a few times before.
If your audience is NOT tech-savvy, figure out what grounds to meet them on in their communication comfort zone. I've learned that the Bayside Community Center, one of the groups I'm appreciative to work with for the Linda Vista Multi-Cultural Fair, still delivers their food and programs directly to senior's doors. They have a system of calling and socially-distanced / contactless delivery that still allows them to communicate and connect for important services.
Best Practices and Inspiring Innovations
Part of my artistic process for creating better events for our communities is rooted in seeking out inspirations in cities around the world. I believe that if we can understand some of the best models created for connection, we can hone in on the core experiences and build within our own resources.
Before COVID, this research meant immersing myself in celebrations, festivals, programs, dialogues, and community hubs trailblazing and impacting attendees in meaningful ways. With distance and safety now at the forefront, it's been quite fascinating watching how the leaders in our event industries and community leaders in our neighborhoods have pivoted and continue to push the virtual realms.
Below are just a few of the trailblazers I've come to continually get inspired by:
Balay Kreative / Kultivate Labs / UNDSCVRD SF - Always in awe of this masterpiece of a team building for the Filipinx community in ways that uplift everyone together. From #FeedingTheFrontlines, artist grants, marketing bootcamps, to virtual performance spaces rooted in social justice - I aspire to build and bridge with communities as rich with culture and creativity as these outstanding groups.
Insomniac and Electric Daisy Carnival [EDC] - Pasquale Rotella and the magnitude of opportunities/ art he has created through Insomniac and its Electric Daisy Carnival is a dream come true. EDC transitioned to a virtual livestream with gorgeous visuals, set designs, world-class performers, and it was all lead by the icon himself. In one of the first EDC boxes I received, his loose quote of 'We may forget the exact details of the moment, but we never forget the way these experiences make us feel' has never left me as an event producer. The core of why I create event experiences is so deeply rooted in how we hope to make our audience feel in the moment and going forward. Is this how we change the world? Perhaps.
DGTL LIB [Lightning In A Bottle] - I tell many friends and colleagues this, but Lightning In A Bottle is one of my top event inspirations. There was a seamless culture created of blurring the lines between what the event team creates and what the community built as part of the 'transformative' experience. With the postponement of our nation's largest events, their team shifted to create the Virtual LIB experience that combined live-streaming performances from top performers, creating digital virtual reality realms, featuring live artists and dancers alongside musical accompaniments, and opening the experience to attendees to share their own personal stories. This specific experience lead me to try and build a similar space for our San Diego community - the San Diego N' Me Experience. [Side note: My heart goes out to Dream Rockwell for being ripped from the beautiful creation she helped manifest, but I hope the traces of her spirit still linger in the festival.]
The Fungineers - This group continues to create in some of the most epic, imaginative ways I've ever seen and across countless mediums: puppetry, music, visuals, set design, dance, etc. "The Fungineers are a super group of fantastic Funovators who create colorful music, videos, live shows, and more. My first interaction was when I stumbled into their late-night living room show at Lightning In A Bottle FULL of moments that made me question what was curated, what was improv, and what simply appeared by fate of the galaxyy. It rocked my world on immersives and since then, they've developed a moving ice cream truck musical experience, a creative warehouse, and a weekly improv show (definitely on the mature side haha).
Virtual Town Halls - Lead by groups like The People's Collective for Justice and Liberation or the AAPI Presidential Town Hall, being apart of 2000+ people on virtual town halls addressing the critical points of need in our society has been powerful. Learning from experts and groups who have been on the ground continuing to work to serve provides more meaning to how we approach our own situations. The way these groups make the information accessible (ASL-provided translation) and digestible for learning (graphic recording by artists) has been moving.
Phew. It's only been a couple of months navigating this new terrain, but it's been a beautiful learning curve. I'll try to stop back from time to time to add in any other pieces that might be particularly helpful to everyone.
If you have any direct questions, I'd love to chat more. Feel free to connect with me (email usually works best) and we'll build from there!
Last updated: 6/30/2020