Pre-Recording for Virtual Events: Part 1

To pre-record or NOT to pre-record… THAT is the question! At least that’s the question on the minds of meetings industry folks everywhere who are planning and organizing their first virtual event.

Let’s remember: virtual events are still relatively new for all of us, and new = scary. Event planning was always a stressful job. In fact, event planning ranks consistently in the top 10 most stressful jobs in America every year on lists from organizations like Forbes and CareerCast. Virtual event planning!? That’s next level scary.

I’ve hosted and/or entertained for over 150+ virtual corporate events at this point now since March 2020, and I will tell you that everyone is nervous about them.Presenters are nervous because they’re unsure if they will be able to connect with the audience like they’re used to.

Attendees are nervous because they have no idea what to expect, and often times are not even sure if they’ll be able to access the meeting/material. Leadership is nervous because they want to maximize the return on the company’s investment of time, money, and energy spent to produce the event.Event planners are nervous because at the end of the day, they are the ones who are held accountable for creating and executing a seamless virtual event experience.And now I’m nervous just thinking about how nervous everybody else is…geez!

So, should you pre-record the whole thing “to be safe” – ? Should you go live to make sure your virtual event generates a lot of engagement and“feels” more like an in-person event? Warning: Cop out answer coming…

It depends. Probably saw that coming, huh? But it really does. It depends on a whole host of factors from your goals to your budget to your timeline. I obviously can’t make this decision for you without more context of your specific event, but here are some thoughts for to consider when making your decision.

When to Choose Live Virtual Events

For most virtual events, I prefer and recommend having as many of your event elements as possible be LIVE. Yes, it’s arguably a little riskier and a little more challenging to pull off, but I think it’s worth it. Your attendees can always tell when your event is live, and I believe they genuinely appreciate the transparency and the vulnerability that comes with a live event. There’s a certain “realness” and “rawness” to it that everyone can feel. But Jeff, “What if someone is muted for the first few seconds and has to unmute and start again? Or a dog starts barking at the Amazon guy?” Honestly, who cares? Who among us hasn’t been there before? This is the world we’re all living in now, so let’s not run from it. Let’s embrace it. As of March 2020, all of these virtual experiences are now shared experiences that reveal our humanity and bring us together.

There’s a certain authenticity that shines through a live virtual event when speakers and executives are responding in real time to questions being asked in the chat, making reference to the news of the day, and having to think and respond on the fly. It’s also clear that award shows, promotions and recognitions of any kind feel more “real” live. The emotion, the spontaneity, the “surprise and delight” vibe all shine through much stronger in real time.

Bottom line: A live, interactive virtual event I believe will get more engagement and create more of an impact on your attendees. And that’s the goal, right?

*If there’s one thing we can be sure of with live virtual events, it’s that there WILL be a few curve balls despite proper planning and rehearsals: technical glitches, timing hiccups, etc. Do yourself a favor and hire an experienced virtual emcee to run the show. An emcee with a lot of live virtual show experience will know how to deal any situations that arise, and will handle any issues with grace and wit.A great emcee can actually turn seemingly bad mistakes into great “moments” that attendees will remember long after the event is over.

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