Are you hosting an event this year? If not, you should consider doing so. (Within the bounds of safety, of course.)
On this week’s episode I talked with Dave Jensen, the CEO of Encompass Events Group.
Their company helps nonprofit organizations put on live hybrid and remote events. They offer support and production services to help organizations knock their events out of the park.
And listen—if you don’t know how to run an online or hybrid event, but want to, then this is the show for you. Dave and I go over a lot of great stuff, from how to start your first online event to how to make your hybrid events engaging.
Recently, I had the pleasure of doing a virtual tour of Dave’s studio. Encompass Events Group has done a great job of adapting to the online world of events and they really have the skills to help you up your online or hybrid event game.
I think there are two main takeaways from this episode.
First, flip the script: make your audience the main attraction at the event. Get them participating or highlight them to make things feel like “not just another Zoom call.”
Secondly, do something. Even if you host just a small event, it can help you stay relevant to your stakeholders and front-of-mind.
You are going to love this episode.
Compass Event Group
Just do something. Even if it’s a small event and 100% online, do something to remain relevant.
Listen to the podcast here:
Remain Relevant By Running Online Events With Dave Jensen From Encompass Event Group
My guest is Dave Jensen. He is the CEO of Encompass Event Group. They are a cool organization that puts on live hybrid and remote events for nonprofits and other organizations looking to knock their event out of the water in terms of really bringing their A-game. I had the pleasure of doing a virtual studio tour with Encompass Event Group not too long ago.
They bring some great technology to the table to enable you to up your game. This episode is jam-packed with information about events. If you are planning an event or have been putting an event off because you don’t know what to do or handle this whole hybrid, in-person remote thing, this is the episode for you. I am excited about all the great information here, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Here we go.
How are you doing, Dave?
I’m doing well. Thank you.
Tell us a little bit about Encompass Event Group, where you are the CEO.
Encompass Event Group is a live event production company. We specialize in working with nonprofits, corporations and event agencies. We do mostly technical design and deployment. We keep our finger on the pulse of all of those three industries and try to create comprehensive solutions beyond technical design.
You guys gave me a great virtual walkthrough of your studio. Some cool technology that you bring to the table in terms of supercharging a presentation, an event or even a weekly endeavor both on and offsite, correct?
Right. Doing the virtual studio demo with you was fun. It opened up many people’s minds to the possibility that events don’t have to be in-person to be impactful.
It’s interesting to see how people have adopted all the new technology. We’ve all been forced to figure out how to present and be more effective in this virtual setting. It’s cool to see what you guys are doing down there to spice things up and make presentations and events more interesting. Can you tell us a little bit about some of the technology that you bring to the table, as well as some of the tactics that you deploy?
From a technology perspective, we work under the mantra that all events are the same. Whether they’re in-person, virtual or hybrid, we take the same approach to everything. We use the same checklists and the same processes for everything. It’s just how we deliver them and maybe the venue that we’re in. We might be in a studio versus a ballroom or an arena, but the event is still the same. It’s just about the message that our clients want to communicate. From an equipment perspective, not a lot changed. It was pretty fun. It’s been interesting to see how much in-person and virtual are similar.
It’s all about the message in the story. That’s one of the things we talk about a lot with clients over here at the show is that you need to nail your account down and make sure that you have something compelling that gets people’s attention that draws them in, gives them some anxiety, builds attention, releases that and then does that over and over again. Events are similar if you can create a structure that encompasses or at least wraps its arm around that idea of storytelling and keeping people amped, but not full throttle all the time. That’s part of the plan, right?
Right. The emotional rollercoaster that you try to create.
Do you do that with events as well? What are some of the things you’ve seen work well?
The message that organizations like yours help clients craft is that emotional rollercoaster. We just utilize technology to try to enhance that. For in-person events, that can come down to lighting and music and that type of environment. The videos that we’ll playback to sometimes are emotional and energetic. We play those same things for the in-person crowd. For the virtual setting, we still have those same production techniques and capabilities. We’re not going to play with the lights in your living room, but we’re still delivering that same experience to the virtual crowd.
