Virtual Event Myth #1: Starting from Scratch

Virtual Event Myth #1: Starting from Scratch

In this first episode of the Cvent Virtual Week series, we are debunking a common virtual event myth: Starting from scratch when switching from an in-person event to a virtual event.

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Cvent CONNECT is going virtual

It's Cvent Virtual Week and we are going to be debunking myths around hosting virtual events!

In the first part of our three-part series, we tackle the myth around having to start from square one when switching to a virtually hosted event. Our guest Paulina Curto shares her tips for taking events originally planned for an in-person experience to a virtual platform without having to start completely from scratch.


  • Paulina Curto, Manager, Meetings & Events, Cvent


  • Brooke Gracey, Senior Manager, Demand Generation, Cvent
  • Cody Liskh, Team Lead, Event Quarterback Team, Cvent


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Cody: Alright Paulina Thank you so much for joining the podcast and you know you've been on the podcast, a couple of times, so we know who you are. To start this off, though, let's talk about, you know, what's a good tip or trick you developed in the past couple of months. 


Paulina Curto: Yeah, you know, I haven't had that much experience prior to these past few months working from home, but something that I've found has been really nice and kind of brings me back to some semblance of normal has been affording some time with people before meetings to socialize. I think it’s really nice to sort of engage on that human level and it just makes it for, you know, a much more positive experience to ease into, you know, whatever work oriented conversation you have. So, you know, remember to socialize, keep it light with your colleagues, we're all doing this together and it's just nice way to kick off meetings so socialize, socialize, socialize, and work, and then work. 


Brooke Gracey: Such a good tip. We did that before we started this podcast, so I love that. And we're super excited because this episode is actually kicking off a three-part series this week all about virtual events. This is part of Cvent virtual week and we wanted to really focus in on one key part here for this first episode, which is this misconception I think is out there that is if I'm going to pivot my events to virtual I have to start all from the beginning; I have to start from square one with everything. And so we're really hoping and our conversation here with Paulina that we're going to be able to de-mystify this misconception. And so let's start off with the question on everybody's minds, which is: Do planners really need to start from scratch when they're going from in person to virtual? 


Paulina Curto: So look, you know, not all events are created equal. And in some cases, you might have to start from scratch or what feels like Scratch. For example, a golf tournament or I don't know, a VIP field marketing event in a box lead at the Super Bowl. That doesn't exactly immediately equate to a virtual experience. So you're going to have to likely go back to the drawing board, but You know that's not new for event planners, you know, as planners, It's in our DNA to kind of absorb and approach change with open arms. We don't let it dishearten us. We're no strangers to and I think I've talked about this on a previous podcast, the concept of execute, un-execute, re-execute kind of mentality. So when you're approaching your event program and evaluating what makes sense to pivot And, you know, there are bones to every event. And so it's really a matter of going back to those bones as opposed to, you know, the mindset of, “Oh no, I got to start all over”. So it's not exactly efficient, but it's certainly, you know, not something new for us event professionals. 


Cody: And that's a really good point. I feel like who better to really pivot to virtual than meeting planners that's in their DNA. They've already been doing changes on the fly in the past. So it's already there. Probably, but I imagine the thing that they're thinking about is, where do I even start. So Paulina, where would they start when they're evaluating what needs to or doesn't need to change when converting from an in-person to a virtual event? 


Paulina Curto: That's a great question. And honestly, you always start with your core event goals for hosting the event in the first place. And, you know, maybe this is an inflection point for you because you're thinking to yourself, “Oh, I don't know if we have any you know defined goals for this particular event.” This is the opportunity to work with your stakeholders, your peers, to really identify what those goals might be, but you know, for a virtual event, it isn't exactly a one transformation. And so you have to look at those goals and think to yourself, are we maintaining the integrity of these goals. If we were to, you know, pivot to virtual. Once you can confirm that hosting the event in a virtual format still upholds the goals of the event and you just need to ensure that you communicate that with your stakeholders. That's something I think that is huge because in many cases, we're all approaching or 

producing an event from different perspectives and it might not necessarily always be that this is, you know, a for sure “Let's pivot to virtual” kind of experience. So make sure your cataloging and recording why this this pivot makes sense and communicating in a really articulate way to those who might not be coming from the same perspective. 


Brooke Gracey: And I love how you touched on goals there, because I know in a previous conversation we had talked about even that golf event, for example. It may feel like you're starting from scratch, but you still have the fundamentals there. The goal of that event might be just engaging with your customers or your top prospects and there are ways to still reach that goal virtually. So a lot of times, too, so golf events, you know, this could be a different scenario, but when we're talking about things like Cvent Connect right, where we're going virtual this year; There's all of this content that's been developed and I imagine a lot of planners are in the same place where, we knew what we wanted to talk about at our live event, we'd already started building out the content; Do they have to scrap all of that and start from the beginning? 


Paulina Curto: You know, I don't think that's necessarily the case. I do want to share though, it is important that the type of content you intend to feature doesn't make sense in this small screen kind of format. For example, in a virtual environment you're working with very different constraints than that those of you know in person face to face event, predominantly being attention span. So you really want to be thoughtful about whatever content or your content delivery is. If your program lends itself to data heavy content, PowerPoint driven; you really want to think about unique ways to break up the monotony of a slide-after-slide kind of experience and, you know, my colleague, Alissa, who, you know, we work tandem throughout this entire pivot to or pivot in our program. She has this great phrase, where the more dynamism on screen, honestly, the more captivated your audience will be, and that's 

a matter of saying, you know, break up the types of content and, you know, try to coach your speakers to be as authentic and engaged with the camera as possible. And, you know, talking with your hands. I've heard actually humanizes the speaker, a little bit. So there are some great best practices in terms of how you can manage your content delivery in a virtual environment. And you know for those events that maybe aren't necessarily super content heavy, but might be more experienced or experientially driven and you know there are some really unique ideas that are coming out of this in terms of having a experiential virtual event or virtual program. I've heard Flair bartending has been a really cool and kind of cutting-edge type of experience that that people are integrating in more of a networking socializing type of environment. So you just got to be cognizant of the type of content and the delivery and making sure that it's as dynamic as possible so that you know are shorter or abbreviated attention spans aren't lost. 


