In the world of events, virtual has become the forefront this year. But as we move further into 2021, hybrid events are taking center stage.
Carolyn Waldron-Parr, Executive Video Producer at OVATION, and Peter Gentile, VP of Sales at OVATION, were asked to be guests on Cvent’s podcast series, How Great Events Happen, hosted by Brooke Gracey, Senior Manager, Demand Generation, and Cody Liskh, Team Lead, Event Quarterback Team. In this episode, they touch on topics about:
- How virtual event technology has evolved
- What audiences are now expecting to see
- How content is key in a virtual or hybrid setting
Tune in to listen to this and so much more!
Speaker 1 (Brooke) (00:02):
Welcome to the How Great Events Happen podcast. I’m Cody and I’m Brooke, and we’re coming to you today from our respective home offices in Portland, Oregon.
Speaker 2 (Cody) (00:13):
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Speaker 1 (Brooke) (00:37):
Today we have Peter Gentile, the VP of Sales and Carolyn Waldron-Parr who is the Executive Video Producer with OVATION.
Speaker 2 (Cody) (00:44):
That’s right. OVATION helps make live event experiences for growth-driven companies who want to make an impact and elevate their brand.
Speaker 1 (Brooke) (00:52):
So if you’re running a virtual event, you’re not going to want to miss what these guys have to say.
Speaker 2 (Cody) (00:59):
All right, Peter and Carolyn, thank you so much for joining the podcast, but for those of us who are not familiar, can you give us a little bit of a brief background on OVATION and how you became the Executive Video Producer and the VP of Sales?
Speaker 3 (Peter) (01:11):
Absolutely. Cody, listen, thanks for the opportunity to connect with you today. OVATION is an experiential events agency. For the past 25 years, we’ve been working closely with our clients to create unique experiences for their attendees in both live events and virtual events and what we believe the future of this world is going to become as hybrid events. I’ve been fortunate to be a member of the OVATION team now for the past year and a half and have a lengthy background working in both agency level work as well as live event and virtual event production with many of my clients for the past, almost 20 years.
Speaker 4 (Carolyn) (01:47):
Oh, well thank you, Peter. What a lovely introduction. Hi, I’m Carolyn. I’m the Executive Video Producer at OVATION. I’ve been here for about a year. My background is chiefly in video production first and foremost. In the last seven or eight years, I’ve been in the live event realm. As Peter said, it’s now more of a hybrid experience. But, I began my career as a videographer and editor. So now I find myself, um, managing teams of folks that do that work. So I have a foot in both worlds, I guess you could say.
Speaker 3 (Peter) (02:19):
If I can add to that…you know, one of the things we’re finding in particularly why someone like Carolyn is so valuable. In this world of virtual, content is everything. And being able to deliver smart content, whether it be, you know, presentations that could be live or pre-recorded or certainly meaningful, um, visual or video pieces that really add to the story. And I think the biggest message we’re really sharing with our clients is to be thoughtful about that content in a way that once it’s created that it really has evergreen potential. So I know with Carolyn, she’s working with a lot of our clients on their virtual events, but that content is really delivered for today, certainly, but meant to stand for tomorrow. So, plus we like having her around.
Speaker 4 (Carolyn) (03:00):
Speaker 1 (Brooke) (03:03):
I mean, I was going to say the same thing, Peter. So I just have to plus one everything you just said because you know, part of my day job is working on the marketing team and figuring out now how we can take what we’ve traditionally done in person, virtual. And I have to say, I feel like some days I am a Video Producer. It’s sort of this new role that we’re all learning. And I think back to April when like the whole world was different and to today, and there’s just so many changes that have happened. So, what are some of those main differences that you’re seeing now versus what was being produced, you know, at the beginning of this whole pandemic?
