Make it fun! Far too often, people put an event together and just throw out content, forgetting that just because people love your content (“or follow you), it doesn’t mean they don’t get bored. So how do you make it fun? Have a warm-up host start things off. Make sure your host is dynamic and play games throughout the event. The more interactivity you have the better results you’ll achieve, and the less falloff you have during the event. We like to gamify all aspects of the event… when people click on the dashboard, enter the meeting room, ask a question, come back after lunch, just doing those simple things automatically gets them points-and a chance to win really great stuff. It adds another level of excitement.
As a part of our series about “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Run a Live Virtual Event”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Craig Scime, Producer/Host Clear Star Media.
Producer and TV host Craig Scime, has appeared in over 100 TV commercials, hosted (and seen on national) TV shows, radio, and live events for over 15 years. Most recently Craig has helped many coaches, influencers, and businesses grow their brands by leveraging the power of the web and social media through video with his company Clear Star Media; with our current conditions, Craig made a slight pivot, to bring live events back to life… offering virtual events to his clients — and watching them reap the rewards financially.
Craig has also worked as a supervising producer on various projects for Amazon, HGTV, Travel, Discovery and New Line Cinema.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I grew up in the suburbs of Buffalo, New York, back when RadioShack had all the tech a kid could ever need. I would get the latest video equipment and pretend I was a DJ playing music for nobody, then use my Fisher-Price PXL camera to shoot videos on an audio cassette. Little did I know that would be the catalyst to start my career in TV production and live events.
Can you tell us the story of what led you to this particular career path?
When I was in high school, I started a DJ business. I love tech and music, so when I noticed they were starting to put televisions in every classroom I saw an opportunity to go big with video. I pioneered a daily morning announcements TV show, turning a few VHS cameras and some corny graphics into what remains a staple of daily announcements and what was considered then a very successful daily operation that got other kids interested in video production as well. This experience led me to become the host, and later the director and producer of a daily kids’ morning television show, part of the FoxKids Network (FOX), which lasted for five years.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
While working on a show… we had a set up on the rocks near the ocean… It was awesome, so scenic, until a giant wave came and took out our talent… along with some of our audio gear. We learned moving forward to always expect the unexpected, and plan ahead of what could possibly happen, because you never know, it just might. Today we try to stay one step ahead and mitigate problems before they happen.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
One time in my first business, when times were tough, I was faced with not taking a paycheck so my employees would still get theirs, however I did have to scale some hours back and I felt almost like a failure. That’s when I found an empowering CD series, that I listened to and I learned that if you change your thoughts, and how you approach situations, you can change everything. Years later my company became very successful, and I ended up selling it for an unbelievable profit. I also like Gary V… and his idea of do your thing, be kind and forget about what other people think.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Trust in your ability, because when you believe in you; you can do anything! I realize it sounds a little cheesy, but if you’re good at what you do, constantly learning and being prepared, you’ll always be ready for the game. One time, I was unsure that I could accomplish what my client was asking for during one of her team meetings; and while I knew the event would be great, I just didn’t know how we could pull it off exactly the way she expected. The true beauty of this story is that my client believed in me when even I was unsure. Ultimately her event was one of the best ever, with huge accolades coming from all the participants. Following that event, I realized that being prepared while trusting in my team, and our abilities meant that we were capable of so much more than we imagined.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit about your experience organizing events in general?
I’ve been working in TV and the event industry, since I started my DJ company in the 90s, at that time we were planning and executing weddings, corporate events, and major fundraising gala‘s. From staging, lighting, music and ambiance, we set the tone for excellence. Plus because of our tech savviness, we were able to shoot videos at these events, or bring in video screens and do live close circuit video, for greater interactivity. Details such as these quickly set us apart from our competition. As the years went on my company grew, and so did the size and number of events we’ve done — after doing nearly 1000 events I can tell you no event is exactly the same, and constantly pushing to make each experience slightly different and more exciting for the participants is always our goal.
Can you tell us a bit about your experience organizing live virtual events? Can you share any interesting stories about them?
