Pandemic Pivot: Thoughts, Tips, & Observations Regarding our Latest & Largest Revenue Stream.

By Christopher Salvi


Thoughts: Livestreaming and Virtual Events

Well, I feel like we can all agree on one thing: it’s been a wild and difficult year for doing business, both mentally and in the real world outside our own heads.  The Covid-19 pandemic has proven to be a powerful & dynamic challenge, one which many businesses have struggled to overcome.  Despite providing quality products and services, many organizations (including those with exemplary business models & practices) have shuttered, often left to wonder what other steps they could’ve taken to stay afloat. 

For Salvi Media, the pandemic meant a shift from in-person video production to something that would fit our business and allow us to thrive despite “new normal” hurdles.  The adjustments we made, much to our surprise and joy, brought about the best quarter in company history.  

Up until Q2 of this year, video production constituted the majority of our revenue.  As you can imagine, most businesses became reluctant to invite film crews into their offices when the pandemic hit, and we endeavored to develop measures that would ensure the health & well-being of our production crew members.  While safety became the main priority for ourselves and clients alike, keeping audiences engaged with our brands was a close, close second. 

Image of Salvi Media video production equipment setup

Livestreaming and virtual events, when done right, can give you an advantage in the perpetual race to create engagement with your audience.  That's why we’ve been drinking from a firehose since the start of this pandemic, consuming every resource we could possibly find related to these new means of engagement and communication.  We’ve learned a lot, and — to be frank —  realized that we haven't always approached these types of events correctly.  We’ve made mistakes, a couple.  But, we also know what it means to grow from our missteps, and will continue to strive towards our goal of becoming the premier digital media company in Chicago.  We will adjust, and we will constantly be better. 

Below, you'll find a collection of quality ideas & resources that I've curated with the help of a few colleagues.  

Our hope is that they will help you execute a successful livestream and/or virtual event.


Tips & Observations: Livestream and Virtual Events

Zoom calls, video conferences, webinars, and virtual happy hours have become the “new normal” of social & professional interactions.  Sometimes they’re great, most of the time they’re fine, and every once in a while they’re just straight-up boring. Here are some tips to guarantee a better virtual event:

  • Avoid Boring:
    • Know your audience. What makes them tick, and why are they here?  Talk about it. 
    • Get creative: pre-event cocktails, a musical guest, or even just an engaging video can help ease people into a comfortable & receptive state  
    • Get the right MC (Master of Ceremonies): you should be able to find someone from inside your organization, but if no one is comfortable you can always lean on an organizational stakeholder or hired hand.

  • Be Solid:
    • Avoid technical difficulties with careful planning and rehearsals.  Trust us — this is key.
      • “One of the key items, often underestimated for a virtual event, is rehearsal.  It is just as important virtually as it is in-person.  For a successful virtual event dependent on audio, video and streaming - rehearsals are key to producing polished and enjoyable experience.” (Executive Producer & Director of Sight & Sound, Christopher Galluzzo)
    • Consider the internet connection of every individual livestreaming the event (some are always better than others).
    • Provide webcams & microphones and encourage participants to properly frame their displays on the screen for optimal professional presentation.
    • Pre-record any portion that could cause issues; in fact, pre-record most if not all of the stream/event when applicable. 
  •   Put on a Great Virtual Event:
    • Think outside the box: what are some cool/interesting new ways to engage with your audience?
      • A cameo from a relevant thought leader, perhaps?
      • It never hurts to send a physical gift or kit to bridge the physical and digital experience.  
    • Create a customized platform or find a white-labeled platform that fits your needs. Consider whether you’ll need breakout rooms, sponsorship exhibits, networking areas etc. 
    • Create additional pre-recorded assets (our montage for a class reunion) to complement the stream/event. 
    • Get interactive: polling and Q&As keep the audience focused and engaged                         
    • Use a studio and create a sense of authority with an official “talk show” or stage set up.
  • Feedback and Data
    • Create a simple survey to generate feedback from the audience.
    • Ask what they liked and didn’t like, and give them an opportunity to provide recommendations.
  • Analyze the engagement data.
    • Sign up vs. Attendance ratio
    • General engagement metrics like clicks on the call-to-action, views, % of content watched, etc. 
    • Where, specifically, did people drop off during the event? Why do you think they left? If you can ask them, do it! 