The walkthrough that you provided was pretty cool. You had a studio setting. It looked very professional. There were big graphics behind the speakers on these huge monitors that you have. It felt news roomy, at least in the demo you shared with me. You also leveraged just the power of that higher level of production that brings a lot to the table in terms of an event like that or a presentation of that type where multiple cameras can move between those different shots. It ups the sensation that one gets when being presented in that fashion. Are lots of people able to take advantage of that at your studio?
For sure. A lot of the in-person production companies have a studio environment of some sort. Some of them are just popups in their warehouse. Some of them are more traditional, formal studios like ours. As an industry, something that production folks have learned is that we need to help people create compelling content, whether that’s the story or the technology that drives it.
Sometimes, stories need a little bit of help from technology to keep people engaged. We’re distracted by the phone ringing, the dog barking, the TV and the refrigerator. We have a lot more to compete with. These events have to have more of a broadcast or a television-type feel. You’re going to see that carry forward, not only in virtual and hybrid events but in-person going forward too. You’ll see a lot of these same broadcast-type techniques carry forward.
Can you give us some examples of how someone hosting an in-person event might leverage some of these broadcast ideas?
In the past, for nonprofit organizations, a lot of events were podium parades. Your MC had come up and introduced a speaker, and then they come back and introduce the mayor. They were just podium parades. The way broadcasters do it if you watch any sports or the news or anything, they break things into segments. Those segments have intros, and then they have bumpers between everything.
You put a little bit of entertainment. Honestly, whether it’s entertaining or a commercial, it’s a mental break to ride that roller coaster, get up, get back off for a minute, and then get back on it. Building your program in segments, even for in-person events, will be a thing, splitting it up with videos, adding motion, graphics, just things that give you that mental break where you can sit back and enjoy it instead of being on your toes the whole time.
Events don’t have to be in-person to be impactful.
I’ve certainly attended my fair share of events in terms of the podium parade. There weren’t smooth transitions between speakers all the time. I could see how having the ability or the opportunity to have a split stage and change the focus back and forth as you see in any newscast would be an interesting thing for organizations to consider as they’re building out their event, their program as well how that’s all staged.
Something that nonprofits didn’t embrace before the pandemic that corporations have done this forever felt split stage right and stage left instead of putting everything in the middle. On stage right, you do all the presentations. On stage left, you do panel discussions, fireside chats or the things that can break your attention. Moving it from set one to set two as we do in a studio, that can be a lot more powerful than maybe you’d realize on a CAD drawing. When you’re actually in person, and one side of the stage goes dark and the other side all of a sudden has people over there, it’s pretty fun.
I can see how that would be just a really interesting way to transition. You could theoretically do live switches. While everyone’s attention is focused on stage left, you could change stage right up a bit for the next segment.
That happens all the time. People notice it, right?
Exactly. It’s super interesting to think about how to improve our in-person leveraging all of the learning that we’ve gotten over the past year for sure. I’m interested in the idea. We’ve had this come up a number of times. As people are transitioning back to in-person, a couple of things are going on. One is that not necessarily everybody is comfortable attending an in-person event. A lot of people have gotten used to the fact that they don’t have to go to in-person events, or at least they believe that to be the case. They’re itching for an opportunity to stay remote. What are some of the techniques that people might consider to do a hybrid event?
In this transition period, a lot of states are opening up. We’ve had a lot of folks that that’s 100% their concern, “What if my participants, either attendees or presenters, don’t want to participate in person?” Something that we learned by doing the studio and the remote stuff has been presenters doesn’t have to be in-person.
We have an event coming up at one of the big hotel conference centers in Denver that half of our breakout presenters are remote. We are just putting them on a virtual platform and letting them do their presentation just like they did from home. On the general session stage, we’re planning to roll in three vertical monitors for panel discussions.
Like in our studio, you can have 2, 3 or 5 local guests and 2 or 3 remote guests. The same goes for outbound. The difference between a virtual event and a streaming event is just based on the platform. In a lot of cases, we want it to be engaging on the remote end as well, chat, Q&A or polling. For nonprofits, it’s a big deal to do your donations and bidding through the same platform that you’re viewing and attending on. That virtual event platform from an audience perspective is going to be a real key thing to focus on for organizations.
What are some of the platform opportunities or ones that you’ve used, particularly for the nonprofit space? That sounds intriguing and amazing to facilitate and enable donations right within the same platform that everybody’s viewing. What are some options out there for people looking for that kind of technology?
There are a bunch of them, but our favorite so far has been MobileCause. Their pricing is just right in line with everybody else. It’s a percentage of the money that’s donated or collected there. There’s no upfront cost to build it. What we’ve liked about MobileCause is the layout is great. It just looks like a high-end version of YouTube. The audio and video are prominent right there. There are options for meters that show you how close you are to your goal and where you are in your silent auction versus your live auction, that type the thing.
With MobileCause, you can remove all of those things. Let’s say you have that heartstring video you want to play, and you don’t want any distractions. You can remove all the bidding functionality from the overlays of the video and let the video do its thing and when you’re done with the video put all those overlays back on. MobileCause has been one that our clients have gravitated toward and liked.
I appreciate that that technology exists. That’s a big challenge for people. That’s exciting.
I agree. It’s not something that we ever had to do before. Most of our nonprofit events were in person. The silent auction happened in the pre-function area. The live auction happened right in the event space. It’s on a platform. Most of these platforms, including MobileCause, were around before being virtual.
You could always bid on your phone. It handled your registration and all that type of stuff. It still does all that. The great thing is, when we come back to in-person and hybrid, the event in-person, people can bid on their phone. The people at home will do the same thing, and there won’t be a significant delay. Everybody will participate together even though they’re not together physically.
That sounds like a great way to bring those two groups together and allow some participation from a remote standpoint. That’s another concern that a lot of nonprofit leaders have is, “If I have a purely virtual event or a hybrid event, how do I engage those people who are not in the venue effectively?” MobileCause sounds like a great tool to add to one’s toolkit to help facilitate that.
It’s a great thing. Depending on the size of your organization, you can manage that internally. If you’re a smaller organization and you don’t have the bandwidth for that, you can always outsource it to your technical partner. You have that option either way. Scalability is a big deal especially coming out of a pandemic, your event scalability, your audience scalability, your technology, and how that’s going to scale with you. Those will be really big concerns for organizations.
What do people need to think about that team to run a hybrid event? What are you seeing as a bare minimum to more recommended team assistance?
In the last year, the bare minimum has been prerecording the majority of the event, whether that was your keynote or maybe your executive director. Pre-recording a lot of that content, any videos you wanted to play, and running those back live. Let’s say the executive director, the organization representatives can be online, moderating, answering questions and managing auction items, that type of thing.
From a really small perspective, pre-recording everything, you could do it a month or two in advance, in a studio or your own facility, whatever your budget allows and your expectations will be. You could do all of that a month ahead of time, get it all bundled up, and then play it back on the event day as though it was live, it can be produced as though it’s live.
From the big picture, what we’re seeing coming back in 2021 and 2022 is what we considered the hub-and-spoke. It was modeled after the airline industry. Having a hub location that your in-person audience will be in, but then hub-and-spoke either viewing locations. They could be bidirectional participatory big locations that they view from there.
All events are the same, whether they’re in-person, virtual, or hybrid.
Somebody can also maybe make a presentation from those locations. On a big picture, you could have an event in Denver and then spokes in Boulder, Chicago, Dallas and Estes Park. Some of those could be viewing only or bidirectional. Budget-wise, you’re talking maybe a $5,000 investment versus a $150,000 investment. The span is pretty large.
You broke up just a smidge, but I got the gist of it. Could you go back and talk a little bit about the hub-and-spoke again one more time? It’s such a great concept.
On the larger end would be a hub-and-spoke type of model. The hub, let’s say your event is in Denver, and you have an in-person audience, and you’ve produced it just like you produced in 2018 and 2019. The spokes could be viewing locations. They could be bidirectional where they’re viewing and presentation locations.
In a viewing location, you would gather in a country club, a hotel, or maybe even someone’s home and just view and participate on your own. In a bidirectional spoke location, you would view, but you would also have a return feed coming back to the hub. At any point, the hub could throw it to another location for a little bit of that.
