Pre-Recording for Virtual Events: Part 2

Despite my general preference for live virtual events, I do believe there are times when pre recording some – or even all – of your event makes more sense. Consider these factors…

When to Choose Pre-recording

#1 Scheduling: You may be in an organization or an association where it’s simply not feasible to bring everyone together at the same time for a live event… even virtually! In this case, how wonderful is it that we can create content that your attendees can watch and engage with on-demand? When you’re working with a truly global organization that operates across multiple time zones, a pre-recorded show might be the best option. Interpreters have time to translate all of the content into the various languages of the attendees.And attendees are able to watch at their own convenience.I’ve hosted dozens of pre-recorded global events that were executed flawlessly: Adobe, Trimble Agriculture, ECI Software, etc.

#2 Length: Pre-recording allows you to control the timing and the length of your program. It’s a great option for events that have many speakers that may run long, despite being given time allotments. For example: maybe you have 30 award winners and you want to give them each 30 seconds to say thank you. We all know how quickly 30 seconds turns into 3 minutes! Pretty soon the 15 minutes allotted for thank you speeches has become an hour a half, and disrupted the rest of your program. By contrast, when people are required to submit thank you video speeches, you can control (and limit!) how long everyone speaks down to the second.

#3 Budget: Some (not all) entertainers, emcees, and keynote speakers will offer a bit more flexibility on their fees for pre-recorded events. And it makes sense! They can record their spots on their own time, according to their own schedule. If you’re hiring a professional emcee, entertainment, and several external keynote speakers, pre-recording can save you a lot of money on the talent side.

#4 Pressure: With a pre-recorded program, the pressure is off for your presenters. Executives don’t have to worry about nailing it on the first take. Editing, audio cleanup and retakes make it easy to get it exactly right, and to present a seamless show. Along those lines, executives can control their messaging and make sure they articulate exactly what they want to say, and exactly how they want to say it. No fear that something will come out wrong in the moment.

Pre-recording is tempting. I get it. Many meeting planners are drawn to pre-recording for two main reasons: (1) they think it’s cheaper, and (2) they think it’s safer. It can be both, but allow me to play devil’s advocate for a moment…

(1) Regarding cheaper: although as I mentioned your speaker costs may go down slightly with a pre-recorded event, your production costs for studio and labor will most certainly go up significantly if you’re recording the majority of your multi-day event.

I’ve seen how the preference to pre-record to “get it right” can spin way out of control and backfire for those trying to save a few bucks. Don’t underestimate how tempting it will be for your presenters to stop in the middle of their recording session and say “Sorry, that came out weird. Can we start that again?” There’s something that happens when presenters know it’s “only” being recorded and it’s not live. They tend to see and hear their recording session as it’s happening. They’re not present in the moment. And that does not make for good content.

I’ve seen this scenario several times now… the executive is given a 30-minute slot to record his 20-minute keynote. 4 hours later your crew is in double overtime, and they’re looking at a mountain of editing they’re going to have to do through the night at this point to make their show deadline in the morning.

Recording always takes longer than expected. If you’re pre-recording a 3-day conference with 6-8 hours of content a day, it’s going to take a long time. Long time = more studio hours, more crew hours, and again what most people don’t think about— more EDITING hours. Sorting through hours and hours of footage and stitching together presentations and transitions from dozens of cuts is not fun, and production companies will let you know it… if not with their attitude, with their invoice! 

(2) Regarding safer: True story… I was booked to host a live virtual event. Half-way through the process, they decided to switch to pre-recorded because they felt live was too risky. So we pre-recorded everything “to be safe.” During the recording playback, the platform hosting all of my safe videos crashed. So guess what? I had to come in live to save the day 🙂 My point is that while all these factors are worth considering, virtual events are still very new for all of us relatively, and there’s always a chance that the unexpected will happen. Don’t “borrow trouble” as my good friend Tim Gabrielson would say. I would not base the format of your event around trying to do what is “safer” because you just never know! I would base it around what’s going to be best for your content, your attendees, your event objectives. 

I can help you sort through all of these factors and make the best decision for you and your organization. I pride myself on being more than a virtual entertainer & emcee. I’m an event consultant, and I’m always happy to discuss your event vision free of charge anytime. Just reach out.

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