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Olivia F. Scott of Omerge Alliances: “Time Zone of Your Participant Prospects”

Time Zone of Your Participant Prospects. The pandemic lockdowns have resulted in unprecedented consumer access to events worldwide. We are no longer planning an event limited solely to local area residents to drive to, or regional or national events for people to travel via flight. As such, you should evaluate where the majority of attendees […]

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Time Zone of Your Participant Prospects. The pandemic lockdowns have resulted in unprecedented consumer access to events worldwide.

We are no longer planning an event limited solely to local area residents to drive to, or regional or national events for people to travel via flight. As such, you should evaluate where the majority of attendees have historically traveled from, as well as new prospect market opportunities. If you offer an event that is in the middle of the night for the majority of your customers, you risk lack of interest due to inconvenience. Choose the best, most optimal time for your intended audience, and avail an on-demand option as well for replay at their convenience.


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 Olivia F. Scott

Olivia F. Scott is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Omerge Alliances, an integrated marketing management consultancy. Delivering brand strategy, marketing planning, media buying & wellness experience brand solutions, Omerge’s current and previous clients include ESSENCE

Festival, ESSENCE, New York Theological Seminary, Media Storm, IMAN Cosmetics, Andre Walker Hair, BRWL Studios, Urban Skin Rx, She Did That. film among others.

Olivia has served as an Adjunct Marketing Professor since 2009, teaching a range of classes including Competitive Strategy, Media Management, Events Marketing and Partnership Marketing courses at New York University. Olivia has also served as an expert marketing witness for Morgan & Morgan Law Firm identifying unethical marketing practices in the beauty industry. Olivia’s professional experiences include serving as Chief Marketing Officer, Carol’s Daughter; Associate Publisher/Head of Marketing, VIBE Magazine; Vice President, Alliances, Live Nation; Director of Partnership Marketing, iN

DEMAND TV, in addition to account management roles at DDB, Leo Burnett, Ogilvy, Draft and Frankel advertising & sales promotion agencies. Olivia has led strategy for wellness, beauty & entertainment experiences for ESSENCE Festival since 2014, and also creates community & workplace wellness experiences via her Freedom At The Mat platform. Olivia earned a Bachelor of Journalism Degree from University of Missouri-Columbia, and a Master of Arts Degree in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University. She resides in Harlem, NYC and New Orleans.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/9e2d93be7b6b18f643cc7559a8c9da18


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”?

Born in Memphis, TN to a mother who was an English teacher and father who was a musician and entrepreneur. I was a big fan of poetry, music lyrics and writing. As a child, I played piano, performed spoken word and dreamed of being a Broadcast Journalist.

Can you tell us the story of what led you to this particular career path?

Because of my love of words & writing, my degree was in Journalism from Mizzou, with an emphasis in Advertising. Once I started my marketing career, I enjoyed executing events. I’ve always been creative so, being able to create an experience for an audience has been natural, a joy and a passion of mine for 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?

Not stapling the pages in alignment on my first press release. My very first boss at Leo Burnett had a bit of OCD, but made the time to rationalize his annoyance about my perceived misstep explaining the importance of being meticulously detail oriented in marketing, PR and events. While a bit put off initially, I received the lesson, sharpened by attention to detail, and it has paid off well for me for the past 25 years.

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? There are two.

The Personal Touch by Terrie Williams (Book) and The Playbook by Dave Meltzer (Podcast). Williams’ book talks about how you can create true connection with clients and coworkers by adding your personal, signature touch to anything (special signature, handwritten notes, etc.). This was one of the first books I read upon college graduation which helped me to launch my career successfully and distinguish myself. The Playbook podcast presents very grounded advice about how to be productive and successful from very powerful and successful people in a range of fields.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“To whom much is given much is required.” I am very gifted and blessed in my life. As such, it is my responsibility to give to others using my gifts. I find that my gifts indeed make room for me, so it’s my obligation to give to others, as much as I can.

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’m Olivia F. Scott, Founder & Principal Consultant of Omerge Alliances (www.omergealliances.com).

I’ve been producing live events since 1998, when I worked on the team that managed the Oldsmobile sponsorship of the X-Files National Tour. After my eyes being opened to event planning and execution as a career option, I fine-tuned my experiential marketing skills while serving as the Vice President of Alliances for Live Nation from 2004–2008. At Live Nation, I was a sponsorship liaison on a breadth of deals including Juntos en Concierto Tour in 2006 & 2007 (Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez, Marco Antonio Solis); Motorola Music Biz 101 event with Timbaland, The Roots, MC Lyte, Mona Scott-Young; the launch of Broadway’s Hilton Theatre featuring numerous musical productions; 3 Doors Down Tour Sponsorship by Wrigley, amongst other events. As Associate Publisher of VIBE Magazine, I led all marketing functions, including numerous events as marketing tentpoles each month, including the 15th Anniversary Bash for the publication featuring many of the artists who were featured in the magazine.

Can you tell us a bit about your experience organizing live virtual events? Can you share any interesting stories about them?

Upon successful execution of an in-person ESSENCE Wellness House event in Atlanta on March 7, 2020, on March 16, I received a call from their President asking if I would be comfortable leading the production of their first-ever virtual event. We accepted this challenge, and the event was held on March 31, 2020 via Stage 10 platform, just 2 weeks after the national COVID-19 shutdown. I worked in tandem with an ESSENCE producer, and there was limited sleep, lots of pivoting and a tremendous learning curve in those 15 days. We were a leader in the media market to have achieved this so early in the pandemic. And ESSENCE hired my firm Omerge Alliances to produce 6 additional virtual events (viewable on essencestudios.com) in 2020. I’m presently in the process of producing two virtual events for 2021 for ESSENCE and one additional client. Virtual events require a different approach because people are in the home environments, so you have to approach the execution of them from the vantage point of having many distractions, including family, housework and all other media forms and content.