You could have viewing parties. If smaller groups wanted to get together, participate and watch the event, they could get together at those spokes. A spoke could be an individual user’s place to present or perhaps participate from a viewing capacity. That’s an interesting way to conceive of how to expand that reach and broaden your ability to get in front of people and engage.
There’s a revenue opportunity there as well. Those spoke locations could be hosted by a corporation, an attorney, whatever your audience is. Those could be hosted locations and become revenue opportunities as well.
You could expand your sponsorship tiers to have the ability for somebody to come in and sponsor the main event or one of these spokes. That’s a cool idea of how to bring in sponsorship and additional revenue. Are there any other pitfalls or other things that you would want people to consider before doing a hybrid event?
We’ve learned that there’s such a big marketing component to a lot of the events that all of us do. To market that properly, you have these opportunities with studios or even to shoot in your own facility or to record somewhere outside of the venue that you’re going to host at. You have a lot of social media and email-based marketing opportunities. That’s a big thing that we as an industry overlooked in the past. Some people were sending graphic-based announcements. You can do all that with video or audio and motion graphics. That’s how you’re going to get a lot of people’s attention and remain relevant in the nonprofit space.
I like that idea. There are certainly some technologies out there that help facilitate that. There’s one called BombBomb. That allows you to record these really short videos and send them via email. Instead of just sending a follow-up like, “Thanks for meeting with me,” you can record a quick video as you’re walking back to your car and send that, and leveraging all that technology that allows people to have something that stands out in this unique seems like a great option. When you bring people into this studio or record live, you often have a goal in mind of one major content asset with a bunch of residual stuff that helps support that. Is that the way that you tend to think about a recording session?
That’s definitely how we’ve approached it. My background was in broadcast sports for a long time. Between maybe the pregame show and the postgame show, we would record the marketing segments for the next day’s show. It’s not that unusual to repurpose the studio, change the graphics in there really quickly and record some other things, and then change them all back to the show that you’re doing. That’s not unusual. You can even do it in your own office or your facility if you don’t have a technical partner that’s taken care of that stuff for you.
One of the things that we’ve heard people have a challenge wrapping their arms around is this idea of, “If I have to book the studio for an hour, but I only want to create these 5, 10 or 15 minutes,” or whatever the number is in their head of material, “What am I going to do with the rest of that hour?” Coming at it from the idea that you can build out this library of stuff that can be used in a variety of different ways, across a variety of different channels as you’re coming into the studio and have a plan for how to effectively use that time to get a whole bunch of materials that you’ll be able to distribute across a whole host of channels is a way to wrap your arms on that.
One thing to think about is if you involve an organization outside of your own, that hour of studio time gets tightened up as you get used to the studio, as they get their mic checks and everything done, that hour gets chewed up quickly. For full disclosure, most studios do half days and full days for that reason, so that people don’t think, “I’m going to come in and get an hour of content.”
Usually, it’s a 2:1 ratio. It all depends on the experience of the crew and of the client. That’s something to be aware of. Repurposing your content, recording specific versions and generic versions, that’s a great way to do things. Sometimes, you can even repurpose some of the content, take out some of the stuff that makes it specific to this event, and you can reuse it year-after-year on occasion. Keeping some of that evergreen is a good idea too.
Those are great techniques or tactics to think about in terms of wrapping your arms around a recording session. The 2:1 ratio is absolutely a great metric to keep in mind if people are considering going into a studio to get some materials recorded.
Even on something like a podcast, if we’re looking for an hour of content, we’re probably going to book this for 1 hour 15 minutes or 1 hour 30 minutes. That’s a technology thing. Even Zoom call is the same thing. If you want an hour-long Zoom call, people will show up five minutes late and need to leave for five minutes early. It’s just a good rule of thumb may be in life.
