March 26, 2020

How to develop better content and creative for virtual events

Jeff Vara
Director, Creative Strategy

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, countless events and conferences scheduled over the next few months have gone virtual. This means that audiences have tons of choices about which online events they’ll attend. If an event isn’t engaging, an attendee will click away—the equivalent of walking out of the room.

As a company that’s produced virtual events for years for companies like Samsung and The Home Depot, something we know is this: No matter how your audience consumes your message, there are some fundamental guidelines for creating engaging—and memorable—events. 

Arguably, these guidelines are even more important when it comes to a virtual event. Why? Because you’re competing with powerful digital distractions like constantly pinging email and notifications, Netflix, Twitter, Instagram—you get the picture. 

Obviously, it’s pointless to create a presentation if no one wants to watch it.

One of the greatest advantages of staging live events is the energy, excitement and common sense of purpose you can generate with an audience that’s all in one place. There are amazing opportunities to engage, network, relate and communicate. 

Plus, the audience is less likely to get up and leave. Or shut you off. 

With a virtual event, this isn’t the case. 

There are innumerable ways to keep an audience engaged during an in-person event. But do these same actions apply to online events? 

This is where having a strong creative and content development team on your side can really help.

Content drives creative

Whether we’re working on a live event, media element or a virtual meeting, we always start with defining the message. This is the foundation for everything we produce. 

A few questions we ask: 

  • Do you have a singular takeaway? If your audience remembers only one thing–what would that be?
  • What do you want your audience to do with the information? 
  • Why are you the person to deliver this content; or make the ask of the audience?

When we have the answers we need, only then do we start scripting and creative ideation. In a future post, we’ll address how we develop scripts for events. For now, we’ll just say that we’re firm believers that all content should be current, relevant and actionable.

One of my favorite sayings is, “Content drives creative.” 

When our creative decisions and deliverables are directly inspired by the requirements of the message, that’s when we’re at our best. That’s when it clicks. With virtual meetings, we have the unique opportunity to merge some of the elements of an in-person live event with a full complement of technical and creative television broadcasting tools.

One of our deepest strengths is designing and producing the staging and scenic environments for virtual meetings. 

While not as physically big as some of our live events, our sets are dynamic, multi-functional and—most importantly—they look awesome on camera. Creating a sense of place that’s special goes a long way to make your audience feel like they’re experiencing something unique and worth watching. 

Picture this

So, what are attendees watching? 

Well, just because you’re streaming a virtual meeting, whether live or on-demand, it doesn’t mean you’re limited to one person on the screen at a time while you cut back and forth between PowerPoint slides. (Remember, distractions can easily pull a virtual audience away.)

We combine unique screen configurations that include presenter images and animated graphics that mirror today’s news and sports programming. The choreography between the presenter(s) and supporting graphics requires a clear understanding of the objectives and cadence of the individual. 

This can only occur with ample pre-production time and live rehearsals. We’re big fans of both.

Video field trips

Taking advantage of today’s high-bandwidth capabilities, we incorporate live and pre-produced video within virtual events. Taking your audience on a video field trip to see other places, and hear from people who aren’t physically at the primary broadcasting location, adds an entirely new dimension to the experience. 


And for interactivity, we include real-time audience polls and surveys. Giving your viewers a chance to react, respond and engage in the program in ways that may even affect the outcome. 

Including the audience in the program should be a top priority whenever possible. Even though your audience is remote, we stand a much better chance of them understanding—and acting—on your message if we can make them feel involved.

Let’s get virtual

There’s definitely some commonality between live and virtual events, but there are also some important differences when developing and executing creative for each. If you’re in need of an experienced partner with a clear understanding of your message and desired outcomes for your next virtual event, get in touch with Hartmann Studios. We produce uber-engaging experiences that maximize messaging retention and will move your audience to action.

More Stories