5 minutes, 5 hours, or 5 days. Virtual means a whole new world of time slots.

The virtual event stage is open 24/7 and the mic is always on. That’s a lot of time to fill. So we checked out a few recent events — WWDC, Microsoft Build, Comic-Con, and The New York Film Festival, and made some notes on the best ways to get creative with time slots.  

The short stuff — 5 minutes or less
Quick and real, or animated.

GIF montage of Apple products: Apple Watch, Apple Maps, and iPhone in action

The catchy highlight reel… 

Sometimes people only have time to see the really good stuff — the world premiers, the crazy panels, the Zoom bloopers… And they want it all in 90 seconds or less. Apple’s WWDC set the gold standard for these kinds of highlight segments. We’re talking Augmented Reality, 3D animation, voice-over, catchy beats. But beyond Apple’s slick production, these highlights worked because the voice-over writing really worked. It was natural, conversational — like talking to a friend about the good parts of a movie. Virtual Events are all about making that human connection. And for event organizer’s, these highlights are one of the best ways to connect with new viewers.

Cartoon drawing on grid paper of "A.I. Supercomputer"

The animation break… 

Animation means unlimited set design and the power to present high concept ideas in a short amount of time. So it’s no surprise that Microsoft’s Build event created an animated short to help talk about their supercomputers. Filming this kind of thing would usually require all kinds of sets, actors, or stock footage. But with animation, Microsoft is able to condense the story and function of their supercompers into a short, visually interesting narrative. If you are an organizer, presenter, or vendor, and you’ve got a complex concept to present in under 5 minutes, consider working with an animator to make it come to life! 

The medium length stuff — half-hours and hours.
This is where you make the real connections through the laptop, seriously.

GIF from ComicCon@home of a man talking on a virtual screen

The laptop camera keynote

The 30-45min time slot is pretty standard stuff at a live event. But in the virtual world, when the audience is always inches away via the laptop camera — every speaker has keynote potential. This was clear in Bryan “Kaiser” Tillman’s Comic-Con pep-talk about staying on the creative grind during these upcoming months. At his desk, with comics and toys in the background, he spoke directly to the camera, and inspired people to use this time, right now, to reach their creative goals. It was real, and honest, and felt like the most important message of the event. So remember, for 30 mins at a time, it’s anyone’s keynote at a virtual event. 

Virtual attendees at ComicCon@home chatting on screen

The “give your fans more.”

As we get into segments that are about an hour or more… more production might be the way to go. For example, The Star Trek Universe panel at Comic-Con, which came in at a cool 1 hour and 19 minutes, included hand drawn storyboards, motion graphics, show footage, live editing, the full cast of three separate Star Trek shows, and Patrick Stewart, naturally. It was immersive and unexpected and we counted over 30 talking heads in total. Now, something like this would obviously require professional production. But keep in mind, these longer and more complex segments are geared towards your most enthusiastic and dedicated fans. That little extra production might just bring down the house, virtually of course. 

The long stuff — 48hrs to forever
Longer can be better, with the right audience.

GIF showing two different virtual attendees on a screen

The 24/7 event…

Microsoft’s virtual Build event this year was 48 hours of continuous developer content, panels, product news, and even some yoga. At a time when people are simply not interacting with as many people as they were before, we think this was a really important exercise. Developers work long hours, and there’s some comfort in knowing someone, somewhere, is always developing. The same could probably be said for every other profession. While we don’t necessarily recommend taking your event online for 48hrs straight, these epic virtual events provide a break from the ordinary. And that’s what a virtual event is all about!

58th New York Film Festival poster featuring Bill Murray on the graphic

Three weeks to forever…

The New York Film festival will run from September 17 to October 11, so about three weeks. And this year it will be a combination of virtual screenings and drive-in movies. Now, there’s no tip-toeing around this — it’s not going to be the same as being in the theater for the first run of a film. But we think that the multi-week film festival format is something we can learn from. Instead of dropping all your content at once. Piece it out. Even if you aren’t screening a highly anticipated movie every night, you could probably put out 90 minutes of good content a day. This could run for a week, three weeks… or even forever! It’s all possible in the virtual world!  Theoretically speaking. 

When starting out, quality over quantity… 

Virtual events give us the power to start small. To test an audience and build an organic following. To try out some shorter content on social media. Organize a pop-up panel. Book a few keynote-style speakers. Before you know it, when you put it all together, you have a fully booked virtual event!

September 14, 2020

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September 14, 2020

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