It’s true. I have learned during this show that I need a few minutes upfront, and then I certainly need a few more than a few minutes in the end to record all the residual stuff that goes along with the show. Any hour-long recording usually turns into 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes. We’ve discussed live events a little bit and hybrid events. What are some things that you see are fairly common mistakes, challenges or places where there’s room for improvement in a virtual type of event setting? What are some of those things that, particularly nonprofits you see fall into over and over again that people can be aware of so that they don’t fall into those same traps?
The biggest pitfall that nonprofits have faced is not having an event because they didn’t know what to do. They just said, “We’ll just wait.” They’re losing relevance. They’re losing their financial ability to support the important things to them. The biggest one is to do nothing. Early on in this, at least, some groups may be their technical expectations weren’t up to par for what their audience expected. Maybe they lost a little bit of traction with their audience by delivering a subpar experience.
The first one is to do something. The second one is to make sure you do it right. It doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy. It can happen from your own facility. It must be right. If the brand of your nonprofit is somewhat of a brand of excellence, then everything you put out needs to be that way is well. That’s the biggest thing. A Zoom call isn’t going to cut it.
There’s a tendency to think, “I know how to use this piece of technology as well as costs associated.” The quality can go way down if we’re not careful. It’s good to hear what people can do to spice things up. Are there simple things that people can employ that aren’t super expensive to raise the bar on a virtual type of event?
Like we talked about at the beginning, you want to have this rollercoaster, and you want to split things into segments and give people this mental break, certainly Zoom calls and all that stuff. We’ve realized that we don’t want to sit for 90 minutes and just listen. Segmenting things into different production blocks doesn’t cost anything. That takes a little bit of thought.
A virtual event platform from an audience perspective is going to be a real key thing to take note of.
You can also learn a lot from watching other nonprofits’ virtual events and seeing what they did, and whether they used a technical partner or not, you can still borrow that process from them. If you saw that nothing was over fifteen minutes and that there were walk-away breaks at 30 and 60, borrowing any of that production style doesn’t cost anything. That might be the biggest tip.
Are those some of the numbers that you would recommend people try and stick to is fifteen minutes or less, and then breaks at the half-hour, an hour?
From personal experience, that’s what I like. If the content is great, you don’t want to interrupt that. You don’t want to break the flow. If you’re in the middle of your auction and there’s a scheduled break coming, you don’t want to stop that. To plan them in for the right time. You don’t want to go 90 minutes and then have your auction and have everybody get up and grab dinner real quick right as you’re getting to the auction.
What do you think about the idea of a breakout video? Are those effective in terms of really chopping things up? Do people tend to lose focus because they go from this live thing to this recorded thing?
From my perspective, any of those breakout videos would be a good thing to put as a mental break, say, at your 15-minute mark, but not at your 30 or your 45. You should have a video playing, maybe testimonial videos or something that’s not critical to the event but is supportive of the event during the walkaway breaks. They should be made clear that this is a video, and this is a break. You need to define and make it clear to your audience which is which. There are still things happening on the screen. This is break time.
That’s great advice. There was an event that I participated in that had a long semi-testimonial video they wanted to play during the event. The duration was too long. That’s what made it feel like it dragged. I can see how effective those things could be if they’re teed up correctly if there’s a compelling reason to go to video either to give somebody a little bit of a mental break or allow it to stay there for those people who don’t want or need to get up during a walkaway break. What are some of the newer trends that you’re seeing coming out in either in-person, live events or some of the virtual stuff we’ve been talking about? What are some things people should have on their radar as events continue to evolve?
Events are going back to in-person. From our experience, it’s more quickly than we expected. As much as they turned off, they’re turning right back on. We expected a trickle back. They won’t be as well attended either. Everybody needs to plan to hybrid for the next years. It expanded the reach of most nonprofits so much. It should stick around forever. A trend that I see happening is trying to include the remote audience in the live in-person portion of the event. You see on some of these Tony Robbins Facebook videos that are coming out that 2000 virtual attendees show up on the LED display.
Incorporating either to your technical design or into your RSS feed, on the ticker on the bottom of the screen, maybe hashtags, social media stuff, virtual platform and your in-person technology. You really do need to focus on not just that in-person show, but including the remote folks in the in-person show as well.
