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The New and Future Reality of Virtual Events [The Weekly Wrap]

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And that’s a wrap of the week ending March 20, 2020

This week I’m thinking about how we all need to watch our tone. I share a news article about in-person events that makes me think of that fortune-cookie game – instead of adding the phrase “in bed” to the end, just add the word “virtual” to the event title. I talk with marketing consultant Dennis Shiao about the right way to do virtual events. And I point you to an article about the magic of ghostwriting.

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Our theme this week is the reality of virtual reality (no one ever told me it would feel this real). Let’s wrap it up.

One deep thought: Strike the right chord (3:13)

It’s not what you said. It’s how you said it.

After 26 years of marriage, there are very few things that my wife and I fight about. But when we do fight, it’s rarely about something one or the other said, but rather the way one of us said it. My first name alone can mean a great many things in the English language depending on the tone.

So it’s both what you said and how you said it.

Tone of voice contains strong signals of who we are and whether we are to be believed. It offers clues to where the speakers are from, their level of education, their age, and the sincerity or authority they have about the subject on which they’re speaking.

But it’s possible to misinterpret every one of those things. And that’s where the depth of trust between speaker and listener – and the advantage of having a variety of tones of voice – makes all the difference. As Stephen M. R. Covey wrote in The Speed of Trust:

(I)n a high-trust relationship, you can say the wrong thing, and people will get your meaning. In a low-trust relationship, you can be very measured, even precise, and they’ll still misinterpret you.

As brand communicators, many of us think developing a single tone of voice offers consistency for our audiences. We might think our one way of saying something is completely natural. But our one tone can get us into trouble ­­– especially when we’re talking to new audiences or speaking on topics outside the familiar pattern for us and our usual audience.

Our tone can get us in trouble, especially when talking to new audiences, says @Robert_Rose via @cmicontent. #weeklywrap Click To Tweet

This is an opportune time to experience this phenomenon in action. I share some examples I’ve observed among my brand clients – and an experiment you can do with your social media feeds or even when flipping through the news channels.

A fresh take on the sudden switch to virtual (10:54)

The headline on this week’s news story won’t surprise you: Publishers Put Virtual Events to the Test as In-Person Gatherings Disappear. But the financial impact it mentions might.

The Digiday article opens with the disruption of publishers’ event business by the coronavirus pandemic. Many in-person events have been postponed or converted to virtual events. And that could spell trouble for publishers’ bottom lines:

“Many industry-focused events depend on networking as a value proposition. That’s awkward in a virtual environment. On the consumer side, experiential events depend on product sampling, live entertainment, and other real-life activities that are hard to replicate digitally.

For all those reasons, a virtual event will likely bring in one-third to one-half the revenue of a physical event, said Larry Weil, an events sponsorship consultant.”

Well, sure. But that’s a short-term outcome. Physical events almost certainly are going to come back.

What’s more interesting to me is what’s happening on the brand side: big tech-company customer events, sales kickoff meetings, marketing gatherings, brand learning events, and so on. All the companies that run them are trying to figure out how to quickly turn them into great virtual events.

I talk about why this is the perfect kick in the ass for companies to figure out the content marketing strategy behind their events – and what they’re doing the other 363 days of the year.

Now is the time to think about the #contentmarketing strategy behind your events, says @Robert_Rose via @cmicontent. #weeklywrap Click To Tweet

This week’s person making a difference in content: Dennis Shiao (15:52)

I’ve known Dennis Shiao virtually a few years – we don’t often get to see each other in person (which is apropos of our theme this week). Dennis has been making meaning in content for many years. He led the content marketing function at DNN Software before becoming an independent marketing consultant in 2018. He’s a regular contributor to CMSWire and the Content Marketing Institute and curates an email newsletter called Content Corner.

Dennis runs the Bay Area Content Marketing Meetup with his friend (and ours) Rich Schwerin. He calls himself a “coder turned content marketer,” and he happens to be an expert in virtual events.

Dennis and I talked about why he turned from writing code to writing prose – and about the new world of virtual content and virtual events.

He shared some insight for brands facing a fast switch to digital events based on lessons he learned as a virtual event blogger during the financial crisis more than a decade ago. Here’s a sneak peek:

As the economy started to recover, the right concept was what we called hybrid events: You resume some face-to-face (obviously right now you’re not going to have many going on), but use the online platform to extend the physical… The hybrid concept is a great way to reach people that couldn’t attend or wouldn’t be able to attend physically anyway. It gives them exposure to the event brand and it gives them a taste of the event.

When the economy recovers, hybrid events (some face-to-face events) should be an extension of online events, says @dshiao via @cmicontent. #weeklywrap Click To Tweet

Listen to our conversation, then learn more about Dennis:

One content marketing idea you can use (32:50)

I’d love to have you take a look at a recent post about something I think will be happening more over the next few months. In Successful Ghostwriting Demands Collaboration, Not Magic, CMI’s Ann Gynn explains how ghostwriting involves more than just writing. Whether you’re the one who’s ghosted or who’s the ghost, you’ll find this article helpful. Ann offers great tips for how to get the most out of the relationship – and for figuring out the right tone of voice.

Prosperous #ghostwriting demands a true collaboration between the writer and credited author, says @AnnGynn via @cmicontent. #weeklywrap Click To Tweet

Love for our sponsor: Kapost

So let me tell you a story … Once upon a time, customers wanted content. So, marketing produced it.

As new ways to reach customers emerged, marketers kept creating more and more content. They also started growing their teams and adding technology to help drive engagement.

But in all the excitement, we forgot why we started making content in the first place: for our customers. We knew the messages we worked so hard to build were getting lost in the chaos, but we didn’t know another way.

Finally our customer said, “Enough! You’re confusing me!”

With that, Kapost was born. Kapost unites revenue teams to speak in one voice across the entire customer journey.

Learn more at

The wrap-up

Join us next week when we’ll be stocked so full of ideas we’ll be rolling with it. Lettuce give you one deep thought to help you romaine calm, one whale of a news item that’ll school you on porpoise and leave you feeling sofishstickated, and one content marketing idea to keep you from losing interest. And it’ll all be delivered in a little less time than it takes to wash your hands again.

If you have ideas for what you’d like to hear more of on our weekly play on words, let us know in the comments. And if you love the show, we’d sure love for you to review it or share it. Hashtag us up on Twitter: #WeeklyWrap.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute