Classes from 5 LinkedIn Dwell happenings

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This has been the year of the virtual event, with marketers and sales teams racing to recreate the conferences and workshops they have relied on to build excitement, bring communities together, and start sales conversations.

LinkedIn Live has been at the heart of this pivot. We’ve seen all types of organisations embracing the opportunity to stream live video from their LinkedIn Page as an alternative to speakers appearing on stage. We responded to the surge in interest by introducing an integration with LinkedIn Live and LinkedIn Events. This gives marketers more of the control they’d have when hosting an in-person event: issuing invitations, building an event audience, communicating with virtual attendees before, during and after sessions, and curating the finer details of the experience. It empowers them to choose the type of live happening they want to host: broadcasting experiences to audiences at scale via a LinkedIn Page or building a more intimate community around a personalised experience through LinkedIn Events.

We’ve learned a huge amount from the creative use that marketers have made of these capabilities. We’ve also learned that there’s far more to the potential of virtual events than just replicating the physical events that we’re used to. The most innovative uses of LinkedIn Live have involved brands going further. They’ve recognised the unique opportunities that taking events virtual creates – and they’ve taken those opportunities to expand their reach, reinvent their role and redefine what an event can be.

I’m writing this post to share the lessons from five highly innovative LinkedIn Live happenings that have taken place over the last few months. These happenings were created by L’Oréal, Louis Vuitton, Ogilvy, Celonis and the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce. They cross sectors, span different levels of budget, and involve using different elements of LinkedIn Live and LinkedIn Events. However, they have one crucial thing in common: they’ve recognised that taking an event virtual shouldn’t mean compromising on the content and experiences you provide. If anything, it frees you up to do even more with them.

Here are five inspiring lessons from these five LinkedIn Live happenings:

Lesson 1:

When your audience is experiencing an event through a screen, it makes sense to take creative inspiration from TV. The most memorable LinkedIn Live events don’t just aim to replicate the experience of watching a speaker on-stage. They re-invent professional content using formats taken straight from the TV schedules.When L’Oréal set about redesigning the final of its showpiece student innovation competition Brandstorm as a result of the pandemic, it took its inspiration from TV game shows. An ambitious format used a panel of socially distanced judges and TV-style presenter at a studio in Paris as the focal point of the content, with finalists presenting their ideas to them via a giant screen. This mix of on-location and remote footage captured sustained attention throughout the two-hour show, with more than 2,000 people tuning in and viewer numbers never dipping below 400 throughout the broadcast. “The environment that we created managed to connect students with members of the jury and with external audiences wherever they were,” says L’Oréal’s Chief Marketing Officer, HR, Natalia Noguera. “A lot of planning went into getting the right flow of content between these different elements – but it looked amazing.”

When the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce found itself unable to hold its weekly member meetings, it too took inspiration from TV. CEO Andreas Hatzigeorgiou stepped into the role of TV news interviewer for a weekly series of high-profile business interviews branded the ShlmSessions, which go out live on LinkedIn every Friday at 12.30pm. These regularly scheduled sessions are creating an appointment to view for professional audiences, consistently generating an audience 10x larger than the in-person meetings they replaced.

Unable to host its annual behavioural science festival Nudgestock in its traditional setting of a seaside theatre, the advertising agency Ogilvy took inspiration from another tried-and-trusted TV event – the marathon telecast. The agency developed a, ‘Band Aid for behavioural science’: an epic, 14-hour live broadcast that began in Australia, with presenting duties passing to the UK and finally, the US.

However, it’s not just a case of Live video events taking inspiration from TV. Nudgestock co-founder and Ogilvy Vice Chairman Rory Sutherland argues that there’s an equally important opportunity for live video on LinkedIn to fill a gap in current TV schedules.

“There’s a real gap in the market when it comes to business TV,” he says. “Shows like The Apprentice and Dragon’s Den introduce people to business as aggressive, competitive and all about getting one over on someone else. The reality is that business is mostly well-intentioned, positive and collaborative. LinkedIn Live has the opportunity to present business through video content in a far more positive way.”

Lesson 2:

There are many things that marketers, salespeople and speakers miss about in-person events: the networking opportunities, the buzz that comes from sharing a room with big-name speakers, the atmosphere that a crowd generates, the physical aspect of performing on-stage.

However, creative minds are quickly realising that there are equally things that you can do with live video content that would be impossible in-person. Louis Vuitton made animated characters a consistent motif in the launch of its Virgil Abloh men’s collection via a catwalk show live-streamed from Shanghai. Decked out in striking Abloh designs, these characters starred in a preview video of the show that generated a 50% view rate on LinkedIn. After the live event, they were cleverly dropped into footage of the show to create post-event video that reached a million luxury buyers in just three days

Live video events can incorporate a mix of streams from different locations – and also a mix of live and pre-recorded content. This enables marketers and event organisers to create a far more varied audience experience than is possible when every speaker shares the same stage. This was certainly the case for Celosphere Live, the virtual event created by digital transformation and process mining provider Celonis in place of its annual in-person conference. The digital version of Celosphere mixed different formats and filming techniques to maintain viewers’ interest over three days. These included keynote addresses backed by creative motion graphics, socially distanced panels streamed live from a studio, expert guests joining by remote video link, even interactive training sessions that gave virtual attendees the opportunity to earn Celosphere Live Certificates.

Lesson 3:

Every event organiser has a dream speaker line-up that they’d love to design their event around – but those line-ups can often feel as likely as the ones they put together for fantasy dinner parties. The cost of flying experts in from around the world, and the amount of time you have to ask busy people to take out of their schedule, all stack up against them.

As Ogilvy discovered with Nudgestock, going virtual changes the game – especially when you come up with imaginative ways to bridge different time zones. The line-up for Nudgestock 2020 was a real who’s who of behavioural science. It included Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational, Cass Sunstein, author of Nudge, the founder of Stanford University’s world-famous Behavior Design Lab, BJ Fogg, and many more besides. Ironically, a time when sought-after speakers find it difficult to move around is actually making it easier for innovative virtual event planners to bring them together.

Lesson 4:

Events have always built a sense of community among attendees – and one of the most valuable features of the LinkedIn Live and LinkedIn Events integration is the way that it enables marketers to replicate this. “We made the decision to create a LinkedIn Event rather than streaming on the L’Oréal LinkedIn Page, because we wanted to give people the sense of participating in something special,” explains L’Oréal’s Global Content and Engagement Manager, Madeline Rimassa. “Issuing invites ensured that it felt more official – and we were able to generate real momentum around the occasion.”

The difference with a virtual event, of course, is that the community you engage can be far wider and more inclusive than the number of people you could fit into a single venue. In L’Oréal’s case, it created a record audience for Brandstorm that extended far beyond the finalists themselves. For Nudgestock, the difference in scale was even more dramatic. Instead of selling 500 tickets, primarily to people within the UK, Ogilvy found itself generating over 120,000 views globally, with 35,000 people sharing their details by registering for the event in advance.

Lesson 5:

The business model for physical events is driven by space constraints, which limit the number of tickets you can sell – or the number of clients and prospects you can invite. Scarcity value gives many events their appeal and shapes the way they are priced, positioned and promoted. However, with no practical limit on the number of attendees for a virtual event, businesses are reviewing their objectives and priorities – and coming up with new approaches.

Celonis took a two-tier approach to planning Celosphere Live, which enabled it to generate leads in advance while still maximising reach and awareness on the day itself. Celonis created a 43-day LinkedIn campaign counting down to the event and prompting delegates to sign up for the full three-day experience via a dedicated virtual event channel. The brand then used LinkedIn Live to stream selected keynotes via its LinkedIn Page, maximising reach on the day and engaging an additional audience of 6,700.

For Rory Sutherland, the scale of Nudgestock 2020 is prompting new thinking about scaling Ogilvy’s behavioural science offering. “After this, it would be insane for us to go back to a purely physical event,” he says. “It’s forced us to ask questions of how we market ourselves. We’re now aware that we can talk to huge amounts of people for the same cost. We’re able to reach a far wider audience than just marketing directors and create an event that’s introvert friendly and not just for extroverts. We’re starting to think about how we can package our behavioural science consulting for businesses large and small – how we can build on the far broader engagement we’ve generated.”

He’s not alone in this. Brands that take an ambitious approach to planning virtual events are finding themselves with an asset that’s far more than just a make-do solution. In the case of Louis Vuitton, live-streamed fashion shows are a fundamental part of how the brand engages today’s luxury buyers, and they’re a tactic that pre-dates the pandemic. For L’Oréal, they’ve shown the potential of a student innovation competition to engage a far wider audience both internally and externally. For the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, they demonstrate that a business network can also function as a media brand. And for Celonis and Ogilvy Nudgestock, they’ve brought about new engagement models with an exciting balance of wider reach and in-depth engagement. When live video frees event content from space constraints, exciting things start to happen.

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