Speaker 3 (Peter) (03:40):
Yeah. Brooke, that’s an excellent question. Um, and I’ll tell you, I just said to someone this morning, I think we should all have, uh, at the very least masters degrees in Zoom by this point. Listen, when the world shifted in the spring, I think the most important thing people recognized at that moment was we need to communicate. And at this moment I don’t really care how I do it, or we do it, but it needs to be consistent and it needs to be effective. So what we found out of the gate initially is a lot of folks rushed into the, you know, readily available tools like Zoom or other resources like that, that most people had fairly intuitive share content. And I think for them it was a stop gap measure and it was really one that was focused on delivery of message and hopeful connectivity to the audience.
Speaker 4 (Carolyn) (04:27):
Right. But how interesting is that though at first it, it put a band-aid on the problem, right? You’ve got your Zoom layout. You’ve got your Brady Bunch look. And Ann B. Davis, starring as Alice, in the middle there. And I think, I think people just at first it was okay. And I think as you’re getting into late spring, even early summer, you started to see the shift where, uh, folks are trying to even be more interesting with it and, you know, in, in whatever way possible. So, you know, we, we were producing some events that had MC’s or hosts. So we would send a one person camera crew to that person’s house. We would send them a branded backdrop for the event. And at least that MC had an opportunity to kind of brand that experience. And it wasn’t just a webcam view. I think people became really hungry to not just be looking at the ceiling of whatever home office that they were Zooming from.
Speaker 3 (Peter) (05:20):
Well, every conversation that we have right now begins with the statement: I want this to be more than a Zoom meeting and I want to be able to connect my audiences in ways that feel important and feel critical to them, and I want to share information that is of the same manner, and I want to give them ways to connect and engage with each other. So I think Brooke, you know, to answer the question directly — what we’re finding right now is that people have been through a lot of the, let’s call it Zoom or early, uh, webinar fatigue. They’re finding that there is an appetite out there for folks to be able to connect in this way. But now they’re trying to raise the game around the production. So, thinking about the quality of the content, thinking about pre-recording more so than live, and really making those moments stand up. And then I think, uh, you know, looking at the frequency of the connectivity and really being able to share information in a timely manner. Those are all things.
Speaker 4 (Carolyn) (06:11):
Yeah. And if I’m looking at what, uh, in contrast with the shows that we’re producing now, versus what we were doing in May, I’d say you’re getting, um, you know, the word, the word right now is hybrid production. And I think now that restrictions in certain areas of the country are lifting a bit, what we are able to do at this point is to have stripped down video crews in a studio environment. Maybe we’re pre-recording, maybe we’re pushing live feeds. So we’ve got, maybe your keynote presenters are in those rooms, in the studio to give it a more polished look with multiple cameras, very broadcast, very TV. We’re piping in remote participants, you know, you’ve got your folks from panels are coming in, possibly on an LED wall. So, you’re getting that taste of higher production value while still being able to communicate with folks across the country around the world really.
Speaker 1 (Brooke) (07:08):
Absolutely. And I was going to say too, I mean, there’s with virtual, it gives us access to a lot more than we may have had before. I don’t have to fly to Vegas to go to the event, but with that, it’s sort of like a double-edged sword because now people have options and they’re going to go to those events that are going to essentially entertain them while educating them with that higher production value. So, I mean, I have to imagine audience expectations have changed a ton since the beginning of this year. Are there other trends that you’re seeing as far as those expectations are concerned?
Speaker 3 (Peter) (07:41):
I mean, I think the answer is yes. And I think a lot of it has to do with interactions and networking and connectivity. You know, I think in the beginning, people were just happy to be on and hear some news or hear some updates. And I think what’s happened is, in so many cases, organizations are starting to get this experience right. And what they’re figuring out is they really need to lean into the attendees and give them choice, and give them options, and they need to give them a voice in terms of the content. So maybe sometimes it could be enabling attendees to participate and provide content. The other thing that we’re finding is the real need for interactivity. You know, I have more folks coming to me now asking for opportunities with platforms or experiences that enable one-on-one interactions or Birds of a Feather sessions. Or, how do we enable someone who’s like this profile, find someone else who’s like that profile and share information? So, I think the attendee expectation is high quality. The minute you lose connectivity or things look flat, I’m going to leave and you got to give me a lot of options and opportunity to engage with other people like me.
