Most people cringe at the thought of another webinar or video networking event. But that’s really all we have left. Or is it?
According to Jared Augustine and Tiki Barber, co-founders of Thuzio, hosting amazing virtual events isn’t out of reach for even the smallest organizations (or budgets). What it takes is goal-oriented and attendee-focused planning and execution.
How to Thuzio Came to Be
Thuzio was dreamed up between Tiki and Mark Gearson, also a co-founder. They met with Jared and explained their new business concept over Jared’s first cigar. The idea was to connect entertainment talent to businesses. Jared shared that they had come up with this idea for a marketplace businesses could use to book talent for amazing events.
He also admitted he was a bit nervous going into the meeting with Mark and Tiki, “I was a wreck. I’m a big Giants fan and I’m not a cigar smoker.”
The three men hit it off and Thuzio was born a short time later. “About three months later, we founded the company Thuzio and it started as a marketplace just to book talent. And now it’s evolved into two businesses,” Tiki explained. “One is Julius, which is an influencer marketing business. And the other is Thuzio, which is our event business.”
Eventually, Thuzio ended up evolving into two different companies: Thuzio for event planning and Julius for influencer marketing. Thuzio’s sole goal is to create bond-worthy experiences.
Thuzio’s Virtual Pivot
Thuzio’s successful virtual pivot started off with the most important thing any business can do: giving their clients what they needed. “We listened to our clients. So our virtual experiences started to bubble because our clients needed to do events,” Tiki said. “They needed to create their own content.”
Then the Thuzio team considered how they could provide value for their membership and created a new virtual product just for their members. Every week, Thuzio hosts an event with amazing talent that their members and guests can attend.
The Keys to Taking Thuzio’s Events Online
Based on their experiences, Tiki and Jared shared four key steps to Thuzio’s ability to transition offline events to an online world.
- Listen to what your clients need.
Many business people are struggling with the lack of quality events where they can build real connections. In Thuzio’s case, they work with a lot of business development (BD) and sales professionals. Those BD and sales people still needed opportunities to connect with prospects, and the Thuzio team focused on how they could meet those needs.
- Adapt at the speed of the world around you.
Thuzio is a small start-up and they were able to make changes quickly. Within two weeks of the world shutting down, they had developed and implemented a plan to make sure their clients could still have bond-worthy experiences.
- Treat your online events like an event, not a video call.
Thuzio knew they had to go beyond the basic mass video call to really capture their attendees’ attention and energy. That approach is in constant iteration as they learn from each event and as new technology is developed and acquired. The primary focus is great content that builds connections.
- Focus on your uniqueness to stand out in the crowded online space.
Lean into what you have to offer that others in your space don’t. That could be great client relationships, great business relationships, or something else. But your company has something that other companies don’t. Use it.
5 Things You Must Consider For a High-ROI Event
Tiki and Jared shared five things that businesses must consider for high-ROI events. This really expands on the third key to Thuzio’s success in taking offline events online for their members and their clients. No matter your company’s event budget, keep these things in mind.
Match Your Content To Your Audience
Who are you trying to get online, and what are they passionate about? Just because you’re introducing a new product or service doesn’t mean you need to hire a speaker in your industry for your event. Your content should be yours to talk about, so what else can you give your audience that they’ll be excited about?
“We had a recent event where HP had a product demonstration to do. But you better believe they didn’t do a speaker about that category,” Jared said. “Instead they had Ray Lewis come do a talk.”
Make Sure Your Allotted Time Accomplishes Your Goals
“You don’t want your event just dragging on and on. Most of our events are an hour or so. That’s enough time for 30 minutes of entertainment and 30 minutes of client content,” said Jared.
You don’t want to rush anything, but you also don’t want your event to exhaust your attendees. Don’t take three hours to accomplish what can be done in 90 minutes.
Don’t Leave Choosing a Moderator Until The Last Minute
Consider any large entertainment awards show, like The Grammys or The Oscars. They don’t leave moderator selection until the last minute, and neither should you. You can have a great speaker planned, but they aren’t going to bring your whole event together. That’s the moderator’s job.
“We go to great lengths to encourage our customers to bring in great talent, but also make sure they’re coupling that with a great moderator or a host. This can even be someone on your team who is really excellent at it,” Jared advised.
Make Your Online Event Tangible Through Gifts
If it makes sense, be sure to send gifts to your online event attendees. Are you doing a wine tasting? Send wine to your attendees. Have a speaker who just released a new book? Make sure each of your attendees gets a copy.
“We think that tangible gift arriving at their door really brings the experience home, in an important way,”Jared explained.
Due to shipping timeframes, this can actually be a great way to encourage people to sign up days or weeks before your event. They won’t want to miss the shipping window.
Don’t Brush Off The Technical Aspects of Your Event
The people on your sales team shouldn’t be required to have the technical expertise to pull off your event. Be sure to bring on the right talent you need to make sure the technical aspects of sound and visuals are taken care of. Coordinate with your speakers and moderators to check their sound, lighting, and video quality ahead of your event.
The Future of Corporate Events
The landscape of corporate events has changed. It’s not to say these developments wouldn’t have happened at some point in the future. But those in the events industry certainly feel as if 2020 accelerated the market share increase virtual events now have. Everything has changed, from the way companies do virtual events to the technology and hardware used to produce them.
Most people had never even heard of a ring light before 2020, and both ring lights and microphones are hard to find online these days.
Even Thuzio, despite their success, is looking to the future with their recent purchase of Robin, a corporate entertainment platform with a premium user experience.
“It’s exciting because we look at it as an opportunity to be a one-stop shop for live or virtual events. For games and concerts, and really any entertainment vehicle for the business professional or individual,” Tiki said.
Thuzio intends to remain bullish in virtual events; Jared likened virtual events to working from home. Before 2020, working from home was considered a luxury. However, now most companies whose employees can work from home are looking at permanent flexible working arrangements. That’s because working from home at least part-time works well for both the employee and the company.
And virtual events work too.
“Work from home is working. In virtual business entertainment our clients consistently see a better ROI with virtual than they do with live,” Jared shared. “We can’t wait for live events to come back, but virtual events are going to be a permanent pillar of our business entertainment offering.”
It’s An Event Not a Video Call
Video calls have really become a huge business driver in this new work-from-home era. But your clients and customers deserve better than large-scale video calls masquerading as virtual events. Keep in mind that everything from your content to your technical experience can either work in your favor or push your events into the realm of “white noise.”
Virtual events are important marketing channels for companies. Organizations must focus on providing the best virtual event experience possible.
In a time where everyone and their dog is having a virtual event, what can your company do to show you value your customers and clients’ time?