How to Engage Audiences in an Era of Virtual Fatigue

April 16, 2021

Jerry Deeney

Jerry Deeney leads the account services team as chief client officer at [INVNT GROUP], ensuring clients receive the highest level of service day in, day out. He is an experienced producer, communicator and marketer whose portfolio includes global motor shows, motor sports and lifestyle events set in the world’s most influential arenas.

Whether caused by taking part in a series of daylong video conference calls, catching up with loved ones from afar, or attending an event or meeting via an online platform (or a combination of all of these), virtual fatigue is a very real thing.

Now a year since the pandemic began, it’s clear that certain brands and organizations are coming out on top — those paying attention and addressing virtual fatigue by placing both their audiences and storytelling at the heart, thinking creatively and embracing new yet equally relevant technologies to enhance the virtual attendee experience.

Let’s delve a little deeper into some of these practices.

Considering a deconstructed approach to storytelling

We know effective storytelling is the key to success for all brands, and in the virtual world, different considerations need to be made to maintain audience engagement. This is where a deconstructed story becomes a powerful tool. Think of it like the structure of a book, which is the sum of many equally important chapters that as a whole tell a cohesive yet complementary story.

With deconstructed storytelling, we take the overarching brand, product or service stories and break them down into smaller, more specific chapters. These chapters, for example, could focus on the attributes of a new car, electronic device or beverage. As we shine a spotlight on these different elements, we seamlessly transition between speakers, backdrops and topics. The scenes act as snackable bits of content that educate and the progression of moving from one chapter to the next keeps attendees engaged as they eagerly wait to see where the story narrative is taking them next.

Extending the content reach and lifetime 

This deconstructed narrative approach also enables brands to drive pre-event interest while continuing conversations long after a broadcast comes to an end. The focused bursts of content can be shared individually across owned web platforms, as both teasers and standalone longform story segments. Plus, if you’re working on an event, such as a product launch, and COVID-19 restrictions allow, you can explore a hybrid approach by inviting select and embargoed media to physically view all content ahead of the unveiling. The revealed content can then be further condensed into snackable 10-30 second highlight videos for social platforms at the post-event stage, and in doing so, engage a wider audience who didn’t attend the virtual event.

Leveraging the right tech for the right impact

While we’ve seen massive digital acceleration as a result of the pandemic, a “tech for tech’s sake” approach must be avoided. First, consider the audience. What is the story you must tell, and how can technology enhance that storytelling in a way makes it more impactful and engaging? Those who tuned in to this year’s all-digital CES, for example, are known for their tech savviness, so it was vital to pull out all of the stops to enhance the storytelling when we worked with General Motors for the event.  

To achieve this, we decided on a mixed reality experience, one that carefully fused the real with the virtual, and transported the audience to a series of different locations that were so crisp and clear, they had a real-world feel about them. Speakers were physically present in a massive LED arena, and by using the Epic Games Unreal Engine, we were able to have these immersive worlds move around behind them (they were supplemented by animated 3D images, math-based computer-generated animations and more) as the Unreal Engine rendered the worlds out in real time.

This approach worked well for CES, and it will — and has — for many other brands and audiences, but there are many factors to consider when determining which tech — or combination of tech — to employ when designing and producing a truly engaging virtual experience.

With a return to in-person events across the globe not yet fully known, and the majority of us continuing to work remotely and socialize online, virtual fatigue remains an issue our industry must not only address but also lead the way in overcoming. And it’s something we can achieve if we remain proactive, creative and importantly, strive to be the very best storytellers we can be at every turn. 

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