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How to avoid making your virtual audience the afterthought with Joshua Butler

Posted on 04/01/2022

In our latest installment of EventLand’s season 2 podcast series, we zoom in on event technology in 2022. 

EventLand’s brand new season 2 podcast series is powered by InEvent and hosted by Marian Volkwyn. The podcast aims to share event insight from some of the best event profs. No-holds-barred – we want to share the good, the bad, and the ugly.

We invited Joshua Butler, co-founder and COO of Falcon Events – a new business model for the event industry, one that is dedicated to online events.

In this episode of EventLand, Joshua dives deep into some common mistakes event planners make in this transitional period from the pandemic to post-pandemic events. 

Listen to the full episode here:

For the past 15 years, Joshua has been in the live streaming and virtual/hybrid event industry. 

He created a website called LNO TV – Live and Online TV, where he began streaming a local TV station online. Thereafter, he started to produce virtual events for some of the biggest brands in the world, like Dell and Intel.

After traveling the world to work on global events, Joshua realized a gap in the market. “We knew that the future was coming. We knew that virtual and hybrid was an opportunity for the future because there weren’t any companies dedicated specifically to that,” declares Joshua.

In 2019, Joshua decided to quit a large AV company, and just three months later, the global pandemic began.

As he watched event organizers pivot from in-person to virtual and hybrid events, he realized a trend and some common mistakes that many event organizers were repeatedly making. 

The first of which was making the virtual audience the afterthought. 

Josh’s 4 tips to avoid making your virtual audience the afterthought

Joshua Butler on EventLand’s podcast
  1. Don’t choose a platform first 

Before the pandemic, event planners would often choose the venue first before planning the rest of their event. Usually, this would happen years before the event.

At this moment, where event profs are transitioning to virtual and hybrid events, they often use that exact blueprint to plan their virtual and hybrid events. 

“Event planners often make the mistake of finding the venue AKA the platform first […]
But you need to have a strategy before you choose a platform.”

Joshua Butler

“It’s not like when you choose a venue you’re choosing how the user is going to interact with your content or how they’re going to engage with your content, or how they will network with people, no.”

“When you choose a venue, you choose the entertainment experience they’re going to have – the location and accessibility issues. You’re making those choices by choosing a platform, and that’s a huge problem that meeting planners are having now,” explains Joshua. 

  1. Prioritize your virtual audience

During the pandemic, event attendees opted for the virtual experience and aided many companies to stay afloat in a health and financial crisis.

As event organizers highly anticipate the return of onsite events, there is an expectation that the same priority needs to be given to in-person audiences as they did before the pandemic.

According to Joshua, that is a mistake. 

“When we focus on a small slice of the omnichannel event strategy, which is in-person, and not the growing virtual space, if that is the focus, where does the event budget go? To in-person activities,” explains Joshua. 

“And then you look at your event and realize that you can’t stream it all and can’t afford the big platform, so what do you do? You stream a few of your activities, or maybe you record and make that available to your audience; what do you think your virtual audience will think? They’re going to feel like an afterthought.”

  1. Change your thinking towards virtual & hybrid 

For many event planners, in-person events are their first point of reference. As times are constantly changing, event profs shouldn’t have a fixed mindset regarding events. 

“The frame of reference for event planners is in-person events, and that gets in the way of adopting best practices for virtual & hybrid events.”

Joshua Butler

According to Justin, this is a teachable moment for all, and the best way to learn is to remain open to the possibilities that could provide solutions.

  1. Consider the user that has always been excluded

Joshua has come to understand that event planners think that the only reason why virtual event attendance has increased was that in-person events were halted as a result of the pandemic.

He believes that that is a misguided opinion. 

“True, a segment of your audience had to go virtual, but why did attendance grow by double? Because you created an experience for a segment of the population that was never going to attend an in-person event in the first place,” details Joshua. 

Statista share of individuals planning to attend events in-person and virtually after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic worldwide as of March 2021

People who may have been restricted in the past due to accessibility issues – be it physical, emotional, or mental – became engaged audience members for the first time.

Over the past two years, companies and organizations started creating inclusive experiences. 

“And now that the pandemic is over, you give them two live streams? If you are that attendee, are you thinking that you are just as important or just as valuable? Of course not,” concludes Joshua.

In this modern world, this is a very competitive market. They’re going to find your competitor providing what they are now accustomed to. You have to consider that user.

Joshua Butler

Conclusion

When the priority is in-person audiences, most of the budget is allocated to in-person audiences and what’s leftover goes towards virtual audiences. 

Joshua makes a compelling argument for why that should not be the case. These 4 top tips help event profs understand the importance of their virtual audience and why they should be a priority in planning events in the future.

Listen to the full episode here:

This episode of EventLand was brought to you by InEvent. Check out Season 1, where we spoke to:

Tune in for more podcast episodes by EventLand, by following EventLand on Spotify.

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