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Virtual Reality – the New Normal

The stay-at-home order had a huge impact on the environment, with planes grounded and usually jammed motorways all but free of traffic.  A study published in May, in the journal Nature Climate Change, shows an average decrease of 26% in carbon emissions in individual countries at the height of the lockdown.  But while the benefits of clean air are welcomed, the need to explore other ways to maintain customer relationships has heightened.

Suddenly ‘zoom’ became a household name, and like ‘hoover’ and ‘google’, everyone is doing it.  If you happen to be launching a new brand, maybe choosing a name with the magic double ‘o’ is a good idea.  That coincidence aside, Zoom is now helping many organisations and businesses to stay in contact with customers, suppliers and colleagues.  Creative ways have emerged to hold sales meetings, conferences, product presentations and assessments and we can still read body language and look people in the eye.

Hundreds Registered

When the idea of a webinar was first muted with a client, it was hoped that the appeal would be a hundred or so people.  The first event attracted 924 registrations and over 600 attendees.  They quickly became a weekly event.

It should go without saying that your webinar must be interesting.  You may have a database of contacts who are interested in your product, but they are unlikely to want to sit down for an evening to watch you telling them how good it is, unless that story is very special indeed.

As with every marketing campaign, the first thing is to establish your aim, identify your target audience and determine the key message.  Ask yourself what your audience want to hear about; how you can provide them with added value and plan a topic that will appeal.  What time of day will suit your audience best?  Be prepared to hold your webinar in the evening, especially if you want to engage with riders and owners who may be busy during the day, or choose to run it in daytime if your audience will be workers sitting at their desks.

Engage Your Audience

If you work with riders or trainers or other stakeholders that have an interesting story, use them to engage your audience.  Some of the best webinars have been like sitting in a pub with a famous person, having a chat over a drink, providing a unique insight or behind the scenes view.  Ideally, get two or three people to chat about a topic in a friendly and informal way.

Make sure you have a strong pre-promotion campaign to maximise your reach.  Social media is a great way to do this, as well as direct email marketing to your database.

Once you have agreed on the general format and content, you need to put together a storyboard to help you stay on track.  Decide what content you will include, such as videos, interviews, PowerPoint presentations or a live tour.   Your storyboard should include approximate timings and information such as who will launch videos, polls and when you will take questions.

Live Interviews

Using a mobile phone for live interviews and tours is fine, but there are some things to remember.  Always hold the phone horizontally so that the picture is landscape.  Most computer screens are landscape orientation, and this will ensure your picture fills the screen.  Make sure that your presenter is facing the camera when speaking, especially while walking, as their voice may be lost if they turn away.  Also, check in advance that your mobile signal remains strong during your tour, or that you have wifi available, so you can avoid any areas where the signal is likely to drop out.

Visual Appeal

Pay some attention to your background.  If your surroundings are inappropriate, such as if you must broadcast from a bedroom, you can use a virtual background to block out the room.  However, a more effective option is to use a pull-up banner to add some branding.

Your presentation needs to be visually appealing.  Good quality video content is useful and can be shared from your screen, with your webinar platform optimised for video and sound presentation.  Short videos with live commentary to illustrate your points will help to keep your audience attentive.

Make use of the various options for audience participation, such as polls to learn about your audience profile.  This can be particularly useful to help you pitch your presentation at the appropriate level.

Q&A Sessions

The Q&A facility is a great way to engage your audience and you should allow some time for this.  The chat function may be used for general feedback or switched off if you prefer.  A useful tip is to have a colleague on your panel to monitor the questions and chat to ensure answers are provided during the presentation.

You can have several panelists as part of your presentation, and in quiz show fashion, the system ensures that the person speaking is in the main camera frame.  There are a number of controls to help the host, including a clever spotlight feature which allows you to keep the camera on one presenter while others speak.

Practice Makes Perfect

You are strongly urged to make use of the practice session before your broadcast goes live to check everything is working. Once you hit the broadcast button, all your attendees can see and hear everything.  Remember also to click on the record button at this stage, as you will want to keep the recording to watch again.

Webinars can be an extremely useful way to provide information to enlighten and educate your audience.  Most of all, they should be enjoyable, interesting and engaging.  Try not to let your presentation go on too long – depending on the topic, an hour is enough with some extra time for Q&A at the end.

Whilst the interest and acceptance of webinars has come about due to the restrictions of Covid-19, the advantages of cost saving and environmentally friendly benefits have now been recognised and virtual meetings are likely to be here to stay.

If you would like help or advice on hosting a webinar, contact Rachael Holdsworth on 07850 017587 or email rachael@holdsworthpr.co.uk

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