Top 4 Considerations for Creating Visually Engaging Virtual Content

I think it’s safe to say that, in the last six months, we’ve all been on more Zoom calls, Teams meetings and webinars than we can count!  For marketing and communications professionals, the most urgent question right now is: How do you get your message to breakthrough in a time when screen fatigue is at an all-time high?

Though there is no replacement for in-person interaction, there are ways to do it well if you are willing to rethink your approach.  Since March, I’ve witnessed and participated in a paradigm shift within the events and meetings industry and what we’ve learned is applicable to anyone trying to reach a target audience in this environment.  Here, I share my top takeaways to date.

 #1:  Deploy Content in a Television Broadcast Style

Increasingly, we are seeing this approach to virtual events and video content.  I am a huge fan of this trend as it creates a lot of space for innovation and creativity.  In my experience, you can achieve this look and feel with these best practices.

  • Instead of your executives or speakers using a Zoom background or their living room as a backdrop, consider using a studio (many local A/V providers have setup studios for client use) or creating a temporary studio setting at your office or at a speaker’s home.
  • When planning out your broadcast or virtual event, try to break the content down into digestible segments with a clear start and end. Research tells us that the average human attention span is just eight seconds (!), so changing up what’s on screen often keeps viewers engaged. 
  • A mix of live and pre-recorded content can allow for transitions and set changes from segment to segment.
  • I cannot stress this one enough: Plan for rehearsal time. Executives and speakers who are normally great at the podium during a live event may not be used to speaking into a camera or on a set without no audience.  Budget in time (and space rental costs, if applicable) for a couple of run throughs, particularly if the actual program is going to be done live.

#2:  Get Your Technical Needs Straightened Out

Working with a quality A/V provider is the best tip I can give here, as they can take your vision and make it happen from a technical standpoint without you having to understand the nuts and bolts.  That said, some high-level considerations crowd sourced from my friends in audio-visual and production include:

  • Ensure that proper static lighting is used to ensure all presenters are properly lit with no dark spots or shadows.
  • If using a custom backdrop, beware of vinyl, as it may cause a reflection from the lighting. Keep it simple so as not to overload the viewer.
  • Do not rely on the microphone on the camera to capture your audio. Lavalier microphones will provide better quality.
  • Be sure to discuss the minimum bandwidth needed for your broadcast to ensure no break-up or latency.
  • Start with mapping out the experience you want attendees or viewers to have while tuning in and let that lead you to the right tech solutions.  For example, think about the level of interactivity you want with the audience, if any.  Platforms such as Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Zoom, Run the World and ON24 all have varying capabilities.

#3: Be Thoughtful About Your Backdrop

Ultimately, you want to make sure that what you are putting out to your audience looks polished, professional, reflects your brand and translates well from set to screen. That means providing a backdrop for live speakers or panelists that is unobtrusive, easy on the eyes and allows the audience to focus on the message you are trying to get across.

  • Stay away from recording in rooms that have windows or doors that let sunlight in. Natural light is great for in person meetings, but for live or recorded content, rely on professional studio lighting.
  • Drape is often a go-to for providing a professional looking backdrop.  It can be setup in an office or home just as easily as a studio setting.
  • The goal of the recording or broadcast and/or your company’s brand may dictate the best color drape or backdrop to use. For example, for a healthcare company or charity, light beige or white can convey softness and caring while an important corporate announcement may call for black, navy blue or presidential blue, which convey seriousness and professionalism.
  • To add depth and dimension to your backdrop, consider up-lighting it. A nicely painted wall, with artwork and tastefully styled shelves can also help give the background some depth.
  • Greenery such as potted trees and plants can help add some life to your set. Consider faux greenery for a no muss, no fuss solution.

#4: Stage Your Speakers Properly

Whether you need to stream a fireside chat, a panel or a single speaker, you’ll want the seating to be the at the correct scale for on screen presenters and provide the right tone for remote viewers.

  • Allow for proper distancing with multiple speakers in the same space.
  • Use neutral or traditional colors for seating such as tan, gray, blue and brown.
  • Stay away from black and white furniture – the presenter or panelists’ clothing may blend in too much with black furniture and white seating may look blown out on screen.
  • Consider the material used in the seating.  Shiny leather, for example, may not read well on camera. Chairs in a matte fabric or vinyl will keep the focus where it should be – on the people sitting in them!
  • Refrain from using glass tops on coffee and end tables as the lighting on set will likely reflect off of them. Instead use tables with a flat finish.
  • Make sure the seating is the right size and height for your presenters. For taller people, choose chairs that sit a bit higher off the ground. For a petite presenter, choose seating with a smaller profile that won’t swallow them up.
  • Have speakers being fed in from multiple locations?  National suppliers who have warehouses throughout the country, including CORT Events, can provide the same on-brand set pieces to speakers in different locations around the country for a uniform look.
  • To provide a higher comfort level for speakers on a panel or to allow for less distancing between them, consider placing freestanding clear dividers between chairs or barstools. 

Just as with an in-person press conference, activation or event, the challenge remains the same: creating engaging content that will capture the attention of your target audience and provide the desired marketing and communications outcomes. Luckily, there are many resources available to communications professionals to make that happen.  

Kellie Mayrides,CMP holds a B.A. from Elon University in Communications/Journalism and a Marketing Certificate from the Wharton School of Executive Education. Kellie is a Certified Meeting Professional with 17 years of experience in event marketing and design.  She has worked at CORT Events since 2017 and since the start of the pandemic, has been helping clients pivot from live events to top notch virtual meetings and broadcasts. She can be contacted at kellie.mayrides@cort.com

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