5 Visual Event Experiences to Wow Your Audience

After making a nearly overnight switch to virtual events in 2020, event producers, attendees, and sponsors alike are preparing for the return of in-person events. But in-person events of the future will not be a copy and paste of what came before. What’s more likely is that we’ll see event experiences shift to hybrid, bringing attendees together both in-person and virtually. 

At Ink Factory, we’re already seeing producers planning more hybrid and intimate in-person events, although virtual continues to lead the way. This shift is further evidenced by recent news like Cisco relaunching Webex with a focus on hybrid meetings. 

 

Virtual event experiences are better with visuals

 

Hybrid events make sense. They afford organizers the scale and reach of virtual conferencing, while also creating a space for much-wanted in-person networking and interaction. 

But what this will look like is still taking shape. What we do know is that moving forward event professionals have an even bigger job to do: Create memorable event experiences across existing and emerging formats that nurture learning, engagement, and idea-sharing. 

As a team of artists who specialize in visual communication, this is exactly the kind of challenge Ink Factory thrives on. No matter if we’re supporting a virtual, in-person, or hybrid event, we firmly believe a strong visual communication strategy is critical to engaging and educating attendees.

The last year has further reinforced the value of visuals. Ink Factory artists supported over 100 events and we saw first-hand what works–and what doesn’t–when it comes to keeping the attention of fatigued audiences. Here, we share unexpected and impactful ways to incorporate visuals into your next event to keep attendees focused and engaged.

 

1. Skip the presentation slides. (Yes, all of them!)

Our client Zappi, a market research platform, took this approach for their second annual Virtual Insight Summit hosted in June 2021. They knew their audience was suffering from major video fatigue and would likely listen in while doing other things. 

 

A virtual event experience featuring live visual notes

 

We wanted audio to drive the event,” said Ariel Madway, Senior Manager of Community Engagement at Zappi. “That way, attendees could digest the content while out for a walk or taking a much-needed break from the screen. For those who watched via video, we utilized virtual visual notes to keep viewers engaged and provide an aesthetically pleasing experience.

Visual notes are drawings created in real-time using simple words and pictures, virtually or in person. Having a visual note-taker at your event means that while you’re talking, an artist is drawing. The result is a visual summarizing the key takeaways of your discussion.

At Zappi’s event, the virtual visual notes were drawn live by an Ink Factory artist and shared on-screen so attendees could follow along. Even better, these visuals were a great takeaway piece for attendees, especially those who tuned in for the audio-only. 

Visual notes also make a great impression at in-person events. For intimate gatherings, an artist can live draw “marker to artist board” on stage. For bigger groups, the artist can draw digitally, with the notes shared on-screen in real-time.  

 

2. Not ready to ditch the slides? Test building illustrations.

Traditional slides are expected and worn out. Luckily, building illustrations are neither. This “slide alternative” helps visualize a speaker’s presentation, making the content more accessible and memorable. This visualization tool is especially helpful when presenting complex information. 

 

Building illustration presentation

 

Puppet, a leader in IT automation, tapped Ink Factory to design building illustrations for Puppetize Digital, the company’s first-ever virtual conference. The event kicked off with a virtual keynote led by Puppet CEO Yvonne Wasserman. As Wasserman shared key points, the on-screen illustration revealed a new layer– “building” a visual story for viewers.  

In the case of Puppet, the keynote was pre-recorded, making it worry-free and easy to add engaging visuals. But a live presentation works, too–if the content is pre-planned, building illustrations can reinforce key messages.

 

3. Surprise and delight with visuals to-go.

You also can capture visual notes on the sly, then surprise attendees with digital copies afterward. This is especially impactful for virtual breakout sessions or small group discussions where rapid ideation is happening. To do this, an artist joins the event using an alias (our favorite is Tech Support) and draws–or live scribes–key takeaways off-screen. Because the digital live scribing happens in real-time, you can quickly post the visual notes as a download link in the event chat feed, or follow up with an email. 

 

One of our favorite event experiences is engagement boards, where audiences answer a question that our artist draws live

 

Exhibiting at a trade show or other setting where you frequently “show and tell” a product or service? After meeting with someone at your booth, offer an illustration as a digital or printed takeaway piece. It’s an ideal format for reinforcing your most important messages. And, it’ll stand out in a sea of similar tradeshow collateral. 

 

4. Think visually beyond the event for added ROI.

You worked hard to draw attendees to your event. Afterward, keep them hooked with visual content that’s quick to digest and fun to share. We’ve seen lots of creative uses of visual notes and illustrations post-event. From time-lapse videos to trade show booth signage, visual notes can be repackaged in many ways.

 

Leveraging visual notes for social media images are a great way to expand event experiences
One standout example is the National Fund for Workforce Solutions. The organization galleried visual notes from its Advancing Workforce Equity project in its offices, keeping the goals at the top of the long-term initiative of mind among employees and partners.

“Seeing a visual record of how our work evolved from beginning to end is a powerful artifact and valuable tool that can live on and be repurposed over time,” said Lisa Chensvold, Marketing and Communications Director at National Fund for Workforce Solutions. 

When you repurpose for online sharing, you can track your content’s performance. Website, social media, and email analytics all help you learn what visuals your audience engages with most. From there, you can optimize future efforts to improve the return on your visual note-taking investment. 

 

5. Invite attendees to learn visual note-taking. (Non-drawers welcome!)

Event organizers aren’t the only ones learning to navigate virtual meetings and events. Your attendees are likely doing the same in their jobs, too. During breaks and free time, offer them the chance to learn visual communication skills they can apply in both personal and professional settings. 

 

An ink factory team member teaches a virtual workshop

 

The workshops are a fun, creative break in the day and attendees walk away with easy-to-use visual templates. For example, Ink Factory offers a popular goal-setting workshop that helps non-drawers visualize what they want to accomplish. Because people remember what they see more than what they hear or read, visualizing goals is a great way to make them stick. 

At its Virtual Insights Summit, Zappi hosted an interactive workshop that taught attendees how to create a visual to-do list. Participants practiced handwriting, visual hierarchy, and drawing icons. Everyone received a digital guide, making it easy to put these visual communication concepts into practice. 

 

An artist draws a visual event experience live

 

Corporate meetings and events have changed a lot in the last year, but the overarching goal of event professionals has not. As Madway shared, “I approach every event with the goal of bringing people together, building community, and helping them interact and learn something.” Visual communication supports all of these goals. If you’re planning an event, let’s connect. We can’t wait to visualize something awesome together. 

 

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