How to Get Your Audience to Fall in Love With Your Virtual Event

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Apr 09, 2021 @ 07:04 AM

virtual-conference

Do you remember April 1, 2020?  The entire world was in lockdown and at Objective Management Group (OMG) we had just ten days to figure out how to convert our annual four-day international conference for sales experts to a three-day virtual event over Zoom. The 200 in attendance loved it and right after the conference I posted this article with 15 lessons we learned about the transition from a face-to-face conference to a virtual conference.  

By late last summer, we knew full well that our 2021 conference would also be virtual.  The difference was that we would have 7 months to prepare and we wanted to optimize the conference specifically for a virtual event.  How was it different from what we accomplished a year earlier?  Let me share some of the things we did that worked so well.

Shorter Days - Last year we crammed four days into three days and with nobody having anywhere else they needed to be, we presented for 8-9 hours each day!  We knew that was an awfully long time for everyone to stay engaged so this year we planned two four-hour days.  Much better!

Shorter Presentations - In prior years, including last year, conference presentations were typically 45-90 minutes each.  This year our average presentation ran just 8 minutes!  That allowed us to present on 50 topics instead of 18!

Chat Q& A - At traditional conferences, questions come up throughout the duration of most presentations and the presenter must stop to answer both the good questions and the stupid questions, those that have already been asked as well as those that should have never been asked.  Inevitably there is a person who wants to pound their chest and brag for a while.  The questions and the posturing disturbs the natural flow of presentations and makes them unnecessarily long.  This year we handled questions as they arose, in real-time, via chat and Q&A tools within Zoom.  When there was a question that required a longer answer we answered it live at the end of each presentation.  Result?  Fast-paced, uninterrupted sessions that kept everyone engaged.

More Video - Last year we learned just how much everyone loved our choice of videos.  So this year, we had PENTA Marketing produce a conference teaser, unique 5-minute openings for each day, two different versions of a 5-minute break video with product and company-specific trivia, and six segment-specific 10-second videos to introduce each session.  On top of that we carefully chose inspiring videos to play at the top of each hour as we brought the audience back from their five-minute breaks.  This is an example of a 10-second segment intro.

Better Video - Using video is one thing but getting video to play smoothly on the viewer's computer is quite another.  In the end, we settled on three hacks to make the video play beautifully:

  1. Zoom has a new video feature where you click share, then click the advanced tab, click video and select from your file folder the video you want to share.  The video opens and you click the play icon.  That's it. Regardless of the size of the window on your computer screen, it plays full screen for your audience.  But the frame rate may still be too low to eliminate the choppiness which brings us to hack #2.
  2. Zoom automatically places a checkmark in the "Optimize for Video" checkbox but OMG's COO, John Pattison, discovered that if you uncheck that box the video plays at a higher frame rate.
  3. John contributed one more hack when he discovered that if you lower your screen resolution so it's the same as the standard 720p resolution Zoom uses to stream, the frame rates are higher.

Better Backgrounds - Not everyone had a green screen, enhanced lighting, and a high-end camera so our virtual backgrounds needed to be dark enough to eliminate the swimming and bleeding that occurs when the lighting isn't good and a green screen isn't present.  In addition, we had PENTA create a common background for each presenter and they customized each background with the presenters's name, company and title as you can see below.

Better Slide Decks - To complete the professional, "optimized for virtual" look, each presenter was required to use the exact same professional slide templates that we asked PENTA to prepare for us.  Our slides rocked!

Of course, OMG introduced new features and enhancements to our already best-in-class sales force evaluations and sales candidate assessments and that's one of the main reasons for us having an annual conference. 

Virtual events may be with us to stay as part of our new normal so we must step up our game and make virtual desirable, exciting and feature-rich instead of a compromise.  You may not be able to offer face-to-face networking and dinners, but you can offer your clients, customers, users and prospects an unforgettable experience.

Image copyright 123RF

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales excellence, conference, sales assessments, zoom, virtual, event, virtual backgrounds, slide deck, video creation

Why I Can't Talk About This form of Rejection Anymore

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Nov 25, 2020 @ 09:11 AM

I want to ask for your help.  Please read these two rants and then comment - I really need your comments, inbound links and outrage to support my position.