Speaker 1 (Brooke) (08:49):
I totally see that. I’m working on, um, you know, a virtual event right now. And it is definitely a whole new world, but, you know, I wanted to ask. What are your thoughts for increasing or improving audience engagement? How would you go about that?
Speaker 3 (Peter) (09:01):
Well, I’m going to set this up, but then I’m gonna let Carolyn take it home because I think it has everything to do with, um, the content. Certainly the options, and can you do interactive things like, you know, Q&A, and polling, and do a lot of gamification. Definitely, those are part of the puzzle, but I would suggest to you, it’s really a couple of things. It’s how are you supporting your remote presenters? Are they home? Are they coming into a studio? And are we giving them tools and resources? And then, what is the content that you’re creating to help carry the message? And that’s where I feel like this idea of video production and video content is so critical in helping to tell the story.
Speaker 4 (Carolyn) (09:41):
And I think, um, you know, uh, folks are finally getting away from just making a live event online, you know. Because a virtual event can really, you can reinvent the animal. Like, it doesn’t need to just be presenters and slides. You have an opportunity for television, you know, it can be interactive for the presenters themselves. You can put them in whatever kind of environment you’d like to. I think all of us, we’re trying to get out of the box that just makes this a live event that we’re watching on our computers.
Speaker 3 (Peter) (10:19):
And the truth be told is, if you have a three-day event that runs from eight to four with a bunch of general sessions and a bunch of breakouts – that same schedule might translate into a virtual event, but I’m not sure it totally does. And I think you’ve got to think differently about the schedule, about the opportunities, about the timeframes. Um, and maybe you break things up into smaller, more digestible teams, or you, you, you give options for attendees to choose, um, sessions based on timing and timeframe. And then again, I think it’s the quality of that content, the quality of the presentations and the recording. All those things really stand up in a way to really make folks feel and stay connected. And I think elevate the overall experience that they’re going to have.
Speaker 2 (Cody) (11:02):
Yeah. I love that. And you know, when you were saying that, I was thinking about some of the stuff that I’m working on right now with clients and, and I was just thinking about hybrid events and, you know, the word of the day really is hybrid. I’ve never personally worked on a hybrid event because I don’t know if we’re there yet really to have virtual and hybrid, but everybody that I talk to in client services is wondering more about hybrid events. What does that mean to you and what are the ways that companies are approaching a safe hybrid experience for when we’re ready?
Speaker 3 (Peter) (11:29):
Sure. Um, well, you know, in its basest form hybrid. What hybrid really means is that you have the combination of content being shared in person to a live audience and at the same time being shared, uh, in person to a virtual audience. So you’ve got really the message around hybrid is you have two audiences that you need to consider. And in some cases you could consider things like pre-show video recording sessions as hybrid because you are bringing people together to capture a message and then playing that back as a pre-recorded piece. The biggest thing with hybrid that we’re seeing is the understanding for most organizations that their live event is likely going to be much smaller than they anticipate. So if it’s a thousand person, 500 or less, it’s going to be a lot less. And really what you need to do in those moments is create an experience where your onsite attendees feel like they are getting a unique experience and they’re connected to the, uh, the content and the presentations, but almost as critical, you need to make sure that you’re thoughtful of those virtual folks. Maybe in some cases, there are specialized content that’s available to them. Uh, there’s opportunities for them to network with people who are connected onsite. I think the real message Cody is it’s really about making certain that both of your audiences are well-served in terms of their expectations and that they feel connected to the content, to the presentation information, and then certainly to each other.
