The Update: How Google is handling the shift to virtual events
In this episode of our video series The Update, Natalie Zmuda, global executive editor of Think with Google, talks to Marcelo Alba, lead events and experiences strategist at Google, about the pitfalls and opportunities brands face as they take their events online.
The playbook we've all been working off of for the past couple of years just needs to get thrown out.
Things are really different.
Needs have changed and as a consequence we need to change as an industry
and we need to design for what people need right now.
In this episode of The Update,
Marcelo Alba from Google's Events and Experiences team
the pitfalls and opportunities brands face as they take their events online.
So as your team is figuring all this out:
What have you learned? What approaches or techniques have been particularly helpful?
When things change, listen and ask.
We've been doing a lot of listening tours, both internally at Google
as well as with many different audiences
who we’re trying to reach with all of our experiences and events.
And I think
we've been asking questions
like: What is useful? What is helpful?
What kinds of content do you do like right now, and what makes sense?
And what are you watching?
And understanding that is helping us design for the user
as opposed to designing for the user of three months ago.
With everyone looking for so much content though,
virtual events have become a really crowded space overnight.
So what advice would you give to brands that are trying to stand out?
I think it's figuring out how you triangulate three key points.
One is your audience.
What is it they need during this time?
It's a strange time and people need all sorts of things.
What is going to be most valuable to them during this time?
Two is figuring out what your business needs.
What is it we need to convey at this time?
And how do we create something that sort of helps both of those at the same time?
The third thing is going to be how you show up as a brand.
How do you behave out in the world?
Is it playful? Is it very sophisticated?
How does it show up?
And I think connecting those three points
is going to make whatever you put out in the world just stand out and feel uniquely yours.
Can you talk to me a little bit about the difference between hosting a live event and a pre-recorded event?
How do I make that decision?
I think the question we would ask ourselves is: Is there a very specific
reason for it to be live?
Unless there's a very specific purpose for it:
the ability for people to interact, something happening in a time and place that needs to be live,
people being able to network before or after a very specific live moment,
it doesn't often make sense for something to be live.
It makes far more sense to be able to script it,
record it, record it again if it doesn't go well, edit it and send it out to the world.
It feels a bit more polished,
a bit more relevant for the type of content people are consuming online at that moment.
So if you're struggling to answer the question,
'is there a specific purpose for why this should be live?',
the chances are it probably doesn't need to be.
So tell me about how you decide which platform to host your event on?
The platform question is interesting
because it's essentially:
What media channel do you use to convey your message or host your event?
And I think it's similar to
choosing media channels.
You go back to your objective.
If your objective is awareness, for example, you go for your high-reach media channels like YouTube.
If your objective is engagement, you look for higher-touch,
but lower-reach vehicles, perhaps like Google Meet.
And so, by looking at what it is you're trying to accomplish and what objectives you're actually after
you can then start identifying which channels help you do that best
and then figure out how you bring your event to that channel.
So for brands trying to figure out how to measure these online events,
do you have any practical advice?
Think about measurement less like
traditional event planning
and think of it more like
digital media planning.
It's not just about counting
how many people and how many views.
It's now trying to figure out which content was most impactful.
Which one had the highest engagement.
Which one had the highest number amount of watch time.
Which one led people to another piece of content or another experience.
You can track all of this now that we've gone virtual and digital.
And so, I think being very clear about the journey
and where we want people to go on that journey,
mapping that out and figuring out how you can track it
is going to really help us define the value of these things moving forward.
So what's the team working on right now that you're super excited about?
There's several things that I’m really excited by. There's one we're doing
for the NewFronts coming up,
what is known as Brandcast.
We're doing something called Brandcast Delivered.
Brandcast can't happen
in real life, as we all know,
and so when we started thinking through what a virtual version of brandcast could be,
we started asking ourselves:
What is the context people are going to be watching this in?
Likely on their couch.
At best in their home office. But it's going to be from home.
And so, how do we bring something uniquely different to their home,
when they're watching it in a browser with probably 13 or 15 different tabs open
so that we actually stay focused,
they stay focused on us and aren't sort of just disappearing into the background.
So what we came up with was this concept
called Brandcast Delivered
where their inputs in terms of what they like, what they want to hear about
actually get fed back to them through a custom piece of content that's designed specifically for them.
So it's personalised content
and it's talking about all the things new things coming out on YouTube which are really cool.
But it's done in a way that is going to be far more relevant to people because they're the ones who chose the content.
So what do you think is the future of the events industry?
Where do you see this all going?
I see a world where virtual events
actually benefit physical events, and physical events benefit virtual events.
These two worlds that were historically very far apart
now come together and exist in a way that helps each other.
People want to convene. They want to have coffees. They want a handshake.
They want to learn stuff and there's still going to be value to gathering physically.
I think now all of that stuff can happen digitally
and more people will have access to that
and that's really an exciting thing.
I think there's a number of digital interactions
that we can start bringing to the physical world.
And how does that then change the physical events industry and how people interact?
So I think the merging of these two worlds
is just going to
unleash new opportunities for the entire industry, and that's super exciting.