In some aspects we’ve done virtual events through live streams for many years, but the way virtual events are done today with my company, was a brand new, reimagined concept, starting in May of 2020. Most of my clients are used to having live, in-person events, so when Covid came, we needed a solution fast. A chocolate company came to us and asked how we could do a virtual tasting. I thought the idea was brilliant, because no one was doing events like these at the time. Knowing that the stakes were high, as the company which contacted us is known for high quality and innovation, we strategized and planned all the tech; coordinating video teams in both Switzerland and in Los Angeles. The virtual tasting became a huge success for my client, reporting record breaking sales. Of course, they signed on to do many more virtual events, proving them a viable marketing option. Since then, my client has doubled down on the virtual concept and they are really leaning into it, for 2021. Plus the consumer loved it too, the ability to have the World Chocolate Master (from Switzerland) teach and tell you about all the flavors and nuances you’re tasting in real time with him, is truly a one of a kind experience.
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job creating live virtual events? What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
Aside from what we are doing, admittedly I’m a bit biased, but my client just told me that one of her attendees of the virtual event has been to five other major virtual events, including Tony Robbins and felt ours was the best experience.
However I recognize others are doing a great job as well…
Graphically and visually, I feel that left field labs has done a wonderful job with a virtual events. I had the privilege of working as talent on one of their projects, it was a completely different role for me having to take off my producer/director hat and be in front of the camera, but they’re virtual set, staging and run of show, plus the interactivity with their proprietary software was really outstanding. Creating a very exciting experience for the end-user.
What are the common mistakes you have seen people make when they try to run a live virtual event? What can be done to avoid those errors?
There are so many different issues that can come up when someone tries to do a virtual event. First of all, the technical aspect, this is not a zoom call, this is a virtual event… therefore it has to look and feel like a live event first, and differentiate itself from a typical zoom meeting. It starts with the set, the lighting, the sound and the cameras used technically; then the aspects of the Internet bandwidth and the run of show are so important to keep the event exciting. Most people don’t think of preparing a the run of show, or are aware that things have to happen in small chunks; keep in mind, at a live event you can run a session for an hour and a half, however at a virtual event your sessions needs to be more interactive, and changing more frequently for the same duration. One of the other biggest mistakes people make is they think they can do it all themselves, it’s truly critical to have a team who has done it before, and knows how to mitigate issues before they happen. Nowadays, so many people have Zoom fatigue, while for others this might be their first time attending an event via Zoom, so even having little things like technical support available during the event is extremely important, almost as much as what’s being broadcasted — if people can’t see your event, what’s the point.
Which virtual platform have you found to be most effective to be able to bring everyone together virtually?
We sometimes run a combination of software that helps move people through the event and then it will push them to Zoom, or the main event meeting, which is our viewing platform wherein people can interact with the speaker, chat, and really participate in the event.
Are there any essential tools or software that you think an event organizer needs to know about?
Understanding how Zoom works is critical. The difference between a webinar and a traditional Zoom meeting could be the difference between a successful or disastrous event. We feel that one of the other most important things is to have a dashboard, to bring the whole event together. This is where everybody meets first before entering the Zoom or the preferred video platform; sometimes the dashboard has the video streaming right within it.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our discussion. An in-person event can have a certain electric energy. How do you create an engaging and memorable event when everyone is separated and in their own homes?
To make the event memorable, it’s imperative that you choose the right host. Having been on television for over 10 years, I truly understand the importance of this. Using somebody who has energy, who is captivating, and engaging to watch is so important when having an event that’s one hour or three days long. Once you have that dynamic host, the next step is keeping the event stimulating, and that’s done by the on-screen visuals, along with interactivity that is used throughout the session — and that can be anything from asking a question and getting a response via chat, to having somebody appear live on camera, to even playing an interactive game.
