Want High Completion Rates? Think Like a Filmmaker

Audience attention spans continue to deteriorate. According to research by Professor Gloria Mark at the University of California, the time it takes the average person working at a computer to switch tasks is now 40 seconds.  This has wreaked havoc on attendee completion rates for virtual events.

So what can marketers do to keep audiences connected to their event from start to finish? 

Think like a filmmaker!  Here are several ways marketers leverage filmmaker tactics to hold an audience’s attention and improve overall completion rates.   

“Plot” vs “Agenda”

To a filmmaker, “story” and “plot” drive everything. If a piece of dialogue, a character, or a story detail does not advance or enhance the plot … it’s out. Virtual events must be treated the same way.  Rather than a list of “related” topics, create an overall narrative for the event.  Keep it tight, focused, and building toward a climax. Before the event, share this narrative with the speakers so they can craft their content accordingly.  Bring the group together pre-event (virtually, of course) to brainstorm and create internal excitement. This buzz will be infectious and energize the final product.  Which brings us to …

Coming Attractions 

Good movie trailers make viewers not just want to see it, but feel they need to see it … and they do this in less than a minute. Trailers for virtual events must do the same.  Record that speaker pre-meeting. Use entertaining clips of it in teasers to communicate the event’s value.  Make the event look fun and frame content to speak directly to the audience’s wants and needs. Drop hints about special surprises; highlight the event’s differentiators; reinforce its limited availability. When the trailer is done, your target audience should think, “I need to see this!”

Production Values

The success of every film is determined in the editing suite. A virtual event is the same … its success is determined by how it looks and flows. While it’s important to find the virtual technology platform that delivers desired functionality, it’s more important to assemble a professional technical team who will ensure that it flows smoothly, seamlessly, and looks great.  You wouldn’t mount a live Sales Meeting without an experienced technical team, would you?  Nothing makes a viewer reach for their mouse faster than glitches and downtime.

Casting Call

Actors agree that stage-acting is different from film-acting.  The same is true of Virtual Events.  Some speakers thrive in a 3000-seat auditorium, but find the virtual space challenging … and vice versa. Don’t just “identify” speakers … “cast” them. Intelligence and experience are important, but perhaps someone of equal intelligence and experience comes across better on the small screen.  A professional moderator who’s experienced in on-screen communication can keep a virtual event energized and focused from start to finish.  

The Sixth Sense Effect

M. Night Shyamalan established his reputation for plot twists in, “The Sixth Sense.”  Today, audiences watch his films just to experience the “big twist.”  Plot twists, aka “surprises,” have become de rigueur for Virtual Events. These may include: celebrity guests, cool gamification, valuable prizes, confidential announcements, secret roll-out info, etc. Professional entertainers could also make appearances. There’s an old saying: “When you got’em laughing, you got’em listening.” 

Leave’em Wanting More

For films that are part of an on-going franchise (think Avengers, etc.), how the film ends is the most important part. Why? That’s when they leverage their captive audience to generate excitement for the next one. Many virtual events conclude with an anemic “thank you” and vague exhortations to send in questions.  Strike while the iron’s hot!  At the end of your next virtual event, share a teaser for the next one that makes viewers rush to block out time in their calendars. (See ”Coming Attractions”) 


For Virtual Events–and any streaming media for that matter–distractions are a mere click away. 

So think like a filmmaker. Think “plot” rather than “agenda.” “Cast” speakers rather than simply “selecting” them.  Engage a professional tech team to create a great looking, smooth running, event.  And make sure to get your captive audience excited to attend your next one … from start to finish. 

Your completion rates will get two thumbs up.