Don’t skip any of the details! It’s important to convey what participants can expect. You want a pithy title, a hook, but you also want the details to give a person everything they need to know to convert or purchase your experience immediately. If you can equip and entice them to make a choice just by looking at your page. At ReElivate, we take a lot of care constructing listings because we know how vital that experience is for customer conversion. Your odds will be far better than if they have to reach out to you and ask basic questions.
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 Jonathan Conelias.
Jon Conelias is the CEO of ReElivate. Jon has been a CFO and Operator for the past 15 years of marketplace companies focused on both B2B and B2C channels.
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 Connecticut the oldest of 3 kids in a middle-class family. I had a typical childhood and went to college at Bentley University just outside of Boston. Growing up I loved to travel and being in the outdoors. I grew up as an outdoor enthusiast and love spending time in the mountains.
Can you tell us the story of what led you to this particular career path?
This is an interesting question because at a young age I knew I wanted to start my own business. I wasn’t sure what type of business this was going to be or what I needed to do to be ready to launch a company. I spent the last 15 years of my career trying to learn as much as I possibly could until I was ready to take the entrepreneurial leap. I knew this was the right step for me as it is a combination of everything I have learned during the last 3 startups and my own personal passion of experiencing new and unique things.
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?
There have been lots of funny moments along the way and plenty of mistakes. I don’t always find these mistakes all that humorous as they are usually very visual to the entire company. One of the biggest mistakes I made and was funny to most other people was when I quit a job and then two weeks later asked for it back. I was lucky that I had a great relationship with my boss (the CEO) and I definitely didn’t find this funny at the time as it was a hard decision to leave and an even harder decision to stay but it made me realize that I really liked what I was doing and more importantly liked the people I worked with. It taught me that having the right team is everything. The funny part of this story is when I came back the entire company covered me with silly string.
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?
This is going to sound very obscure, but a Matchstick Production ski movie taught me to follow my dreams and passions. I am a huge fan of the pro skier Shane McConkey who single-handedly changed the way we ski today. His fame to claim is that he modernized powder skis. The story is that he figured out a new design by mounting ski bindings on water skis and taking them to the top of the mountain. Sadly, Shane ended up passing away doing what he loved which also showed me life is short so make sure you are doing what you love.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness. As an entrepreneur, nobody is going to give you permission so if you see an opportunity go for it.
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?
Our platform is focused on empowering hosts to be able to book events on our platform. Our expertise is the ability to make connections between groups that want to have an event and a host that can provide an event using technology. This is my third internet marketplace company and I have learned a lot about what works well and what doesn’t work. We are building a platform that is extremely transparent and very easy to use.
My first marketplace company was The Grommet that specialized in discovering new and innovative products and launching on their website. We were able to bring small independent product makers and help them sell their products to the world. My second marketplace company was Scout Exchange that focused on connecting recruiters and companies to more efficiently hire.
ReElivate is focusing on helping teams discover and experience new events. We are trying to empower experience (event) creators to connect with companies to deliver their offerings in a more seamless way. We want experience creators or hosts to do what they do best and not get in their way. Think about how hard it was to find new restaurants and make reservations before Open Table. We are trying to do the same thing but for events.
Can you tell us a bit about your experience organizing live virtual events? Can you share any interesting stories about them?
Here are my top 4 tips in organizing an event for your team (physical or virtual)
- Understand the primary goal of the gathering. It will impact the nature of your choice of event. For example, if it’s bonding, rather than choosing an experience you all passively watch, let’s pick something that requires participants to interact with one another.
- If you are trying to reward your employees/team. Consider an event that is focused on entertainment. These are all about enjoyment.
- Try to understand what your team likes to do. This might seem simple but it’s important to find something appealing. We can help you avoid skeptical eye-rolls and talk to your team so you avoid making an assumption that might not be accurate.
- Consider making the event part of the workday — You don’t know what everyone’s commitments are outside of work. They may have to adjust their schedule to accommodate something like this which can be a time issue. Scheduling it during the workday feels much more like a treat and shows that you value the experience (and them).
There are lots of stories with virtual events but the most important thing on the host side is to try to engage your audience. This may require the host to call on people and get them to engage even through a computer. The participants think they can just sit back because it is virtual but if you want them to forget they are in a room alone you need them to start to engage and interact.
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?
The key to a live virtual event is your ability to engage your audience and potentially engage other senses. The best events are the ones where the host forces interaction with the participants or the participants are engaged by using their other senses like tasting or smelling something. This really reduces zoom fatigue as we were made with multiple senses for a reason. Some of the best partners that we have worked with are Mei Mei who does a virtual dumpling class and Ben Whiting who leads a mind-reading experience.
