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  • Writer's pictureNancy Hays

Transform the Virtual Event Experience by Hiring Celebrity Talent

Updated: Sep 8, 2020

As Published for Meeting Planners International: Link to Blog

Have you always wanted to hire a celebrity to speak at your meeting or event but thought it was way out of your price range? Think again! The rise of virtual events has presented a unique opportunity for event planners that they may never be able to take advantage of again (or at least, until the next pandemic)—the affordability of celebrity talent.

In the past, booking a celebrity was expensive and didn’t necessarily result in positive ROI. Budgeting for high-end talent not only included artist and agency fees, but also entourage travel expenses, hotel rooms and catering, along with the additional expenses necessary to provide quality sound, lights, staging, labor and other elements specified in the artist’s contract rider. It was also difficult to confirm availability because of tours, films, TV shows or other obligations. And God forbid you plan for all the above and lock in the perfect talent, only to find out that their cancellation clause enables them to back out of your event without advance notice.

A successful virtual celebrity performance must take advantage of the intimacy that the virtual medium provides.

In other words, everything that was a deterrent has gone away, so why not take advantage of it?

If you have experienced all of the above challenges in booking celebrities in the past, virtual events have presented you with a golden opportunity. During the COVID-19 pandemic and for the foreseeable future, celebrities and their representatives are willing to entertain almost any reasonable offer. As a result, never before has this level of talent been more accessible or affordable than it is now.

But before you decide to set aside money in your virtual event budget to book a star, it’s important to carefully consider how to harness their unique skill set in order to present them in the most engaging way possible. Remember, what worked in the past for a live concert or keynote won’t necessarily work online.

This is where enlisting the help of a reputable production company that has experience working with celebrity talent in the virtual space will be key to your success. What is the point of booking a major musical star (who knows nothing about your company, association or charity) to perform a second-rate version of their normal concert in a poor-sounding home studio, looking depressed and sounding less than stellar? There are many seasoned production companies eager to help you, so don’t hesitate to seek one out.

A successful virtual celebrity performance must be compelling and surprising. It must take advantage of the intimacy that the virtual medium provides, and attention must be given to making the performance as customizable as possible.

Here are a few examples of how to successfully incorporate celebrity talent into your next virtual event.

1.     Have your star make emcee-style intros for your educational speakers or make surprise entrances and exits to keep your viewers engaged throughout your event programming.

2. Engage your star during virtual breaks in one-on-one conversations with participants around a fun subject (such as sports, cooking, favorite vacation spots, pets, humor, etc.), staying away from controversial topics, negative news and politics.

3. Allow participants to send in questions for the celebrity with the goal of including the maximum number of short interactions. Have your moderator pre-select questions to assure a diverse group of ethnicities, accents, regions and perspectives on a topic, and allow the person asking the question to share the screen with your celebrity.

4.     Engage the celebrity in a “fireside chat” led by your moderator that includes your company’s executives and features customized content.

5.     Gain insight from an expert celebrity speaker on a topic (leadership, teamwork, overcoming adversity, etc.) via an intimate discussion that will allow him or her to provide an outside consultative opinion on a topic customized to your organization.

If you decide to have an artist perform musically, you need to give special consideration to the content. Less is more in terms of musical numbers. Selections should complement your messaging, and they should be inspirational, positive and motivational. I strongly recommend pre-recording all talent segments to allow for the best possible production in terms of sound, lighting and overall presentation, followed by one-on-one chat sessions that can be improvised and live streamed during the event.

Most importantly, consider hiring a small, flexible and socially distanced film crew to capture the footage with your celebrity and showcase them in the best possible light while staying consistent with your meeting theme and messaging.

Interacting with a celebrity in a virtual medium can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for event attendees. There is nothing quite as thrilling as looking a famous person in the eye and speaking directly to them, whether on Zoom or other videoconferencing platforms. So if you’re looking to add a truly engaging experience to your virtual event, now is the time to maximize this opportunity while controlling the deliverables. And in doing so, watch your virtual event transform into an unforgettable experience that your attendees will be talking about for the rest of their lives!

Photo by Nathan DeFiesta on Unsplash

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