Speaker 1 (Brooke) (12:52):
Such a good point. Yeah. I mean, it’s like two separate audiences. You’re trying to do the same content, but it really, each audience has to feel like the event was created for them, whether it’s the virtual part or the in-person part. And it’s going to be this weird balance. I think we’re all gonna have to learn how to do that. And the production then becomes so critical for that, I can imagine. Cause you have to think about, almost like you have to start by thinking about the production rather than, you know, in the past, maybe we were waiting until a little bit later down the road to think about what that would look like onsite.
Speaker 4 (Carolyn) (13:28):
To add to that. I think, you know, a year ago, you know, we used to say the term webcasting, but, you know, live streaming was something that we always tacked on as an addition to a live event. We were retrofitting that deliverable to a live event. Now it’s like, you have two separate deliverables that are running in tandem with hybrid. So it’s, you’re not trying to fit one into the other, you’re trying to make them cohesive, like it’s togetherness, but it’s for different experiences.
Speaker 3 (Peter) (14:00):
It is. And I think, you know, when we look at the world of virtual, we see it as having kind of two sides to the coin. There’s the platform side, which is your delivery mechanism and where the experience happens. And then it’s production. And I’ll tell you what we do find, um, Brooke and Cody, is the place where clients, our clients, typically underestimate the requirements is production. And really underestimating it in two ways. One is the, the need for, in terms of planning, preparation organization, much like a live event. But then also in terms of delivering from the level of quality and performance that you’re looking for. And I think it’s surprising to folks when we have multi-day events, and maybe we have live, uh, folks who are presenting live coming in from their home office. They seem to be astonished that we need a production team of video engineers and switchers and playback operators and if you were in an empty ballroom, it would make plenty of sense. You need those same levels of mechanism. And production doesn’t just mean equipment and people, it also means process.
You know, one of the things that live events does a really nice job of doing is telling you what’s going to happen next. You know, you walk into a ballroom and they say, “Ladies and gentlemen, take your seats. Our program is about to begin.” So you sit down and you’re ready to start. Virtual needs to have the same rhythm. And that’s another piece of production that I would suggest is really critical — is thinking about your event through the idea of a run of show, like you’d have for a live event, but thinking about those transition moments. So you log into the program, it’s not started yet. Maybe there’s a branded holding slide and there’s music playing. So, okay, I’m in the right place. Then a voice comes on, says, “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to our program. We’re thrilled to have you here. Let’s get started this morning and bring Carolyn into the conversation. Good morning, Carolyn.” And then maybe we switch in her live presentation, or it’s played back as a pre-recorded piece. But again, having those same sort of rhythms and process for virtual as they are in live is really a critical measure to success when you think about production.
Speaker 2 (Cody) (15:59):
Yeah. I just got to say, yeah, sorry, Brooke. I just got to say that, like, I’ve worked on a project recently where they handed us a run of show that was like three or four pages. It was so detailed. It was minute by minute. And I was like, wow, that is just so much detail. But then on the day of, everybody knew exactly what they needed to do, and it went so smoothly. And I think that, like you were saying earlier, it’s not just a Zoom meeting anymore. It’s not just the Ann B. Davis in the middle. Like, it’s like, it’s a, this is legit now. Like you really have to get everything in order and make sure everybody’s prepared. And it takes a lot of time and effort.
Speaker 3 (Peter) (16:32):
Well listen, absolutely. And back to your earlier point about engagement — when you have a well-developed run of show, or things are done in a consistent manner — you have a holding slide, then you have an opening transition to a speaker, then there’s the transition to a panel and there’s a nice slide that tells you who is going to be on the panel. Someone speaks, his or her lower third comes in. Yes, that’s higher production value, but in the end, that’s engagement opportunity because your attendees are going to pay more attention to that stuff. It feels like it has a rhythm. It feels connected. It looks and feels like you as an organization. And again, these are all things you would do for a live event. So thinking in that manner is really helpful.
Speaker 1 (Brooke) (17:10):
I like had my hands in the air cheering you on when you were talking about process. And I feel like you have the two best podcast hosts to be talking to right now because both Cody and I have been working, you know, on virtual and hybrid events. And working through this production, like run of show, what’s that? I don’t know. Now it’s my new best friend. Like every day, I’m using that run of show.
Speaker 3 (Peter) (17:34):
And that’s where we find. And Brooke, I’m sorry to interrupt you. But that’s where we find when we get into discussions with clients and we start to put together a plan and we make recommendations around the organization and run of show and, and to be frank, some of these things are budget drivers because you have more people involved for planning and organization. But when you hear back from these clients, days, weeks, and months later, and maybe they didn’t have an optimal experience, what it almost comes down to as a person was, you know, you were really right when you talked about organizing the run of show and having thoughtful transitions, and it just makes it feel less clunky. And, uh, so I think I, I thank you for, for agreeing with that, but also I think in doing some of these, you’re seeing some of those challenges, you know, in living color.
Speaker 4 (Carolyn) (18:18):
Sure. And I think also too, it needs, it needs to be more planned out because when you’re producing a virtual event, it needs to be scripted. You know, it’s, uh, the narrative of a live event is unfolding right before you. It’s happening in order, you know, when you’re doing a virtual event that involves, video rolls, pre-records, the group you might be working with in a studio or onsite capturing, they might not know how that piece fits into the quote-unquote, run of show during the broadcast days. So like, you know, we’re mid summer here. Uh, the partners that we work with, it dawned on us — we need to have a higher level conversation of what this experience is on the day of broadcast, you know? Where do all these pieces fit in making it that narrative? And I think that that’s a different way to produce an experience that has the same level of impact as a live event. Does that make sense?
Speaker 1 (Brooke) (19:22):
Yeah. No, totally. And I think it also speaks towards the team again too. And that’s kind of what you guys were talking about. I was like, who are the people that need to be part of this? Because you’re right. It is surprising. You need a producer, you need somebody who is maybe even working the, the whatever tool you’re using to record it or push it live. You need just like all these people that you don’t think about that are now new roles that are crucial to be able to do a virtual event of any size.
Speaker 4 (Carolyn) (19:53):
I mean, oftentimes you need post-production. So it’s, it’s a whole different team of folks that you, that you need versus a completely live experience.
Speaker 1 (Brooke) (20:04):
Oh my gosh, speaking our language. Cody, this was therapeutic for Cody and I, a little bit.
Speaker 2 (Cody) (20:08):
Oh my gosh. I know. Seriously. It’s just such a brave new world that we’re in right now.
Speaker 3 (Peter) (20:10):
I think we should take this show on the road. We should (something about this discussion) and have our own virtual event.
Speaker 1 (Brooke) (20:15):
I was just going to say, I could probably talk to you guys for like three hours. So maybe we’ll have to do a part two, later.
Speaker 2 (Cody) (20:24):
Well, I feel like my takeaway here, and for everybody, I personally think is to have a really detailed run of show. It is absolutely critical. It’s going to make your life so much better than the day of, but my question for you guys, Peter and Carolyn it’s the question we ask everybody is if you had to leave one takeaway or piece of advice for our listeners, what would that be?
Speaker 4 (Carolyn) (20:46):
Speaker 3 (Peter) (20:47):
I have something.
Speaker 4 (Carolyn) (20:48):
Why don’t you go first?
Speaker 3 (Peter) (20:50):
I think the most important thing that I’ve learned in this experience, um, or one of the most important things has been really, um, encouraging our clients to lean into their remote presenters as much as possible. I think it’s very easy. And the tendency I see is for people to say, well, Cody’s at home and he has a laptop and he likely has a camera. So we’re going to have him log in and call in and you know, it’ll be fine. And what you find out in many of these cases is either folks are not well-prepared, they don’t feel comfortable with it because let’s face it. It is not comfortable to squish in front of a little screen and try to give a presentation of meaning. So what we’re suggesting in these cases is really invest some time with your presenters, uh, thinking about, you know, maybe coaching, uh, working with them on the content that they’re sharing.
