An unexpected victim of the COVID-19 pandemic is corporate gatherings and industry events, such as corporate keynotes. For many organizations, the keynote is also one of the best ways to display thought leadership in their industry. The challenge today is how the keynote will move forward in our coronavirus-driven world.
So how should keynotes evolve during these unprecedented times? The best way for the keynote to survive is to adapt to the circumstances. The digital world offers a number of tools, platforms, and opportunities where the keynote could shift to. And as the novel coronavirus changes the world around us, we are forced to rethink what we know, which means content topics for keynotes are limitless as well.
Many professionals and planners for corporate events are accustomed to following guidelines or cut-off dates prior to a major event. However, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for the kind of uncertainty we are facing during these times. The right decision relies on thinking about what makes the most sense for your company, rather than copying what other organizations are doing.
If you have a keynote or any other corporate event lined up for the rest of this year, it’s important to accept that your first consideration is the health and safety of your stakeholders. If possible, don’t make any fast decisions yet. New facts, variables, and developments are emerging everyday so it’s best to hold everything off until you absolutely have to make a call.
Despite the confusion the COVID-19 pandemic may cause your organization, it can also be the perfect time to flex your strategic thinking skills. Consider this time as an opportunity to revamp the corporate keynote and embrace the possibilities of going virtual.
Many corporate keynotes are designed with top-level leadership in mind. Company executives, partners, employees, and members of the press are usually invited to attend these events. It’s safe to say the expectations are high when it comes to a keynote address. There has to be more effort and creativity going into the execution of a virtual keynote.
There are three ways you can still do an engaging keynote speech, even without a live audience:
Special, “virtual events” were designed to address sudden event cancellations quickly when the quarantine orders were rolled out. These events look like video games that contain everything the real event would have: conference area, breakout rooms, expo hall, and so on. The make-believe virtual spaces helped attendees feel like they were attending a normal keynote address.
While the virtual space itself is a good idea, some people also consider this approach to be a hit-or-miss. The familiar topics and slides combined with a simple production concept made it similar to an ordinary webinar or a TED Talk video. This conservative style may fall flat of high expectations unless you can really present something extraordinary to your viewers.
One way to switch up the keynote is to replace the keynote hall and live audience with a more dynamic setting instead. You can take viewers on location and let the thought leader explain their findings or concepts in depth. With just a camera, your keynote speaker can also guide you on a journey through a laboratory, a studio, or a factory floor for demonstrations.
This strategy will take more rigorous planning and might not be possible for businesses who don’t have a location to take their audience to. However, the concept itself may help organizations to rethink their content as they are no longer limited to an “on-stage” keynote.
Taking inspiration from television can breathe new life into the keynote content we usually see: product launches, thought leadership, industry and company news, and customer stories. You can take cues from a nightly broadcast and add over-the-shoulder graphics or even take a page from explanatory journalism by combining stellar visuals with a voice-over. Customer stories can even look like a special report newscast.
Utilizing TV styles and combining it with your traditional keynote can match the current Internet trend of edu-tainment and engage more viewers. Your keynote ideas can also be communicated in a clearer manner.
With people staying at home more than ever before, time spent on mobile devices and online platforms has risen exponentially. Streaming sites, social media, e-commerce portals, online food delivery, and other platforms have replaced the way we previously interacted with the rest of the world.
Although COVID-19 has disrupted many initiatives, the digital space has opened up new alternatives for event marketing opportunities as well. Here are a few creative ways marketers are hosting online events:
When hosting an online event, you can go big and plan a full virtual conference. Prepare a comprehensive program of webinars with your keynote presentations and break-out sessions. If it fits with your objective, you can also do other types of discussions, hands-on training, or workshops.
Go the extra mile and mail out swag to participants prior to the event. This will give your attendees a more tangible memento of the event and help them feel better connected with the rest of the audience.
If your conference already has a set of speakers lined-up, you can ask them to prepare a PDF version of their presentation for download, then request them to record a video of their session. You may also get the audio of their keynote and upload it as a podcast.
Be sure to include your speakers’ contact information if people have questions for them. Better yet, you can collect questions from attendees and post the speaker’s responses on social media for added engagement.
Since everything is done online, you can coordinate with multiple speakers from all over the globe and collaborate on a live webinar package. First, you can record a virtual panel session where all the speakers gather to answer previously collected questions. Then you can prepare a segment where each speaker gives an in-depth talk on more specific subjects. This allows you to cover more content in a cohesive manner and help viewers gain several insights at once.
Instead of bringing a large audience together from different areas, a local virtual event can add more value for your audience as they can network with people geographically closer to them. Segment your email lists by region or state then invite them to join a more intimate version of your events.
Video conferencing platforms can have multiple speakers and even vendors on board, so everyone can opt to have demonstrations and answer questions in real-time. Users can also browse the attendee list and “mingle” with other members. You might even want to have a virtual cocktail hour feature and let users socialize with each other.
Almost every social media platform allows for live video sessions so you can definitely go this route. A live social media event is very accessible, especially for people who might not have been able to make it to your event in the first place.
You can take the social media live event a step further by giving the reins of your social media account to your speaker. They can post photos, upload additional resources, answer questions, and have a deeper interaction with your audience.
It might not be the most ideal situation, but an online launch can be just as good as the real thing. With 360° video and other filming technology, you can explore new ways to demonstrate your products and services. You can even showcase how your products work in various situations because you’re no longer limited to a stage or a trade-expo booth. Depending on social distancing guidelines, you can also create an animated video explaining how your product works as well.
People all around the world have faced incredible changes in their lives as a result of the current crisis. The topics in your keynote should reflect this and help people survive and thrive during these uncertain times. Some topics your next keynote could delve in are: