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In normal times, InVision would be packing up boxes of camera gear and heading to Germany for the annual Embedded World conference. Personally, it’s one of my favourite jobs of the year. The client is a company called ST Microelectronics and we’ve been their video provider for the past six years. I get to be a TV luvvie again as I interview some of their developers and project managers in front of an audience of around 30,000. Probably more than watched some of the Sky News shows I presented!

This year alas there is no trip to Germany and Embedded World, like so many other conferences around the world, will be a virtual event. So without the buzz and excitement of a “real” conference and no hotel bar at the end of the day where you can schmooze clients on expenses, how do you make a virtual event a success?

This is exactly the challenge we were set last month when another client, (a global travel technology company), had to abandon their annual kick off conference and find a digital alternative. These are incredibly difficult times for firms in the travel industry, (and of course many others), and the client was determined that employees should hear from the leadership team and be energised and inspired for the year ahead. In fact they wanted to do a lot more than talk to their staff…..they wanted to engage with them….hear about their ideas, their hopes and fears.

The conventional approach of course would be very simple. Film the CEO, (via Zoom of course), sitting in front of a roaring log fire in his/her mansion and let them drone on for an hour about how everything is going to be alright and everyone is doing a great job. For those of a certain age think young Mr Grace in “Are You Being Served?” Most readers of this article however might have to Google that one!

The thing is, if the real conference was going ahead then at least half the audience would be on TikTok or texting within 10 minutes of the CEO’s speech starting. Online you would be looking at 90% within five minutes. People have short attention spans. It goes back to the media training courses we run and helping clients deliver their key message in just 30 seconds.

So what’s the solution? Well I spent 20 odd years reporting or anchoring news programmes on TV so why not take that approach to a corporate event? How many CEOs would turn down the chance to be the main presenter on their company’s own TV show? They get to introduce the programme (two minutes max) then it’s “So what does the future hold for our industry? Well a short time ago I spoke John Smith/Jane Doe from and asked them for their 2021 forecasts” Roll VT. Please note…. this is just an example…. there is no… but of course there might be tomorrow…. who knows!

Or what about “Joining me live now via Zoom/Microsoft Teams is X/Y/Z.” You bring in other senior execs to update staff/stakeholders, you ask employees to send in live questions that you then collate and address at the end of the show….or even during it. Pre-recorded segments with strong graphics, live Q&As, audience participation.

This is exactly the approach we took for our client last month and it was a massive success. We live in an online age. Embrace the opportunities that presents us. Let us help you tell your story in a way that you haven’t done before.

Online meetings with staff also have the potential to go horribly wrong as the UK chairman of KPMG just found out