From product launches to workout classes, all-hands meetings to celebrity meet-and-greets, virtual events are a click away on any device. And as audiences become adept at integrating virtual experiences into their daily workday and leisure time, entrepreneurs, creators and marketing executives — the decision-makers building event strategy — are tasked with connecting with their customers, audience and fans in altogether new ways. In order to be successful, these decision-makers need to understand the current livestream landscape, their audience and their business goals.
Here’s how creators and decision-makers are recasting their hybrid and livestream strategy and why, in many ways, livestreaming is more important than ever when mapping out business and engagement goals.
The evolution of virtual event experiences
A captive audience, hunched over the blue glare of their laptops, silently watching a webinar. It’s a virtual event cliche — and it’s holding content creators back. People are now casting virtual events to their TV, streaming it on a viewing platform or watching along on their phones — and they may be doing all of these at once. At the same time, competition for attention is fierce: Not only do virtual events compete with real world experiences, they also compete with content creators across platforms and mediums.
“We’ve entered into an era where virtual-only events are no longer an option,” says Christina Tang, director of events and experiences at Demandbase, an account-based marketing and data company. She says that while events are coming back in-person, they will now always need to have a virtual component as an option, because audiences have come to enjoy the flexibility of choice. “In 2022, 60% of the events we participated to date were virtual and the remaining 40% were hybrid events.”
But leaning into a virtual and hybrid strategy demands innovation. BlueJeans Events, a virtual event platform, has elevated the typical, one-way virtual event experience with the launch of BlueJeans Studio production tools. Designed for content creators, BlueJeans Studio puts the power of creating professional-grade livestreams, including opportunities for audience engagement, within an all-in-one platform that doesn’t require specialized audio-visual technology or production knowledge.
“The pandemic accelerated digital transformation in so many different ways, but maybe none more radical than the general acceptance of using video for business communications,” says Zachary Bosin, vice president of product marketing and communications at BlueJeans by Verizon. “With virtual events now being a cornerstone for organizations of every size, we are seeing tremendous interest for a holistic platform that can stream flawlessly at scale and deliver real-time broadcast quality production tools that amaze their audience.”
Content’s escalating value
Another upside of hosting digital events is the ability to create content that lasts, which can then be utilized across departments within an organization. Utilizing livestream capabilities, even in an otherwise traditional “live event,” allows content to go farther, both for lead generation and content creation throughout the year.
Tang adds that, in her experience, hybrid events bring enhanced value to live gatherings. Tang cites a recent industry event that her company helped sponsor. “We wanted real-time event engagement in person, from the one-to-one interactions in the booth, sessions or through meetings. But if we can capture additional qualified results in a hybrid environment, that works in our favor as well. For example, even though we were in person, we were able to capture an additional 17% of leads through utilizing a virtual component.”
Plus, adding hybrid components to event strategy allows businesses to scale within budget. “Increasing attendance without paying out the costs for a bigger venue means a higher return on investment as well,” says Naeem Alvi-Assinder, founder of Notepad, a branding and advertising agency. “Not to mention, there’s more space and opportunities for sponsor participation. It seems like a win-win situation for companies and the audience.”
Decision-makers also need to find opportunities to produce events and livecasts on a platform that allows for customization and optimization for an audience that has high expectations from video.
“When it comes to video, there has always been a certain mystique about who has the chops to actually produce something that is broadcast quality,” Bosin says. “Content creators need the right tools to bring their creativity to bear. We want to bridge the gap between the creator community and businesses to fuel a whole new type of content creation and delivery approach that leverages livestreaming to power audience engagement worldwide.”
How to future-proof your virtual strategy
As events evolve, so do audience expectations. But businesses don’t necessarily have the bandwidth or budget to continually invest in a dedicated production team. More than ever, creators need a nimble platform that can allow them to quickly pivot and create events that make the most sense.
And this anchors on understanding your unique audience. “To be successful, strategists need to maximize each touchpoint and realize it presents an opportunity to learn more about audiences, whether that’s through polls, quizzes or other content forms,” says Nicholas Love, vice president of global marketing at Hotwire Global. “Leveraging surprise-and-delight tactics across multiple devices or channels also ensures you’re creating moments that drive recall.”
As audience needs evolve, BlueJeans Studio provides content creators layers of customization with just a few clicks, including the ability to engage audiences through polls, chats and question-and-answer sections.
“At the end of the day, every virtual event host must ask themselves whether the event was worth it. At BlueJeans, we have developed an attendee engagement index to better understand attention and participation at a very granular level,” Bosin says.
This is a statistic that measures audience engagement by surveying an attendee’s participation during the event, how much time they spent having it on their computer’s screen, and how long they may have attended the event. The attendee engagement index can be a critical tool to help tweak future strategy. “An engaged audience is internalizing the content, swizzling it around, and hopefully sparking a dialogue. That’s the holy grail,” Bosin says.
This may mean creating events that target more niche audience interests than bringing them broad one-size-fits-all programming. “Across the market, we’re seeing less online gatherings and more coverage of timely topics that answer questions audiences have, from how to get started in crypto to how to handle stress and burnout,” says Jodi Patkin, senior vice president of brand marketing and communications at theSkimm, a subscription-based news media company that hosts multiple virtual and hybrid events each month. “While in the early pandemic, virtual events were really focused on creating a sense of community while so many were isolated, today we’re seeing resonance and response to timely topics, informative and actionable content hosted by editors, talent, and brand partners.”
At the end of the day, a livestream, webinar or virtual meet-and-greet relies on these sort of strategic decisions that best meet the needs of a brand and their audience. But to fully execute on their vision, creators need a dependable platform that allows them to engage with audiences in the way they know best. When creators choose the right platform, they can then customize their virtual experiences to truly deliver a best-in-class experience that drives results.
From BlueJeans Studio:
BlueJeans Studio allows you to produce stunning, professional-grade livestreams within BlueJeans Events. BlueJeans Studio gives you the ability to create TV-quality livestreams that engage your audience and elevate your brand. Easy to create, with no production expertise needed, dynamic on-screen layouts, and interactive options to engage audiences, BlueJeans can elevate any virtual event, from influencer events to product demos to company all-hands. Find out more: at bluejeans.com/products/events/studio.