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Interview

On-Demand Interview + Key Highlights: How to Launch a Next Generation Virtual Event

by Erin Chesterton
on March 23, 2021
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Introduction

A race in the biggest pain cave party.

The CrankedUP event series was created in direct response to athletes, entertainers and philanthropists wanting to find a way to safely come together in a fun and impactful way.

Solo and team relay riders take on the challenge to ride as far as they can in a set time. The CrankedUP virtual arena provides live DJ's, team pits to hang out in, event, stage and rider to rider chats, polls and camaraderie previously only seen at 'real-life’ events.

Watch the on-demand recording as the event's concept creator—Keith Williams—takes you behind-the-scenes of his experience building this one-of-a-kind virtual event.

You'll walk away knowing how to build a highly engaging virtual event from the ground up. The team shares everything from event ideation, through pre-event promotional strategy, plus effective post-event follow up tactics you can replicate for your next event.

 

Interview Guests

Keith Williams
Concept Creator, CrankedUp

Chris Carver
CEO, Lennd

Erin Chesterton
Marketing Manager, Lennd


Watch the Interview


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Interview Highlights

How CrankedUp Came to Life (3:52)

Chris: I wanted to start with all this is how in the heck did you think a race in the world's biggest pain cave party would be so popular?

Keith:  I believe technology can solve some of the greatest problems in the world and you know being in technology and events, it just fell apart come the pandemic and there was no security or insurance. It was just uncertainty all the way through and there was not much confidence across anywhere...So, I was looking for things to do in an age and there's lots of virtual things..like the Ironman virtual reality..like the Red Bull time lapse. So I was started to get engaged with these virtual communities. But ultimately it's just I’ve always felt on my own, I wasn't interacting with anybody and I miss that. I just was just missing this entertainment side I wanted to have an entertainment aspect to the experiences that I was having.

I also looked at some data around the events other people were doing and technologies people were using indoors or at home... I thought well how can we lift this up and bring it to life in a way that actually connects humans to humans in a very different way because one thing we all crave is to build new connections and that’s what I was looking for.

The Moment Keith Realized the Event’s Potential (11:20)

Chris: Was there a moment in time or you said wow this this thing has some legs? I know you were excited about it from early on with all of your experience and building businesses and things of that nature, but I'm curious if there was a moment or you really kind of felt like you wanted to take it to the next level?

Keith: Well I thought it was a dumb idea you know because who would want to be showing everybody else you're in a pain cave sweating not looking all that great and and other people can see you, but apparently people like to show their pain caves. So the validation came with when I started to speak to others about the idea but everybody got the energy of it. They got the energy of this broadcast where people were normally used to seeing professionals train or participate in events or give classes. They are used to just watching they're not used to actually being broadcast and being participants themselves.

Key Tactics and Advice for Someone Starting from Scratch (13:20)

Erin: Knowing there’s a lot of event in marketing folks like myself on this interview, what advice would you have for them to start evolving their tactics—something that you wish you knew when you started?

Keith: I would say the the key things for us was two things: one is doing the basics you know brilliantly—in terms of having the right assets, a good website, explaining the event well...with really good calls to action on the website or wherever we’re posting our content. So doing the the basics brilliantly. And then I'll say the second part is the hustle. And the hustle is going into partners, sharing a story getting you know people buying into it.

You know in the authenticity of it and the spirit of the event and getting people excited about it. Not just partners that you want to work with but also give them the assets to make them successful as well. We created assets and a play book for our partners where they had the assets they need to send out to their databases and their distribution lists. Thirdly it's just looking at all the data you know what's the data telling us you know what's the insight here.

What to Look for in Virtual Technology (15:53)

Chris: Do you mind describing the structure of the event and the functionality you are looking for in a platform, 'm really curious what your mindset was at that point and what you were looking for?

Keith: Yeah it was it was quite an interesting one because all of us are set up on probably a conference call with you know everyday for the last 12 months and there's different solutions... and there's no real production on top of these these a lot of these conferences software so I was looking for a few elements.

First of all I was looking for production that I could skin something around and then control the structure inside it, I wanted to make sure it had a main stage just like you would go to a real event. I wanted to make sure there is where people come into an event they can have a holding area or a stage that they can go and see. I don't want to be the only who had permission or the access to move people around the event. I wanted them to freely go wherever they wanted to go you know without me having to manage it.

Targeting & Promotional Tactics (21:53)

Erin: Bringing things back to the marketing side—once you've solidified that tech you were going to use, how did you approach marketing? Mainly let's start with targeting—did you have a Persona in mind when you went to send these invites out, did you already have a really targeted list or was a lot of it organic growth or word-of-mouth

Keith: So the first thing first things first I had no lists, I had no database - this was the first event of its kind...so the the list was non-existent so but we did have a persona and that's something that we kind of articulated quite early on to say who is this for, who are these people? Generally speaking they were cyclists that had a turbo, so we looked at their groups that they liked either on Twitter or Facebook. They'd like certain cycling groups or they were in—so we looked at the different groups and then we also looked at the type of people they followed—so sports personalities, technology because we feel that these were quite tech-advanced people. So were they following different emerging technologies and would like gaming or different devices? We were profiling someone based on them being a cyclist, a sports fan and quite technical and began to look at this audience to see if they exist and how big it is. And that gave us validation to begin targeting that.