Rant #1: How many of your salespeople are immune to rejection?  

How would you react if I told you that I just violated somebody's trademark by asking that question?

Last week I received an email from some guy who said just that.  He owns a trademark on the term "rejectionproof".  I don't know about you, but I felt something boiling up from way, deep down inside of me - outrage - at the possibility of this being true.  My companies own trademarks and copyrights and everything I write on this blog is copyrighted.  B U T - if someone can simply be awarded a trademark for a commonly used expression, one that was surely being used prior to the award, one that Objective Management has been using in all of its assssments since the early 1990's, and then use that mark to extort money from people who are simply using the term in conversation....

He may have gotten lucky and had a computer determine that "rejectionproof" as a word was unique. To have the nerve to go after everyone who has ever used the common phrase "rejection proof" and tell them to stop using it (as in remove it from everything you've ever written.  Remove it from my books?) and send him money...well I think that is extortion!  [Update - according to my attorneys, this guy CAN do this]

What do you think?  Please comment below.

Rant #2 - Sales 2.0 Stupidity

I mentioned in yesterday's article that senior executives still aren't getting the sales pipeline.

At the same talk in DC, I asked the audience if they were familiar with the term Sales 2.0.  Same response. Nobody.  It seems that outside the blogosphere, and especially the more marketing focused sites, business people have no clue what Sales 2.0 is, and even fewer have heard of Customer 2.0.  The bloggers and readers at CustomerThink.com and SalesEdgeOne.com will be outraged over this but let's face it.  Except for a small percentage of sales experts, Selling Power, who hosts the Sales 2.0 Conference, and most of the inbound, customer focused marketing experts, the terms Sales 2.0 and Customer 2.0 have no legs.  They aren't catching on.  They don't matter.  And we should stop forcing it down the throats of business.  While Sales 2.0 is about getting found, it's really the art of using the new social marketing and sales tools.  They're tools!  Selling, even with the tools, is still selling so let's stop confusing people and talking about stuff they don't care about.

What do you think?  Please comment below but indicate whether you are a sales or marketing expert, or a sales or business leader at your company.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Force, Sales 2.0, rejection, conference, trademark infringement, selling power

15 Lessons Learned from Converting a Multi-Day Conference to a Virtual Online Event

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 06, 2020 @ 10:04 AM

virtual-event

What a month it's been!  Not only how the Covid-19 virus has changed our lives and sent us to work from home, but how we are conducting our businesses from home.  Green screens, virtual backgrounds, video calls and meetings, team chats, video team huddles, a blur between days, working hours and relaxing hours, and more.  In today's article I'm going off topic so that I can share how we converted Objective Management Group's (OMG) 4-day Boston International Sales Experts Conference for OMG Partners, to a 3-Day Virtual Event on short notice, as well as the lessons learned so that you might be able to accomplish the same things that we did.

  1. It's a Broadcast, not a webinar.  People have preconceived notions about webinars and you don't want them thinking for even a second that this will be a boring, one-to-many presentation of a slide deck.  Why?  It.Can't.Be.That.
  2. It's more like a Television News Channel with shows scheduled every hour - some that are opinion shows, some with guests and some with panels.  All of the presenters from OMG's team had consistent, branded, virtual backgrounds with green screens to give the broadcast a professional appearance.
  3. You'll need a team of "Engineers."  You won't be able to do this yourself!  For our event there were at least four of us at all times monitoring chat and Q&A, announcing questions to the presenters, monitoring hand-raising, and promoting attendees to panelists to get them on camera
  4. Platform - we chose Zoom Webinar.  That allowed us to have 2 hosts and unlimited panelists, branding, but more importantly, pre-registration and approval of those registrations, microphones and cameras off by default, and the high-quality play of videos embedded in our slide decks.
  5. Balance - we made sure that we stopped sharing slides the moment the presenter was going to discuss any topic so that no one slide stayed on screen and became the focal point and the speaker/presenter became the focal point.
  6. Slides - speaking of slides, this event required more slides, not fewer.  As a matter of fact, when all was said and done, this is what we included.
    content

