How to Engage Audiences in an Era of Virtual Fatigue

March 23, 2021

Jerry Deeney

Jerry Deeney leads the account services team as chief client officer at [INVNT GROUP], ensuring clients receive the highest level of service day in, day out. He is an experienced producer, communicator and marketer whose portfolio includes global motor shows, motor sports and lifestyle events set in the world’s most influential arenas.

Whether caused by taking part in a series of daylong video conference calls, catching up with loved ones from afar, or attending an event or meeting via an online platform (or a combination of all of these), virtual fatigue is a very real thing.

Now a year since the pandemic began, it’s clear that certain brands and organizations are coming out on top — those paying attention and addressing virtual fatigue by placing both their audiences and storytelling at the heart, thinking creatively and embracing new yet equally relevant technologies to enhance the virtual attendee experience.

Let’s delve a little deeper into some of these practices.

Considering a deconstructed approach to storytelling

We know effective storytelling is the key to success for all brands, and in the virtual world, different considerations need to be made to maintain audience engagement. This is where a deconstructed story becomes a powerful tool. Think of it like the structure of a book, which is the sum of many equally important chapters that as a whole tell a cohesive yet complementary story.

With deconstructed storytelling, we take the overarching brand, product or service stories and break them down into smaller, more specific chapters. These chapters, for example, could focus on the attributes of a new car, electronic device or beverage. As we shine a spotlight on these different elements, we seamlessly transition between speakers, backdrops and topics. The scenes act as snackable bits of content that educate and the progression of moving from one chapter to the next keeps attendees engaged as they eagerly wait to see where the story narrative is taking them next.

Extending the content reach and lifetime 

This deconstructed narrative approach also enables brands to drive pre-event interest while continuing conversations long after a broadcast comes to an end. The focused bursts of content can be shared individually across owned web platforms, as both teasers and standalone longform story segments. Plus, if you’re working on an event, such as a product launch, and COVID-19 restrictions allow, you can explore a hybrid approach by inviting select and embargoed media to physically view all content ahead of the unveiling. The revealed content can then be further condensed into snackable 10-30 second highlight videos for social platforms at the post-event stage, and in doing so, engage a wider audience who didn’t attend the virtual event.

Leveraging the right tech for the right impact

While we’ve seen massive digital acceleration as a result of the pandemic, a “tech for tech’s sake” approach must be avoided. First, consider the audience. What is the story you must tell, and how can technology enhance that storytelling in a way makes it more impactful and engaging? Those who tuned in to this year’s all-digital CES, for example, are known for their tech savviness, so it was vital to pull out all of the stops to enhance the storytelling when we worked with General Motors for the event.  

To achieve this, we decided on a mixed reality experience, one that carefully fused the real with the virtual, and transported the audience to a series of different locations that were so crisp and clear, they had a real-world feel about them. Speakers were physically present in a massive LED arena, and by using the Epic Games Unreal Engine, we were able to have these immersive worlds move around behind them (they were supplemented by animated 3D images, math-based computer-generated animations and more) as the Unreal Engine rendered the worlds out in real time.

This approach worked well for CES, and it will — and has — for many other brands and audiences, but there are many factors to consider when determining which tech — or combination of tech — to employ when designing and producing a truly engaging virtual experience.

With a return to in-person events across the globe not yet fully known, and the majority of us continuing to work remotely and socialize online, virtual fatigue remains an issue our industry must not only address but also lead the way in overcoming. And it’s something we can achieve if we remain proactive, creative and importantly, strive to be the very best storytellers we can be at every turn. 


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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.