March 27, 2020

Event Strategies

Producing Virtual Events – Insights from Banzai’s First Virtual Panel


Corrine Stratton

Read our top takeaways and lessons learned from Banzai’s first-ever virtual panel.


Banzai recently hosted our first virtual panel event, Making the Shift: How Marketers are Pivoting to Virtual Events. The goal of the 45-minute discussion was to share how event and field marketing teams are adjusting to the “new normal” and dealing with the current COVID-19 crisis.

Bill Glenn (ExtraHop), Matt Heinz (Heinz Marketing), and Jaana Linsenmayer (SAP) talked about leading with empathy, taking the time to build trust with your customers, and focusing on strategies such as ABM, sales enablement and thought leadership.

View Making the Shift: How Marketers are Pivoting to Virtual Events on-demand.

The Banzai event team produced the virtual panel in about a week and we were thrilled with the outcome and the content. We walked away with some lessons learned and a few tangible ideas for producing future virtual events.

Banzai key takeaways and lessons learned

Producers play an essential role

Banzai added a producer (shout out to Bryant!) to our virtual panel and it was a game-changer. The producer takes the pressure off the host or moderator to manage the operational aspects of the event. The producer partners with the host to develop the run-of-show, support all technical aspects of production, and manage Q&A. They also serve as a great back-up option. If the moderator loses connection or drops off, the producer can step in and continue the conversation.

Banzai Tip: Introduce the producer to attendees
Banzai’s producer Bryant kicked off the webinar and was mentioned during the initial introductions. This way, it was not unexpected when he facilitated Q&A, and it covered our bases if he had to step in to lead the panel at any time.

Have a contingency plan

It doesn’t matter if you put together an event in one day or six months, a contingency plan is necessary. The Banzai team turned to our contingency plan when our original moderator ended up sick the day of the panel. I was able to step in as moderator without creating major waves because we’d already decided that I was the backup. I was comfortable with the run-of-show and the content, and with a couple of slide adjustments I was able to moderate without any issues.

Other items to include in your contingency plan:

  • What happens if the moderator, panelists, and/or producer loses internet connection (more on that later!)?
  • What happens if a speaker or panelist cancels? Can the event go on with one less speaker or do you need a backup(s)?
  • What is the plan if a speaker has audio issues? Can they dial in?

Banzai Tip: Write it down
We recommend having your plan written down and shared with your key stakeholders. This ensures that everyone is on the same page and prepped for your virtual event, no matter what happens

Technical rehearsals catch a lot of unknowns

The team at Banzai prepped our panelists with potential questions and a run-of-show ahead of time. Because of the conversational format and the panel prep docs, the team felt confident in just hosting a tech run-through. The run-through consisted of the producers, our moderator, and a member of our team who acted as an attendee.

This allowed us to double-check our A/V, practice sharing our screens, and get an idea of how the Q&A would work. We were able to catch a few small things that could have really flustered us if left until the day of.

Banzai Tip: Build in prep time
In addition to hosting a tech rehearsal, we recommend that you and your producer(s) show up at least 30 minutes before the event goes live and that you have your panelists or speakers show up at least 15 minutes early. This gives you a chance to make sure everything is working from a technical standpoint, and to fix any last-minute issues.

The show must go on!

The scariest moment of my day was when my internet went out towards the end of the panel. I texted our producer to let him know and did my best to get back on. I was able to rejoin in 3 minutes or so (felt like an hour!), and I noticed the panel was functioning as if I’d never left. The panelists had noticed that I’d dropped out, and they were able to keep the conversation going. Likewise, Bryant was prepped to pivot to Q&A if needed.

Banzai Tip: Don’t make it a big deal
If you experience a technical hiccup, try to keep your cool. My hands might have been shaking as I got back online, but I did my best not to make a huge deal about it to keep the event moving. These types of issues make you human, and people respond well to authenticity and humor.

It’s ok to not talk about your product

It can be really tempting to talk about your product during your virtual events, and there is definitely a time, place, and format for that. After discussing this as a team, we decided the virtual panel was just not the right channel for discussing Banzai. Instead we wanted to use the 45-minutes to focus on the thought-leadership of our panelists and the questions from our audience.

Banzai Tip: Promote your product and company in unique ways
Though you may not talk about your company or product directly, there are still ways to get your brand out there. For example, make sure whatever is being screen shared (slides, video, desktop) is branded. You can also provide your attendees with original best practice resources from your team. If your cameras are turned on, think about wearing company swag or sending your guests branded mugs or water bottles that they can use during the event.

Future Banzai Virtual Events

As we reflected on the virtual panel, we realized there are a few things we want to do for our future virtual events:

Incorporate live social

There is an opportunity to take the conversation to another audience and channel through live social engagement. Our goal is to add this element as we continue to grow our virtual events program.

Include more branding

We plan to get even more creative with how we showcase Banzai (through swag, direct mail, screen shares, etc.) before, during, and after our virtual events.

More internal promotion

Internal teams are a great channel for promoting virtual events. Our goal going forward is to give our teams clear guidance on how they can help drive registrations and possibly gamify to include motivating incentives.

Have a longer promotion window

We were super happy with what we put together in 7+ days, but we recognize that a 3-4 week runway for prep and promotion is ideal.

The team at Banzai had a great time producing our first-ever virtual panel. We are so grateful to the panelists for joining and contributing incredibly meaningful content on such short notice (view the full panel here). We are excited to continue developing our virtual program, and we’re excited to keep you posted on what we learn (the good and the bad) along the way.

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