Building the Event from the Ground Up (24:23)

Chris: I'm curious Keith...what were the tactics used leading up to this first event?

Keith: Yeah I think that it was it was a hard hard thing, we had no logo, we had no name, we had no website, we had nothing...so some of the critical things that we wanted to create were these assets. So we defined the brand and the guidelines and how we were described it. And then we start looking at the type of people that this would appeal to it and started creating creatives from that. Bearing in mind we were in lockdown. So I couldn't even ask friends to go and take a photo . So I just got some photos and we got some images and short videos—we did maybe longer ones around 50-60 seconds for people to be able to digest different types of information. Because it was a new type of event we did watch spend a little bit of time going through the quick elements of what it is and just to get people to feel it because it didn’t exist before, people wouldn’t get it so we needed to very clearly explain what it is.

Challenges Eliminated With Virtual Events (27:47)

Keith: It takes a lot of work in terms of permits, closing down streets, getting cities closed down, risk assessments—barriers, arches checking out the tourists, making sure everyone's okay with it...all the stakeholder to manager, I probably wouldn't miss all of that any of that to be honest.

Because what was really weird for me, I mean I'm not I'm not in events day in and day out, but what was really really weird to me is the event when I went to start the event I pressed a broadcast button...that was it! I didn't have barriers, I didn't have health and safety... now bear in mind I'm not saying that's not do it events cause I love events. I'm not saying don't do them, please do them, we need them. But, I will say I will be definitely doing virtual events because they become very convenient for consumers people are consuming things differently now in their homes. 

Fundraising in a Virtual Setting & Create Ideas to Drive More Donations (30:10)

Chris: I don't want to skip this point over as this was also a fundraiser it was also a way for me to give back um can you describe what you did there and how you got your partners and just the the general feeling that that added to the overall event?

Keith: The reason I'm in technology is for two reasons—one is to connect experiences to people to make their lives more meaningful and the second is impact, how do we make a bigger impact as individuals to communities in the world. And the impact sides really important so we we brought in you know a couple of charities that I was quite close to but also they had cycling database so we wanted to to leverage the charities and their audiences. 

So we had one particular person, he was raising money for pancreatic cancer UK, and his wife actually, Marcia was riding as well and Marcia’s had breast cancer and John unfortunately lost his lost his brother to cancer as well so they were very gracious and also very keen to to do something. 

So John said if I raise a thousand pounds—he was cycling twelve hours, he's doing a solo twelve hours—and he said if I raise a thousand-pounds today, Marcia said she'll shave my hair off. So, that to me was just brilliant to me. So I was the commentator of the CrankedUp event in so we were talking about John, he has his own team pit. Go check them out, he just said if he raises a thousand pounds he's actually going to get his head shaved off. So low and behold within a few hours he'd actually raised a thousand pounds...so we had people that were actually participating in the spectators in the event checking out John's page and he smashed his target...so after the race is finished we sign into John's team pet so we were in his house...Marcia is shaving his hair and that's the beautiful thing about the event cause you can be a you can be creative as you want and you can direct people to wherever you want and it really is as far as your imagination can go.

Tactics to Drive Engagement Pre-Event (38:26)

Chris: I'm curious what were some of the things that you did to drive that that interaction and drive that engagement as a event manager to ultimately get the results that you got so may I know you were creating guides and things of that nature but can you kind of walk through a few of those

Keith: Yeah to be honest it is pretty basic and I I think it's so basic people don't do it. I literally took a step back bearing in mind I probably had to take a step back cause it’s quite a technical event...I literally did the most basic thing and took a step back and said if I were doing this what would I need to know what would be the problems and so and also not just a thought about how am I going to make people excited about this by solving problems. So it's not like oh here's a technical guide that is really boring—these are the cool things you can do, it's actually educating them as well. Understanding how are people going to be interacting before the event how can we get them set up for success.

Attendee Experience & Post-Event Engagement Opportunities (42:00)

Erin: Did you get any feedback specific from attendees after the event about the overall experience and engagement during the event, was there anything that really stood out?

Keith: We did an NPS and considering this was the first event we we got an NPS of 8.3 which was was pretty good. I would I would have liked to have been a bit higher than that...but I think part of it was this is a new event for a quite a few people. So feedback was people wanted to ride the same course, they wanted to ride the exactly the same course. We did have these people that were coming in very technical and other that were there for fun but we also had some really serious people so the serious people wanted everything like a rulebook we had no rulebook so maybe we could have done a better job sort of catering to those different groups.