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?
My biggest piece of advice is making sure you have figured out the technical issues before attempting to host an event. I’ve seen many events derailed by laptops that need to be updated, devices that won’t pair, or faulty mics. A little prep goes a long way! Also, make sure you invest in the right technology. A quality camera and microphone will go a long way.
Which virtual platform have you found to be most effective to be able to bring everyone together virtually?
It depends on the event. Some events work best with zoom which has breakout rooms while others are much better suited for other interactions. We have also used Hopinto and Whereby but Zoom is our standard. With ReElivate, is it up to the host to choose which platform they want to use in order to deliver the best experience. We trust their expertise and want them to use whatever strategy they believe is the best.
Are there any essential tools or software that you think an event organizer needs to know about?
Interesting question, I would say that the current event organizers are masters at Google and spreadsheets. We are trying to fix this by having a central location where they can discover new events (vs. google) and creating the scheduling, invite and reminder tools native to our platform. If you organize events you know how painful it is to get everyone’s email address and home address if you are shipping items to their house. We can help eliminate all of these issues and save the event organizer lots of time.
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? 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.)
A successful virtual event requires preparation more than anything. The benefit of doing something online is that you can be more templated. If you’ve run through your event multiple times, you’ll be successful. Focusing on your speech, making sure people have a way to ask questions or make comments is key. Additionally, if your experience offers something physical, like a kit, that will go a long way to making it more immersive and helping people feel connected.
Putting on a great virtual event is one thing, but the most crucial part of this process is getting booked! Many people put a lot of effort into prep but struggle to convert new clients. 5 things you need to market your virtual event successfully are as follows:
- Partner up! If you can work with a company like ReElivate that is actively driving traffic to your listing, it’s worth your time. Partnering with a larger company lets you leverage a collective digital marketing effort. More eyeballs means more bookings. One of our hosts mentioned how by partnering with us their bookings this month already exceed the number of bookings they had this quarter last year.
- Sizzle Reel — it’s hard to convey an experience through images alone. Convey your passion and what participants can expect with a thirty-second sizzle reel. In the last company I worked out, videos proved to be a powerful tool for eCommerce marketing. You definitely want a piece of that action. Investing in this form of marketing could be as easy as making an Instagram reel or as complex as hiring a third party — do what feels like a good representation of your experience.
- Assets — while we’re here! For a virtual experience listing, focus on images that show what you do! Everyone has pictures from live events but those aren’t happening right now so don’t try to sell your virtual event with outdated images. If you’re working on a budget, we suggest finding a nice sunny spot or a plain backdrop in the morning to avoid afternoon shadows to take some editorial images that represent what your experience is all about. Screenshots during the experience are helpful as well, but something with a little bit of polish is worth the time.
- Make your availability visible upfront — At ReElivate we use a calendar sync option that shows which time slots are available to book. A tool like this can be super helpful to market yourself because your availability is transparent. Someone who wants to book you is more likely to convert or inquire if they can quickly and easily know a time slot is readily available without having to contact you directly.
- Don’t skip any of the details! It’s important to convey what participants can expect. You want a pithy title, a hook, but you also want the details to give a person everything they need to know to convert or purchase your experience immediately. If you can equip and entice them to make a choice just by looking at your page. At ReElivate, we take a lot of care constructing listings because we know how vital that experience is for customer conversion. Your odds will be far better than if they have to reach out to you and ask basic questions.
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?
My first recommendation is to try it on some friends and family. Most hosts on our platform have been doing events like this for years and it takes time and energy to hone your craft. Once you feel like you have something that would be well received, we would love to help you craft your listing and offering. Make sure that you price it so it is worth your time. We have seen a lot of hosts underprice their offerings which has created issues when they try to scale.
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.
One of my biggest concerns is what we are currently doing to the planet with the release of greenhouse gases. I wish I could convince everyone today that this is a real issue, and we could migrate to a clean economy much faster than we currently are. I am really happy to see we are reentering the Paris agreement but that is just the beginning of all the hard work that needs to be done.
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.
I am secretly a big Howard Stern fan. I’ve listened since I was a kid. I’m amazed at the way he has changed as a person, over time. Plus, I admire how he has disrupted the radio industry. I am always impressed by how honest Howard is on his shows and I try to live my life that way. Howard discusses many of his struggles openly. I think his honesty helps people relate to him and understand him, as a real human being with emotions, beliefs, bias, and opinions that are constantly being challenged and evolving. Life is not a highlight reel and we all experience amazing moments as well as struggle. Self-reflection is essential for growth and it’s bold that his happens live, on-air.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.