That’s an interesting idea, if only just to let people know how broad everything is. If you’re at an event and you’re like, “This might only be all that well-attended.” If you can at least demonstrate in some fashion how many people have come on remotely to attend the event, it raises the bar in terms of people’s excitement who are live. I could see how that has a two-way positive effect.
You hit the nail on the head.
Let’s go back to the live event. As you’re seeing those coming back into play and favorability, what are some things organizations can consider putting in play for a live event that may be out of the ordinary or you’ve seen get some great engagement going? There’s always music, special guest speakers and things like that. Are there any unique things that you’ve seen work to a really good effect?
We’ve had some really fun success with the stage right, stage left concept we talked about, actually doing remote stages around the in-person facility as well. Maybe a presentation from the lobby where you had your step-and-repeat red carpet entrance. You could do a segment from one of the VIP donor tables where it was actually at their table.
The host has left the stage during a video or however they left the stage. They end up at that table and do a segment from there, maybe even a nod to the award shows during the pandemic. How they had to transition from doing these theater-based stage shows, and they had to go out to the man on the street, the sidewalk. This type of concept would work with a nonprofit.
It’s really interesting that you mentioned that. As you said that, I was like, “You always see this stuff like backstage, they cut to the red carpet, people still coming in or whatever it is.” There’s some remote feed type of scenario where you’re allowing people to have a little bit of a change of scenery, as well as get to a place that maybe they didn’t expect to be able to go.
It allows you to do a stage switch, buy a little time, or do whatever you need to get something else teed up. That backstage stuff is really interesting. I remember when the Met Operas first started broadcasting their shows. They were doing simulcast in theaters. My wife and I used to go to those all the time. It was great because there are always act breaks.
When you’re at a live event, you usually get up, stretch your legs, grab a drink or go to the bathroom. They’re typically fifteen-ish minutes long. The Met would fill those with backstage stuff where they would interview someone from the design crew who would go backstage with a camera and show you around. They would talk to some of the talents in between acts. It just brought this whole other level of interest to the show. I can see how that same approach at a live event could be super effective.
For the folks that stayed in the room, what an inclusive experience to get to go backstage age and have that experience. Even if it’s part of the planned event, it’s that mental break, “I’m not so serious. I don’t have to be on the stage.” It’s still the right message, but mentally, I’ve got to escape for a moment.
Even just that change of venue a little bit gives people a breather. You’re not looking at a stage setting. You’re looking at something different for a few minutes. What’s happening with budgets these days in terms of events? What do people see? If somebody wants to put on a hybrid event, are there certain budget figures? What are some of the things people should consider when starting to plan their event?
A lot of people thought that virtual was going to be less expensive than in-person. We didn’t have the venue cost. We didn’t have the trucking and travel cost, all that type of stuff. A lot of people realized that studios just replaced the venue. If you did any swag or pre-event mailings of any sort, like bottles of wine or DoorDash dinner deliveries, any of that type of stuff, but the budgets were pretty similar.
If people were budgeting on a per attendee basis, I don’t think it’s probably changed that much. If you are serious as you are about the in-person event, the budget per attendee is probably going to be about the same. From a technical perspective, it’s a little bit more expensive. You still have the cost of the in-person. Even if it’s scaled-down, it doesn’t scale proportionally. You do have the virtual platform and the production that needs to get out to that. Production-wise, the cost is probably a little bit higher for a hybrid. On average, your per attendee cost will probably be pretty close to the same as what it was pre-pandemic.
The biggest pitfall nonprofits have faced in the last 15 months is not having events at all. They are slowly losing relevance by doing this.
That’s a great way to think about it. That’s something I hadn’t considered is just breaking it down into a per attendee. If you can increase your reach, you can probably bring those per attendee costs down a little bit. Considering the ability for a hybrid or a virtual event to scale outside of your local area, there might be some ways to get some benefit back there.
I watched a seminar. There was an event planner in New York City that their client said, “We don’t want to spend $100 per attendee. We want to spend $15, but we want to widen our scope. Instead of New York City, we want to be national.” These numbers are arbitrary. They brought in was something like twenty times the revenue by decreasing their cost but increasing their reach. That was a little extreme to make those swings that drastic. Even if your cost goes slightly up, increasing your reach by threefold, that’s completely doable.