How to Leverage Sponsorships in a Virtual Setting (47:08)

Erin: Switching gears here to sponsorship sponsorship opportunities did you use any sponsors for this event in what do you feel the opportunity or impact a sponsorship could have in a virtual setting?

Keith: I think in in this in this stage of the event we didn't ask for money, we just asked for support  because we didn't have a database and I think we wanted to get credibility. But I think it's a sponsors dream actually because I think there's so many events with so much wasted sponsorship money. The audience isn't really engaging with a banner or ad or goodie bag, I just think those times are gone...We had an expo area Inland where we showcased all of the all of the different partners and then we make sure that the the partners could have content coming through on the day of the event...we had bike manufacturers, retailers, nutrition advice, new product guides, technical advice and some gear. We literally had an agenda, so what we did with our sponsors what we said what part of the agenda do you want? We could create their own room so we can expose people to this particular content at a certain time, and that's what we did and the engagement was really really high, it was unbelievable. It was so easy to do and it's great they really can connect with the attendees or riders whatever your event is about in a different way.

Post-Event Engagement Tactics (51:50)

Erin: I'm curious you know you put obviously a lot of time, effort and energy into creating the event day of and you mentioned the NPS survey after the event. Did you have any other post-event tactics that you ran to really help maximize engagement and she continued to carry out the momentum and the excitement from that event?

Keith: One of the things that we wanted to do is to own a hashtag, so we created a hashtag #WeAreCrankedUp and we wanted the conversation to be built on on that hashtag and we asked the community if they could help us grow it so we asked for their support to help us through our community which is every which everybody owns.

Keith's Short Term and Long Term Outlook for Virtual Events (54:25)

Chris: Do you have any advice for nonprofits as they're kind of working through virtual. I mean we're obviously 12 plus months into this, so I'm curious from your learnings, what are you telling the nonprofits that you speak with?

Keith: I think there's a short path and a longer-term path. I think you know we're still not over the pandemic, so we've still got a ways to go and we need to be innovative. We desperately need it, so I think the virtual is something that is is guaranteed it can be there, the pandemic doesn't affect the virtual event. 

Get Your In-Depth Virtual Event Planning Checklist

Screen Shot 2021-03-22 at 12.31.02 PM

Keith's Quotable Moments

On how to drive more interaction and engagement pre-event...

"I literally did the most basic thing and took a step back and said if I were doing this what would I need to know what would be the problems and so and also not just a thought about how am I going to make people excited about this by solving these problems."

On the moment he knew the new virtual event would work...

"The validation came with when I started to speak to others about a stupid idea but everybody got the energy of it. They got the energy of this broadcast where people were normally used to seeing professionals train or participate in events or give classes. They are used to just watching and they're not used to actually being broadcast and being participants themselves."

On starting a new virtual event from scratch...

"We had no logo, we had no name we had no website, we had nothing—so I would say the the key things for us was two things: one is doing the basics brilliantly, you know in terms of having the right assets, a good website, explaining the event well...with really good calls to action on the website or wherever we’re posting our content. And then I'll say the second part is the hustle. And the hustle is going into partners, sharing a story getting you know people buying into it. You know in the authenticity of it and the spirit of the event and getting people excited about it."

On the impact of sponsors in a virtual setting...

"We had an agenda, so what we did with our sponsors what we said what part of the agenda do you want? We could create their own room so we can expose people to this particular content at a certain time, and that's what we did and the engagement was really really high it was unbelievable. It was so easy to do and it's great responses for sponsors, and they really can connect with the attendees or riders in a different way."

On the outlook of virtual events...

"When I went to start the event I just pressed a broadcast button...that was it! I didn't have barriers, I didn't have health and safety. I'm not saying let's not do in-person events cause I love events...I'm not saying don't do them, please do them, we need them. But, I will say I will definitely be doing virtual events because they have become very convenient for consumers as people are consuming things differently now in their homes."

Keith: We did an NPS and considering this was the first event we we got an NPS of 8.3 which was was pretty good. I would I would have liked to have been a bit higher than that...but I think part of it was this is a new event for a quite a few people. So feedback was people wanted to ride the same course, they wanted to ride the exactly the same course. We did have these people that were coming in very technical and other that were there for fun. right but we add some really serious people so the serious people wanted everything like a rulebook we had no rulebook so maybe we could have done a better job sort of catering to those different groups.

LENND, INC

Lennd is a next generation event technology platform that simplifies operations and planning so event teams can work smarter, move faster, and improve their ROI. 

To learn why some of the most respected event teams trust Lennd to power their operations and learn more about our virtual event tools sign up for a demo: www.lennd.com. 

CrankedUp
CrankedUp is a group of passionate cyclist, triathletes, women, men, and event lovers. Their goal is to simply continue to use beautiful human actions and enable technology advancements to bring a better connected experience at home. AND we put everyone in a live virtual music stadium so we can all cycle with beating sounds and heart. Learn more here: https://www.crankedup.co.uk/about

 

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