3 tips for successful virtual events in 2020

Over three months have passed since the first case of COVID-19 infection was confirmed in Japan. Even as the national state of emergency has been lifted, things are most certainly not back to normal. Under these circumstances, many major Japanese companies have decided to postpone their annual general shareholder meetings, which are typically held in June.

Right now, minimizing face-to-face meetings is the safe choice. However, how long can companies stand to wait? Achieving a totally safe environment could take at least months, if not years.

Shifting to the new normal

The Governor of Tokyo recently proposed a new lifestyle for living and working under the slogan “With Corona”. This is essentially a declaration that we cannot return to the way things were before the pandemic. As this new plan suggests, careful balance is required to minimize the negative impact on Japan’s economy while also reducing infection risk.

As of present, it is still a considered a serious risk to hold face-to-face events such as shareholder meetings or business gatherings for groups of over 50 people. No matter how careful the organizer is about sanitizing hands or ventilation, if there is one infected person it is very likely that the event venue will become known as a cluster source. If that happens, it will be featured day after day in the news. This will obviously cause reputation damage to the organizer. The reality remains that no company wants to be seen as putting stakeholders, employees, and families in danger.

However, there are many situations in which communication is necessary for business, including shareholder meetings, press conferences, new product announcements, and other gatherings in order to develop business. How can we communicate if in-person events cannot be held?

Virtual events as the main event

Virtual events are the best answer to solve this problem. However, one large problem is that up until now virtual events have been treated as sub-events, and virtual-only events are only held as a makeshift alternative when an in-person event is not an option. Under such circumstances, the production quality of most virtual events thus far have been overwhelmingly low, and most participants have low expectations and low motivation to participate.

Have you ever been disappointed in a virtual event because you couldn’t concentrate due to the uninspiring content and poor broadcast quality? Because of this unfortunate reality, expectations for virtual events are already low. You might think, “This is unavoidable,” to holding a subpar event. However, this is changing rapidly. At present, the risk of holding in-person events with a large number of people is too high. Therefore, we need to shift to hosting “Virtual events as the main event” and take more responsibility for creating experiences that are worthy of participants’ time and attention.

In order to create a successful virtual event, change should begin from the concept stage. It is important to provide high-quality content to increase viewer engagement, rather than monotonously reading presentation slides. From our experience supporting virtual event production through our Bespoke Live service, we believe the following three elements are key to holding successful virtual events.

Bespoke Live is a virtual event production and promotion service by Parthenon Japan.

Bespoke Live’s unique approach to virtual event production is a strategic combination of creative problem solving, strategic PR planning, technical expertise, and attention to detail. We deliver virtual events that look great, sound great, and ensure safety and reliability.

1: Engage in two-way communication

  • Find new ways to interact with viewers
  • Respond to questions and comments from viewers via chat, etc.

Up until now, virtual events have been treated as sub-events, and they were rarely the main event. Most virtual events have been held due to unavoidable circumstances, such as remote participants.

However, the situation has now changed dramatically, because it is difficult to hold in-person events with an audience even among local employees. The unfortunate reality is that most virtual events up until now have not been produced to meet high viewer expectations. What can be done with virtual events to get the audience more involved?

At a virtual event such as a traditional webinar where the host gives a didactic lecture to the audience, it is difficult to keep the audience’s attention. With Bespoke Live, we encourage hosts to gather questions and comments from viewers through a live chat. This will enable the host to identify the audience’s interests, and adjust the speaker’s narrative accordingly.

2: Optimize content for creating edited videos that have lasting value

  • Balance risk with the need to show emotion
  • Be aware that you are creating “permanent content” from the preparation stages

When doing a livestream event, you must expect that the live video might be recorded and viewed in the future. It is important to create quality content that can be rewatched later. On the other hand, if you are too conservative and create boring content because you are afraid of making mistakes, it will be difficult to maintain audience interest. We have to adapt to the times and maintain a strategic balance.

For instance, with Bespoke Live we use our team of creative experts and broadcast-grade equipment to create content that can be edited into quality online video ready for publishing on YouTube, Vimeo, or intranet platforms.

3: New creative directions

  • Develop production around key messages and make a detailed strategy from the planning stages
  • Add creative direction and media training into your preparations

Virtual events are held under completely different conditions from in-person events. Unlike face-to-face events, where you always have to be aware of what your audience can and cannot see from far away, with virtual events you can include anything that can be put on screen. Conversely, while in face-to-face events listeners can naturally obtain peripheral information from non-verbal gestures and the surrounding environment, virtual events are limited to only what is on screen, so information delivery heavily depends on speakers’ performance.

It is necessary to focus on your key messages from the planning stages, and make a detailed plan on how to communicate each message effectively. For instance, at a face-to-face event it may be possible to capture the audience’s heart with the speaker’s non-verbal communication as a part of storytelling, but the same action may be seen as cliché if attempted in a virtual event.

With Bespoke Live, our experienced team of specialists in media training and strategic communication help deliver interactive event experiences.

The future of virtual events

Up until now, virtual events have mainly been seen as a stop-gap alternative to face-to-face events. Creating engaging virtual events can be a time-consuming and daunting task. However, virtual events are becoming more important now than ever before, as people around the world are being encouraged to adopt new lifestyles in post-pandemic society.

As audience expectations continue to rise, high-quality virtual events are necessary in order to effectively communicate with stakeholders and employees without relying on face-to-face interaction.


Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you host a virtual event that looks great, sounds great, and is safe and reliable.