It’s interesting. I had a guest very early in the show. They’re a nonprofit that works with teacher groups in education. Typically, their model prior to the pandemic was sending people to places. A school district would hire them to come in, create some curricula, and help elevate the ability for instructors and teachers to be able to do a better job with their classwork.
One of the things that they found immediately was that, “We can retool this to be virtual. The cost to the school district is a lot less. They don’t have to fly us in and put us up in a hotel.” They were able to reach a much more diverse and broad user group. Some of these smaller school districts in very rural places who, before there was no way to afford to bring these teams in, could afford to host these virtual trainings.
It completely opened up their ability to scale in the audience they could reach. If nonprofits can think about that in the same fashion, even if you’re a very local nonprofit, there may be some people remotely who have an interest in what you’re doing. Making sure that you create opportunities through hybrid or virtual events to reach that broad audience can be an incredible way to expand your mission much farther than you ever thought. What are some of the cooler things you and your team have done in all three of these spaces in-person, hybrid and virtual? What are some out-of-the-box thinking that you’ve helped facilitate over the years?
Our most fun, most interactive and engaging in-person nonprofit event, we set up the ballroom. We had everyone enter backstage, which is shocking to see scaffolding and the back of the drape. We used little closed pins to keep it closed. To see that thing instead of seeing the lights, the drape and the haze in the room, and then walking around the outsides and getting that presenter’s perspective. That was the most interesting in-person experience that we had set up. It was just flipping the script a little bit there.
For virtual, it’s been really fun to work in a studio environment and embrace our broadcast roots. A lot of us at our company have a broadcast background. To embrace our broadcast roots and produce a television show, it’s fun for the talent, executive director and the host to go through that process. That fun and energy comes through on camera and in the program. The fact that you’re in a formal studio comes through. It’s not necessarily the studio environment. It’s the person’s reaction to being in that studio environment that’s fun.
I love the idea of flipping that narrative. That’s such a great concept, particularly for nonprofits. It allows you to tell that story where the people participating in the event in terms of the guests who are coming. You make them the center of attention and on stage. It allows you to tell that story that they’re the real focus of attention here.
We all go to these events. We’re awed by the talent up on stage. We do this with storytelling a lot. If you can make it to where your donors and your volunteers are the actual heroes in the story, and the nonprofit is just this facilitator of what’s going on, that can be an incredibly powerful mind shift that happens where get people on board with what you’re doing as an organization. Bringing them onto the stage is a cool way to do that.
That was fun. If the type of budget that you have, being able to put camera positions in the audience or do the remote stage that’s maybe out in the center or do a thrust off the stage so you’re out in the center and more in the round. I completely agree with you. The audience-inclusiveness is a big deal, especially in nonprofit events.
I’m trying to wrap my head around other ways to handle that. That’s a cool way to handle that where people get to feel like they are part of the inner workings of the organization and everything that it does.
The red carpet experience is fun. To come into the ballroom and expect to be entertained, that’s what we expect. If we can change that somehow and make it a little bit more emotional or more surprising, just like in business, we want to be a disruptor. That’s what we want to do for events as well.
I love that idea. Have you seen anything work well in terms of revenue drivers? There are various revenue games that one can play, paddle racer, things of that nature. Those tend to be pretty standard. Have you either come up with something different there? Have you seen anything that nonprofits have done during events that have worked well?
I don’t know if co-branding will be the right term, but finding alignment with another organization. Sometimes we have seen some nonprofits that complete each other. If yours is local, but another one is based nationally, but the national one wants more of a local presence. There are some ways with your fundraising abilities, one can leverage the other.
Another thing is co-branding. GEICO commercials are the best at this. The little GEICO lizard is talking about a movie that’s coming out. GEICO doesn’t sell movies, but they’ve co-branded with whatever the movie chain was to drive revenue on both. You’d have to be a little creative with co-branding and driving that revenue from a different source, but it could be a really fun way to drive more revenue and be engaging.
The biggest pitfall nonprofits have faced in the last 15 months is not having events at all. They are slowly losing relevance by doing this.