Brooke Gracey: Wait, what is Flair Bartending? 


Paulina Curto: Flair Bartending is essentially, imagine going to a bar and your bartender has some really cool tricks you know whether he's like throwing the shaker in the air, but slicing align doing it. That's kind of the experience, but it's essentially a cocktail making class with this added dynamism on the screen. 


Cody: I’ve seen flair bartending before. And there's a lot of sometimes they like things on fire. It's very showy. So cool. The next time, Paulina, you see a virtual flair bartending please let me know. I really want to attend that. 


Paulina Curto: You’ve got the invite. 


Cody: Now, I think that with all these changes that have happened, and you know companies are telling their meeting planners that they're canceling the these events and they're actually going to pivot to the virtual instead, I can just imagine some of these meeting planners having like a deer in headlights, like, “Oh my gosh, what am I going to do I need to plan a whole new event”. But, you know, are they really planning a whole new event, you know, how should they be thinking about that? 


Paulina Curto: No, you really don't need to be thinking about this as if you're planning a brand new event. More than likely, you've got some great bones that have come about from a very comprehensive pre planning process. And you know, I would say it's not ineffective if you were to take traditional pre planning for a in person or live event and equate them to the virtual planning process, right? You know, just because you might not have your hotel venue in place, you still need to ensure that you have a venue per se in the virtual environment and whether that's, you know, a hosted platform, are you leveraging a video conferencing tool and, you know, those sort of sourcing and pre planning steps are still very much in line with our traditional role, you know, in addition to the venue component there really is the thought process of, you know, just this event, which is traditionally five days, need to be five days in the virtual format. No, and quite honestly, you know, my team and I have discussed this at length, and we think that, you know, cutting your traditional event by 50% is probably a good formula to you know, use when you're transforming it to a virtual experience. Reducing that content overall and then evaluating like we were just talking about, how long should a session really be, you know, in a 

In person event, you see sessions be anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. Well, we're working with different you know constraints, people are you know, doing laundry and answering phone calls, while they're all sitting at their desk and so we were talking about this limited attention span. Well, maybe the timeframe for your breakouts should be cut in half too, so looking to be more of that 25 minute maybe 35 minute type of content delivery in a program in a breakout session. And, you know, in addition to the actual framework of the event you want to think about what is your post event experience look like, you know, are you leveraging data, is there a post event marketing campaign; All of that is very, very much ingrained in the traditional event planning process and super, super important in the virtual environment as well. I would almost argue that it might be even more important because all of your engagements have happened in a more truncated timeframe.  


Brooke Gracey: Well, I mean, I know the misconception is here, I have to start at square one with everything. And it sounds like, like you're saying the bones of the event, the real structure, you know, the goals; Those are all saying the same. Just making minor tweaks with the idea in mind that you aren't in a venue, you know, and taking that into consideration the content may need to be shorter because of shorter attention spans. What are some other major things that planners don't need to change when they're switching to virtual? 


Paulina Curto: Registration is a huge piece to your, your event program. And, you know, is it a matter of how you catalog your registrants are they members, non members, are they customers or prospects. 

And, you know, all of that is still very important to the entire process. And I think also, you know, leveraging your peers and ensuring that the program is supported with a core team, you know, in traditional perspectives we think of, you know, core planning teams we have war rooms. Similarly, we can equate those exact types of processes to the virtual environment. I know as we're planning our annual user conference Cvent connect, we've got a number of Slack channels that we're communicating on and one of them is titled You know, Cvent Connect Virtual War Room and, you know, just as we would be engaging in our court committee meetings in person in the office and You know daily stand ups on site, and in our war room we're leveraging that type of that type of technology to support that exact type of pre planning. 


Cody: Gosh, I really love this. I think that it's a really good point hit home with everybody that, you know, I think that we are a little like intimidated by switching the virtual but it's really not starting from square one. There are some things that need to be changed, but really it's not everything. And I think that's a really good point to hit home with everybody and You know, Pauline, it's been great to have you on here to help us dispel this myth. If you had to leave just one takeaway or piece of advice with our listeners, what would that be? 


Paulina Curto: You know, I think many of us when we you know everything seemed to have to happen very quickly and it almost felt like we needed to mourn the loss of live events and it took a minute for me to really understand what that meant. And, and I had to accept the fact that live events/in person events were going to be put on hold for a little while, sort of compartmentalize that and prepare myself to embrace the opportunity for the wild wild west of virtual events. And so just, you know, take the time you need to compartmentalize that things are going to change. And then prepare yourself with a fresh perspective that, just because it's change doesn't mean it's harder or, you know, more cumbersome, it's an opportunity for us to showcase all of our traditional skill sets and in a new way and embrace kind of a new event frontier. 


Cody: Love it. Well Paulina. Thank you again for joining the podcast. Is there anything you want to promote or share with our listeners any you know examples of some really great virtual events that they can maybe attend? 


Paulina Curto: Well, of course I'd love to put in a shameless plug for Cvent connect virtual 

And I'm so excited about it. We have a great team supporting all of the amazing content and really cool production elements. So definitely encourage all of you to register when you can and that is August 25th and 26. 


Cody: Perfect. Well, thank you Paulina.