In some cases you may find that equipment is an issue. Um, you know, we are in many cases sending remote recording kits out to folks to give that level of support. But again, we, I do feel like this is a place where it does connect back to the idea of engagement. If your presentations are of high quality. And more importantly, to me, if they’re consistent, if they look, have the same level of look and feel, this is again, going to be a place where your attendees are going to feel engaged, they’re going to feel connected. They’re not going to feel like, you know, someone’s in a toy closet and someone’s in a studio and it doesn’t feel like the same event.
Speaker 4 (Carolyn) (22:11):
Yeah, that cohesiveness.
Speaker 3 (Peter) (22:14):
For me, one of the, one of the areas I’d call secret sauce is really supporting those remote presenters. Again, today’s world we’re in, most people are home. So leaning into those folks in the best ways possible helps those presentation stand up.
Speaker 4 (Carolyn) (22:27):
Yeah, I think for me as we go here as, as this year progresses, it’s just seeing the differences in what, what you can do with this type of platform. I said before, it’s, it’s more like television. I think a big takeaway for me is that these virtual events don’t need to fit in any kind of box. You know, now we’re getting into a place where it’s more comfortable to capture really high quality footage on site. Um, video rolls, animations. Lean into that as much as possible. You know, plan to spend more money on creative then you might have during a live event, because that’s really, what’s going to bump up that production value for your audience. Opportunities for branding, um, opening video experiences. You’re not limited by anything. So I think making that a creative and engaging experience is what sets your virtual event apart from others.
Speaker 2 (Cody) (23:33):
I love that. Um, you guys, I thank you so much for being on the, on the podcast today. Um, this has been so eye opening. Brooke and I love having people like you on the podcast, but if there’s something that you want to promote or share with our listeners. Is there anything out there that we can put on our podcast or on our show notes?
Speaker 3 (Peter) (23:52):
I mean, I, I would, I would certainly encourage folks to take a look @ovationevents.com. We’ve got a lot of information on there. Not only related to who we are, what we do, but, uh, a number of, uh, core capabilities and best practices that we would recommend or could bring forward in support of these virtual efforts.
Speaker 2 (Cody) (24:11):
All right. Cool. Well, that sounds great. You guys, this has been so awesome to have you on here. Thank you Peter and Carolyn for joining the podcast today, we really appreciate your time.
Speaker 3 (Peter) (24:20):
Hey, we appreciate you both too. And certainly, um, you know, it’s been our privilege. It’s been an interesting number of months here. We continue to do good work. You know, one of the most critical things I will say in closing here is, um, this has really enabled us to form a very strong, and we hope ongoing partnership, with our friends at Cvent. Certainly in support of the Cvent Connect programs. But, uh, certainly as we’re finding out in the marketplace, uh, Cvent as a technology provider and OVATION as a production partner. We’re finding to be an excellent match for many of our client’s needs. So we thank you all for that. And certainly the team for that opportunity.
Speaker 2 (Cody) (24:57):
That’s right. For our listeners out there, don’t forget OVATION. Cool. All right, guys.
Speaker 3 (Peter) (25:03):
Thank you both. Thank you both.
Speaker 4 (Carolyn) (25:04):
Thank you, it was a pleasure.
Speaker 2 (Cody) (25:07):
I’m so pumped after talking to these two. We live in the world of virtual events now, and I just get so excited when we get to talk to experts who can help pull these off seamlessly.
Speaker 1 (Brooke) (25:16):
Oh my gosh. Yes. I cannot stress enough how important it is for our listeners to reach out and ask for help if you feel lost. These two are of course pros and are such a pleasure to work with. This could be what you need to push those virtual events to the next level.
Speaker 2 (Cody) (25:31):
Love it. And if anyone out there is running virtual events and would like to be on the show, please reach out at podcast (at) cvent (dot) com.
Speaker 1 (Brooke) (25:38):
Before you guys know it, we’ll have another great episode. So we’ll talk to you then. Bye.