It seems like you could sell sponsorship space, for example. You could do little raises during the event. I’ll just use a paddle racer as an example. If you could get a corporate sponsor for that paddle racer, this next five minutes of revenue is being matched or sponsored by a corporate donor. That way, you can bake in some guaranteed revenue. I like the idea of trying to bring two things together to help support both causes at once. That’s a cool different way of thinking about it.
We see a lot of that, particularly in auction items, say, a ski trip or tickets to a sports game. If it gets down to two bidders, they say, “We’ll give you the next week. You can auction two of these.” To your point, to do that with corporate backing instead of private backing, that’s a great opportunity.
Those are all fantastic ideas. Anything else that nonprofits or even small businesses should be considering as they’re looking to produce an event?
We’ve learned a lot about scaling, using social media and taking advantage of the little opportunities that maybe we all took for granted before and didn’t take advantage of creating compelling content. The storyline matters. The technology behind it matters. If your brand is important to you and to the folks that support your organization, then the way you present that material does need to be pro. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it must be technically correct. Leveraging overall technology and platforms to meet your audience where they are, whether that’s going to be in an arena, a ballroom or on their couch. Keeping that in mind, meet them where they are. It’s not our place to tell them where they need to be.
Everybody needs to plan hybrid events for the next year or two. Also, try to include the remote audience into the live portions as well.
If people are looking for help with running an event, where can they find more information about your organization? How can you help other organizations bring their A-game to their next event?
Whether it leads to a partnership or not, we enjoy having conversations and understanding the challenges that nonprofits or businesses, or any of these groups are having. If there’s a way to solve it, we’d love to. If not, we’d like to be at least be aware of it and develop more solutions as it goes forward. You can find more about us at EncompassEventGroup.com. All of our social is on there, all of our contact info, and a lot of company info on there too.
I encourage everyone thinking of putting on an event to go check it out. See how Dave and his team can help bring your A-game to your next event. I have had a great time chatting with you, Dave. One of the things that I like to do at the end of every show is think about what actions people can take. I’m sure we’ve inspired a lot of thinking here. If you had people take one thing in after reading the show, what would you have them do?
The biggest takeaway for me would be to do something. We have a couple of nonprofit partners that didn’t do anything in 2020, and they’re not planning to do it in 2021. That’s an unfortunate mistake. Make any effort to have an event. It could be 100% online. It doesn’t have to be a big revenue event, but just to remain relevant.
I would encourage everyone to put an event of some sort on their calendar and give Dave and his team a call if you need some help. I’m looking forward to getting out and getting to some events. Thanks so much for being on the show, Dave. I’ll talk to you soon.
Thanks for your time.
Another great episode of the show. Thanks for reading. If you would like to learn more about how to apply the audience engagement cycle to expand your organization’s mission, there are two things you can do. You can go to MissionUncomfortableBook.com to download a copy of my book. While you’re there, you can get your purpose-driven marketing score to see where you can unearth some gold for your organization. If you’d like to read to back episodes of the show or sign up to be a guest, go to RelishStudio.com/podcast. That’s it for this episode. I’ll be back for another great episode of the show.
About Dave Jensen
I’ve engulfed myself in the world of live event production for just over 30 years. From directing on television trucks in the depths of stadiums to lighting up massive LED displays for national entertainment tours, I bring unusually high-expectations to every event.
As the CEO of Encompass Event Group, I work with the best techs, manufacturers and … most of all … clients in the industry! We partner with agencies, corporations, and nonprofit organizations by becoming their internal technical production department. I’m proud to lead a team that fully embraces our Client Promise:
We promise to INTEGRATE with your team from the first phone call to the last truck driving away. We promise to provide FLEXIBLE solutions for staffing, equipment, and budgetary challenges. We promise to be ORGANIZED and follow our proven and transparent process for successful events. We promise to be your go-to EXPERT for all things technical now and in the future.
I value the close relationships that develop between clients, vendors, and other industry partners. If I’m already lucky enough to work with you … thank you! If not, I’d love the opportunity to learn about you and/or your business.