The Australian Marketing Institute is the peak professional body representing marketers in Australia and has been supporting the career progression of members and working to advance the profession since 1933.
A regular convenor of events for marketers in all states around Australia, the Australian Marketing Institute (AMI) pivoted its events to virtual in 2020 as the association and its members alike adapted to a world impacted by COVID-19.
With limitations on physical gatherings continuing into the second half of the year — the peak awards season for most industries — the AMI considered hybrid events for its annual awards program, but decided to hold a series of fully virtual events instead.
In early September it partnered with digital events partner Redback Connect to recreate the Experience Marketing Excellence event, which includes announcements of the AMI Awards finalists, this year as a studio-hosted virtual event designed to appeal to a wider audience than simply the award entrants.
We spoke to AMI Events & Training Manager Teegan Diamond and Redback’s own Customer Success Manager Michaela Long about the experience.
Hi Teegan, Thanks so much for agreeing to tell us about the AMI Experience Marketing Excellence virtual event.
How did you come to recreate this as a virtual event?
Teegan: We ruled out holding a hybrid event due to risks associated with COVID-19 and decided to make it fully virtual. But we didn’t want to film a physical event and then broadcast it. We wanted to do something that was much more like a television show.
We usually announce our finalists state by state in a cocktail-style physical event. We’d already started repositioning the event to celebrate marketing excellence and introducing more content than just announcing the finalists.
For instance, we brought in two head judges as the hosts, a winner from 2019 talking about their campaign and what it felt like to win. We also talked a little bit about what we’re doing in our community. We spoke to our charity partner and we featured new incentives to support marketers.
We’re all looking at screens so much that if you’re going to host a virtual event, you really want people to be engaged with it. People want to experience the atmosphere.
The key thing for us has been to make sure our presenters have had some experience presenting on screen because it’s such a different experience from presenting live.
We wanted to make it a series of casual conversations with a slightly more formal introduction and more relaxed interviews. I think it worked well.
Michaela: Technically, it was quite a complex, 45-minute event with a lot of variety, different elements and a mix of pre-recorded and live segments.
It was much shorter than your average awards night. This was primarily to allow for optimum engagement, something that is harder to maintain using a virtual platform.
There were two interviews filmed at Redback’s broadcast studios, and two remote interviews.
There were also two MCs in the studio either standing against a green screen background or seated to conduct fireside chat-style interviews.
There were also a number of pre-recorded videos, featuring content such as previous AMI award-winning campaigns and a video about the AMI’s charitable partner. And the 2020 finalists’ details were shown on slides at the end of the event.
How did the event go?
Teegan: It went quite well. We received quite a positive response from attendees and I think we had about a 50% live attendance rate. With a virtual event, lots of people also choose to watch on demand.
But it was really worthwhile announcing the awards finalists in a virtual event because we have now decided to do our annual gala as a virtual event too!
Michaela: It was a very professional event. You can really polish it when you’re pre-recording some elements. They can then be combined with live elements to drive interactivity and really obtain the best of both worlds!
Any lessons from the experience?
Michaela: With a physical awards night, there is a certain level of excitement to the event and trying to portray that same feeling online in a virtual setting is certainly a challenge.
With virtual awards nights in particular there is a lot of room for creativity and industry disruption. I would love to see winners to dialling in to say a few words once they have won, or even working with the client to have virtual ‘award packs’ sent out to registrants prior to drive further engagement! The options are really endless.
Teegan: A virtual or digital event requires more content than a physical event. When you’re all in one room, so much of the event is people networking and being social. You don’t have that in the same way in a virtual event so you need to have more content.
I would say use a teleprompter and I probably would have liked to have been able to give a bit more direction to our hosts around camera shots as well.
In the studio we opted to use the green screen but with a generic background. We would like to create our own green screen background for future events but we just ran out of time on this occasion.
How long did it take to pull the event together in total?
Teegan: Four to six weeks. We’ve had such short turnaround times because we have had to re-plan all of our events as virtual events, recreating them from scratch and rethinking things in formats that we have never tried before. All that re-planning leaves less time to execute them.
Did you charge people to attend?
Teegan: It was free for members and entrants, and cost a nominal amount for non-members. The difficulty with free events is you give someone a free ticket and you will have a big drop-off rate — it’s the same trend with face-to-face and virtual events. If you put a price on it, attendance tends to be more stable.
What other virtual events does the AMI have coming up?
Teegan: We’ve always done webinars with Redback and they are continuing.
This year we’re also doing a separate program of live stream chats with high-profile marketers that include a virtual Q&A format.
We needed to give our community an opportunity to continue to connect and the great thing is that these are national. Some of our events have included the opportunity to network in a virtual chat room as well.
Our annual gala night will be another television-style broadcast with a really dynamic host who is a professional MC that would be known in most households.
We’ve got a really exciting keynote speaker as well and we’re holding a celebration — it’s not all serious. So we are announcing award winners, but it is so much more than that.
We will also be ticketing the gala event.
Any advice for other marketers looking to create a great virtual event?
Michaela: Definitely drum up excitement of the event prior through relevant marketing but also really invest in finding a wonderfully enthusiastic host!
Teegan: Your content needs to be really solid to capture the interest of your target market.
Make sure your presenters are used to presenting virtually because they won’t have the atmosphere of the crowd to feed off and they need to be able to ad-lib or fill if there’s a delay — 5 seconds of silence feels like an eternity in a virtual event.
I would also say have two run sheets if the event is being pre-recorded: a filming run sheet that covers the camera angles and positions of your hosts, and an editing run sheet that covers the order in which you want your various segments to be edited.
And you need background music. Don’t forget the music!