What are the “Five Things You Need To Know To Successfully Run a Live Virtual Event” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1- Plan the event (from visuals to content) almost minute by minute, really take time to figure out how much information could be delivered in 15 minute segments without being overwhelming or boring. Constantly consider, is this content what you would want to know if you were sitting in the room listening (or at your home watching it). The event must be engaging; targeting your audience, and it has to be useful. Nobody wants to hear a 20 minute dissertation on how great you are, they’ll get how great you are when you start giving them information that is incredibly useful or entertaining.
2- Hire a Tech Team, with virtual event experience! Far too often, people think they understand how Zoom works, but they don’t understand how a virtual event works. When you have the mindset this is just a longer Zoom meeting, you’re doomed from the start. What if you have 300 or 3000 people attending; or what if you need breakouts of only two or three people per room, how do you make that happen on Zoom, with thousands of participants? How much bandwidth do you need to handle all these different meetings, or what if you have different guests in different cities speaking on different stages during your event? How do you bring them all in? Most importantly, how do you make the broadcast look and feel like a TV show or an event and not a Zoom classroom? A truly good production company will be able to answer all of these questions, and help you navigate uncharted waters, to ensure your event is flawless, and looks amazing.
3- Make it fun! Far too often, people put an event together and just throw out content, forgetting that just because people love your content (“or follow you), it doesn’t mean they don’t get bored. So how do you make it fun? Have a warm-up host start things off. Make sure your host is dynamic and play games throughout the event. The more interactivity you have the better results you’ll achieve, and the less falloff you have during the event. We like to gamify all aspects of the event… when people click on the dashboard, enter the meeting room, ask a question, come back after lunch, just doing those simple things automatically gets them points-and a chance to win really great stuff. It adds another level of excitement.
4- Take advantage of the fact that people are home. A virtual event is like no other. Most people are viewing and experiencing this from their home, so you have an opportunity to really connect with people and push them to do things that they might not do if they were in public, everything from giving more money for a charity fundraiser, to sharing a deep personal moment to help them get over some issues from their past.
5- While content is king, helping your viewers feel special makes all the difference. Try mailing out an awesome gift box filled with interactive tools for the event, along with some really cool swag. We did an event before which we shipped chocolate to everybody watching, as the world chocolate master walked us through each piece of chocolate and told us how it was made, along with all of the nuances that were included in each piece. It was truly interactive and memorable. Also, you need to remember that while you’re staring at a camera it’s so important you think of a face that is in front of you. Imagine talking to someone in your mind to avoid that blank stare on your face. This way, you really come across as connected. To make this easy, our company sets up screens next to the camera to show up to 400 faces, so you truly can see everybody or almost everybody at the event. It is so important that you engage with your audience as if they were standing 2 feet away from you. Ask them questions so they reply in the chat and then read those replies out loud, or even better, ask some of your viewers to come on camera with you virtually and have a real conversation. We’ve seen huge success, with our clients doing real breakthroughs over a 3 day retreat- or dropping in someone’s house and having that person talk about why the event or charity is so important to them; encouraging more donations on the spot. Connection to your audience is key.
Let’s imagine that someone reading this interview has an idea for a live virtual event that they would like to develop. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
The first thing I always do is make sure that I understand the purpose of the event and what is the goal you are trying to achieve. Just because you had an event last year in person is that reason enough to do it again this year? What obstacles do we need to overcome to connect the viewer to the event, and what resources is it gonna take including financial, to make this event exciting and memorable — so we can achieve your goals.
Super. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
After producing events, I’m passionate about being a dad. I think there are so many fathers who want to be amazing at what they do, and some just don’t know how, and feel overwhelmed. I would love to be a resource for new dads, single dad’s or dad’s just trying to make it work. There are so many mommy groups, and I sometimes think that the role of dad is easily forgotten. From ways to connect with your children, to moving away from screen time and building quality time — and really making moments matter.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Marcus Lemonis, Mark Cuban, Mark Burnett, Mark Wahlberg (didn’t realize they were all Mark’s, haha) and Simon Cowell. These guys all had tenacity and fire and have grown their businesses to a whole new level. They care about helping others, and mentoring. Plus, all but one are fathers and spiritually grounded — family, faith and finances — it’s the whole success package.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.