  7. Panelists - There was one particular session that I found most difficult to convert to virtual.  In this session, I planned to distribute a handout consisting of an 80-page slide deck, break the attendees into groups of five, have them work as teams and have team answer one of seventeen questions.  Instead, I posted the deck on Bloomfire (our knowledge base/content sharing platform) ahead of time, asked for 17 volunteers and shared the 17-question assignment.  As people volunteered, I assigned them to one of the questions, and asked them to email their work and one-minute presentation to me for review and approval.  Then, five minutes before that session, they were each promoted to panelists and as their turn approached, we were able to seamlessly turn cameras and microphones on and off to have them appear on screen as the presentation progressed.  It was just like a news show!
  8. Video - We included 22 movie clips to break things up, keep things light, and keep attendees entertained.  You can't hope to keep people engaged for 8-9 hours per day if you don't break it up.  We included everything from an interview of Kobe Bryant to a scene from Forrest Gump to a youtube video called Stay the F**K at Home.  And all 22 videos were in the context of the topic we were discussing at the time.
  9. Attendance - There were 135 OMG partners/associates registered to attend our event in Boston but with no conflicts, travel  requirements or costs to attend, 250 registered to attend the virtual event and we consistently had around 200 people in attendance through the two nine-hour days.  Attendees were from the US, Canada, Mexico, Jamaica, The Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Denmark The UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Lebanon, Morocco, South Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil (and the countries I forgot to include).
  10. Awards Banquet - We weren't able to host our annual two-hour awards banquet but we did have an awards presentation that consisted of a 50-slide deck that honored each of the 42 award winners in less than 5 minutes.
  11. Polls, Q&A's and Chat - At a live conference you'll ask people to raise their hands, you'll get feedback on what you introduced, and they'll have lots of questions.  We pre-built poll questions that we could open and share at pre-determined times in the virtual conference to get the feedback that we wanted.  Starting with the 5-minute intro video on the first day, the chat never subsided as attendees were sharing their thoughts, insights and takeaways for two straight days.  We had two people monitoring chat to pull out and share the golden nuggets that passed by.  And one person monitored the Q&A and came on camera to share the best questions with the presenters.  It was a  great team effort!
  12. Attendee Tutorial - We took five minutes at the beginning of day one to put up some slides on how to use the Zoom controls for the best experience, including, but not limited to:
    1. Changing screen size
    2. Muting and unmuting
    3. Camera on and off
    4. Gallery view versus Speaker view
    5. Side-by-Side mode
    6. How to contribute using chat
    7. How to ask a question using Q&A
    8. How to separate the chat and Q&A from the Zoom window
    9. How to raise their hand
    10. And for panelists, how to share their screen
  13. Fluid Schedule/Agenda - At a hotel, you need to stick to the schedule to make sure it coordinates with meals, beverage breaks and the group's need to use rest rooms.  Not so with the virtual event.  If they had to use the bathroom they could go and nobody would be the wiser.  If they got hungry or thirsty they could eat or drink and nobody would know.  We were able to go longer on sessions that required more time and simply change the schedule as we went along.  On both days we skipped presentations and moved them to the end of the day and nobody cared or got upset.
  14. Networking - In the end, this is the only thing that people wanted that we couldn't deliver.  At a normal conference, they mingle and talk before and after presentations, network at meals and some really crave that aspect of a conference.  We offered a virtual happy hour on Saturday after the final presentation but only 20 people showed up.  Oh well.  You can't please everyone all the time.
  15. Results - the overwhelming response seemed to be that considering everything, our virtual event was as good or better than our hotel-based event!  We worked hard to make it that way but there were other factors.  They didn't have to leave home, they could spend evenings with family, it didn't cost them anything to attend, they had comfortable seating, wore comfortable clothing, ate what they wanted, when they wanted and didn't have to be "on" for the sake of others.  A good time was had by all.

And finally, OMG introduced some spectacular new tools, features, and insights that were as well-received as if we had presented them with a stage and an audience.  I'll write more about this in the days and weeks to come.

You can do this too!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Force, omg, conference, keynote speaker, sales assessments, virtual

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader,  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for nine consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave

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