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?

Fast Company & INBOUND have done a superb job of creating virtual conference experiences. They have done a stellar job of speaker identification and creating community for the attendees, and encouraging chats during the event.

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?

Common mistakes include lack of technical rehearsals which result in cameras being off, internet dropping, poor lighting, unnecessary nervous giggling by speakers and overall unprofessional production quality.

All these things can be remedied in advance with tech checks which may include internet speed checks (to confirm if an ethernet is required vs unstable WiFi), and actual recording room show sound & lighting checks (meaning the person stages an actual rehearsal in the exact room with the exact equipment in advance). Even if you send an email or a one-sheet detailing technical requirements, you cannot trust that all will read it. And yes, scheduling the rehearsals takes more time from the production team AND the speakers, but if absolutely necessary to go live vs pre-recorded, I highly recommend that the time be taken.

Which virtual platform have you found to be most effective to be able to bring everyone together virtually?

Hopin is one of the best I have experienced. The multiple stages allow you to feel like you’re entering different rooms mimicking the in-person live event.

Are there any essential tools or software that you think an event organizer needs to know about?

A strong scheduling tool or platform. Excel works, but Showflo also works as well. Using a scheduling tool enables you to organize the flow and talent titles in one place. You can share the content with speakers so they know when their segment airs and can support your event by promoting their featured time, while also being a tool that details speaker’s correct titles for the lower third overlays of presenter names.

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.)

Time Zone of Your Participant Prospects.

The pandemic lockdowns have resulted in unprecedented consumer access to events worldwide.

We are no longer planning an event limited solely to local area residents to drive to, or regional or national events for people to travel via flight. As such, you should evaluate where the majority of attendees have historically traveled from, as well as new prospect market opportunities. If you offer an event that is in the middle of the night for the majority of your customers, you risk lack of interest due to inconvenience. Choose the best, most optimal time for your intended audience, and avail an on-demand option as well for replay at their convenience.

When producing for ESSENCE, our first Wellness House virtual event was planned from an East Coast timing perspective, given the company’s staff base. We received feedback from Los Angeles’ attendees that the content was great, but a bit of a stretch to start at 6 a.m. PST. #Lessonlearned

Know The Psychological Needs of Your Customers

Be sensitive to what is happening in society and culturally before you create your event. If you are designing an event that is consumer-centric — which I hope you are — then you want to ensure you deliver to the needs to the people. Case in point. I created my very first virtual event in March 2020, just two weeks after the U.S. national COVID shutdown. People were shocked, blindsided and sifting through myriad purportings of what COVID was and how it was spreading. Globally, people were fearful, in a state of shock and craving information. By October, many people had experienced loss and others still were exhausted by the pandemic. As such, their needs had changed from information-seeking (fulfilled via a non-stop newscycle), yet seeking community and connection in a major way. So, get in touch with the needs and psyche of your customers so you can create a virtual experience that delivers relevant content. Thoughtful content resonates. Through our 2nd ESSENCE Wellness House virtual event, we provided content that demystified what COVID actually was, and our attendees thanked us in the chats for providing this information.

Determine if the event needs to be truly live (vs pre-recorded)

To deliver the highest production quality (best managed by pre-recorded content), evaluate if your event truly needs to be live. WHY does it need to be live, and can you intersperse live components to make the event feel live? People’s default is to make an event live,but given the world we are operating in which is a content time-shifted universe, we encourage event producers to think through the benefits of live vs pre-recorded with live elements. The first events we did in March and May were live. However, we realized that after a few too many technical glitches which compromised the event’s integrity, that we should explore what it felt like to pre-record the majority of our segments, with the integration of a live host. This worked well, and the event still felt live.

Develop a live event content strategy

Plan to diversify the content, lengths of segment and participants to keep customers engaged. Really strategize around offering a variety of segment types, such as fireside chats, keynotes, interviews, panels and more. If you decide to do an event that is mostly live, think of how to deliver content in a truly engaging, snackable yet digestible manner. People are seated, in their homes. Consider this, and avoid any individual segment over 20–25 mins, including small 2–5 min moments/breaks in between (just like television).

How will you create opportunities for engagement?

With significant competition globally now for content tune-in, one primary advantage of live events is the community aspect and the ability to meet and connect with others. So, at the beginning of your live virtual event planning process, determine how you will bring community and connection to life through your event. Some successful consumer engagements include quizzes in chat during the live stream automated by your event platform, pre-event social media call-for-entries to consumers to participate whereby they pre-record a response to a fun game like question and they are able to watch live and see themselves and tell friends, and also having a live Q&A via chat by having speakers present in the Q&A.

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?

  1. Google research to see if other events similar in content nature exist. Are they free or paid, what is the event length, which platform used, who is the target audience, etc.
  2. Evaluate your target audience and determine how you can create a programming strategy unique to your brand which will also cater to your customers.
  3. Evaluate staging platforms, and choose the one that offers the best experience for your event. Although you may be most familiar with Zoom or another platform, consider the consumer experience and decide if you need to invest time in learning a new platform to ensure you deliver in the best fashion possible.

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.

Making mental & physical wellness cool, and making it accessible to all, at little to no cost. I want people to enjoy life to the fullest!

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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