Content is King:

Successful virtual & livestream events require content.  Lots and lots of content. 

These kinds of events provide a fantastic opportunity to compile video and audio assets into compact pieces of content for the event itself, any sort of follow-up, your website, and/or the social channels on which you are active.  Terri Lydon, VP Sales & Marketing at media production and distribution company Rivet, recently offered Salvi Media some valuable insight into virtual & livestream event production:

For any successful event, you need amazing content. This is even more important these days since the lure of your event is no longer a fancy destination with fun cocktails. You have to convince people to sign up – and actually attend! – based solely on what is being presented. On the flip side, with events becoming virtual, getting big-name presenters may be easier…no longer are you asking someone to travel, stay longer than their designated speaking time or (really) even leave their home. 

Once you’ve gotten your presenters onboard, leverage the dollars and time you are spending even further! Everything is digital. Record it. Edit it. It’s the basis for your social media posts, your YouTube channel, your future podcast series.

(Terri Lydon, VP of Rivet)

Clearly, there’s a “right way” and “wrong way” to host virtual & livestream events, so newcomers should carefully consider the experiences of those who’ve come before them.  Content is, and will remain King as long as quarantines & travel restrictions are in place, so elevate your content creation skills and take heed of what’s working for others in your industry and the market at large. 

  • The People Behind the Camera:
    • Producer: Project manager and creative lead for pre-recorded assets and live events.
    • Director: Game day captain and troubleshooter. 
    • Switchboard Operator(s): Makes the transitions smooth and keeps the event flow seamlessly. 
    • Livestreaming Videographer: In-person crew member that sets up the livestream audio and video on location. 
    • Livestreaming Assistant: Works with director and videographer to set up all needed equipment. 
    • Editor: Create in-event content and post-event content from the livestream.
livestream video

  • Livestream Distribution Platforms:
    • YouTube
    • Facebook
    • Vimeo and Vimeo Livestream
    • Zoom
  • Virtual Event Platforms
    • Custom (Build your own!)
    • White-Labeled Platform (FERvirtualnext.com)
    • InEvent
    • Cvent
    • HopeIn
    • Whova

FER Virtual Next, a partner of ours, has created their own platform in a pivot to provide greater value to their clients.  Salvi Media utilizes their work to create a more robust experience for our clients.  Randy Hano, CEO of FER Magazine weighs in on finding a platform to fit your needs:

All platforms are not created equally.  It is extremely important to spell out your goals and find a platform that most closely aligns with them.  Do you need a webinar, a webinar with a few bells and whistles, or a more robust platform?  If the latter, do you want it to resemble what your attendee is used to from their social media feeds, a platform that allows for true 2-way communication between the attendees/speakers and your company?  Do you need breakout rooms, round tables or possibly an expo hall?  Will you leave the event up after it takes place and are you planning to share the content through other channels?  These were all things the FER Virtual Next team considered prior to deciding to develop our platform which is now also being white-labeled to companies and associations looking to host their own virtual events.

(President of FER Magazine, Randy Hano)

Instead of rushing into things and eventually dealing with a misfire, it’s likely best to do your research and find the platform that fits what you need now, as well as what you’ll need in the future.  This market will continue to grow in the years to come, so develop an understanding of your options and keep your ear to the ground; things are going to get really, really cool. 


Expectations and Recommendations: 

Like most things, you get what you pay for when it comes to livestreaming and virtual events.  While elaborate livestream/virtual events can be impressive and effective, they also take time, energy, and a number of experts to execute everything properly.  Simple webinars, on the other hand, can be cost-efficient and effective despite lacking certain “wow” factors.  There will always be a certain level of risk, and even the most elaborate multi-day virtual events can end up being expensive and ineffective blunders.  Take your time, think hard about what type of livestream or virtual event you want to host, and deeply consider how it fits into your branding, budget, and overall marketing goals

Virtual events and livestreaming are new to most organizations, and we didn’t expect them to be this important to our business, especially under these conditions.  So, what’s our best piece of advice, if we had to give one?  Take your time understanding how livestreaming and virtual events can add value to your brand and marketing.  If you have any questions, feel free to reach out via our website, we're always happy to be a resource!