Online Events: Say Goodbye to the Concept of Time

Written by Heather Mason, CEO, Caspian Agency

A photo of an hourglass on its side, signifying the disruption of time passing.
Image by annca from Pixabay

This is Part I of a series from Caspian Agency on the Four Fundamentals of thinking virtually for online events. Please see Part II HERE, Part III HERE, and Part IV HERE.

When it comes to live events, time is everything. Event producers are always concerned about what I call the ‘Tyranny of Minutes.’ Are things running on time? How much time do we have? And why is there never, ever, enough time to produce the event we envision? Live events are exciting, inspiring, and connecting. That’s why we miss them so much right now. But the limitations of time also make live events stressful and unpredictable. That is why it is such a gift that we can now leave the idea of time behind as events enter the virtual world.

Ironically, we already take this concept for granted when we think about screens. The invention of motion pictures allowed creators to break free from the limitations inherent in live entertainment. Suddenly, content could be created in advance and pre-recorded, and mistakes could be fixed in post-production. The film and television industries have enjoyed these luxuries for years, and now, finally, we can too.

Breaking free from time as a concept provides us with near infinite freedom and flexibility when it comes to content production. Even better, the stress associated with time constraints will no longer be a factor. This means that the event you produce will be a significantly better experience for both you and the participants. We can still have live interactivity, but we don’t have to abide by the old standards where the potential for things to go wrong is constantly hanging over our heads.

For example, let’s talk about speakers. Speakers are often incredibly impressive and accomplished people. However, they are also rarely professional performers, which is what is required in a screen environment. This goes for live gatherings as well, because every producer has a story about a speaker who went wildly off-topic, or who could add “sucking the energy out of a room” to their list of expertise.

A speaker’s performance and content is ultimately a reflection of the organizer and producer, so it is imperative that the delivery is excellent. Event producers are expected to produce the equivalent of a Broadway caliber show without the benefit of weeks of rehearsals, so the stakes are high. In fact, they’re often impossible. Therefore, online events are the perfect opportunity to put a stop to this unwinnable situation.

We shouldn’t think about simply taking an event online. Instead, we should think about the event as an online show. Yes, it can be broadcast during a certain time, but the content itself can be pre-recorded and interspersed with live segments as needed. By doing this, we will have complete control over speakers, as well as the overall narrative of the event.

Did one of your speakers make a mistake? You can now fix them in post. Is the pace of one section dragging? You can edit until the pacing feels right. And as you piece together your show, is a better show emerging? You now have the flexibility to rearrange all the pieces of the event until you come up with the best possible whole. Which can then be broken down again into pieces for social media. The possibilities are endless and… fun.

This doesn’t mean that we let go of the idea of a live event altogether. People are used to sitting in a room watching something live, and it’s okay to preserve this look and feel. The trick is that it doesn’t actually need to be live. You just need to maintain the illusion that it is. To create this illusion, consider starting your event with a small blooper at the beginning. Perhaps one of the speakers is on mute when they first start to speak, or there’s a moment when one speaker is talking over another. This might be enough to convince the audience that the event is live, and they are more likely to accept the conceit throughout the polished product that follows.

It’s time to think critically about the reasons why an event has to be live, especially when everyone is no longer in the same room. More often than not, online events don’t actually have to be live. We’re just operating by an old version of ‘time bound rules.’ With this new mindset in place, we can produce the event outcomes we want with more control and less stress, which is a win for us all.

To find out more about Caspian Agency, the way we think, or our consulting services, check us out HERE. You can also sign up HERE to learn how to think like we do via our Online Course, THINKING VIRTUALLY.