Your live fundraising gala may be cancelled. Do you have access to a studio space, a professional audio-visual team and the ability to recreate your event for the whole internet to experience? How will you take advantage of the moment?
Virtual events provide an opportunity to increase awareness, garner new audiences and raise much needed funds. Your success to keep the audience engaged and tuned-in is dependent on several factors.
Most essential to your virtual event’s success will be whom you enlist as hosts for the event.
What hosts do you need for your virtual event?
With your in-person gala, you probably obtained an Emcee for the evening. Maybe it is a radio or television personality to bring some star power to your event. And, if you are serious about raising the fund factor of your gala, you will have also recruited a professional Fundraising Auctioneer to inspire maximum giving from your attendees.
With a virtual gala, a professional Emcee and Fundraising Auctioneer are even more critical for the success of your event.
The Emcee sets the tone at an event. When the program begins, the Emcee is the first point of contact. When the program wraps up, the Emcee provides the final impression. As with an in-person event, a skilled, professional Emcee can make guests feel warm, welcomed and relaxed in an online environment.
Essentially, the Emcee is a tour guide for your online event and by extension your cause. Their job can include narrating, interviewing, moderating, explaining, informing, transitioning and piloting. In addition, they must be inspiring, entertaining, engaging and motivate the audience to action. Those are a lot of responsibilities to juggle!
The Fundraising Auctioneer is responsible for the call to action to ask the viewers to financially support your cause. This could be through a live auction or a direct ask to fund a need.
Think of the hosts as brand ambassadors for your cause – who will you entrust to inspire the greatest social impact for your organization? More importantly, who are you letting control whether you will meet your goal or not?
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How will your choices impact the experience?
A studio environment is very different from a live, in-person performance. In a physical-distancing time, a studio will be quiet, with a small handful of people who will be staring silently at the performance in front of the camera. There will be no instantaneous feedback; no body language, no two-way dialogue from an audience. There is no immediate energy to gauge whether things are going well or need to be adjusted.
Performing and presenting in front of a camera is a bit like performing into the void. Every twitch, facial expression, intonation and inflection will be observed but with no commentary to assist with improvement. This can be unnerving if you aren’t experienced in this type of atmosphere. With less feedback, it will generate more nervousness and potential missteps.
With all of this in mind, selecting your hosts will be of equal importance to the mood, the message and the entertainment for your virtual event.
What to look for in your virtual fundraising gala hosts
Selecting a professional Emcee and professional Fundraising Auctioneer for your event should be a careful process. Consider the fit and match of the individual to your cause and event goals. Most importantly, consider the long-term impact your event has on your guests. Who do you want to be your organizations representative and advocate?
There are three key traits that you need to consider for both Emcee and Fundraising Auctioneer:
1. Poised, confident and professional
Great hosts are not shy, reserved or uncertain. Professional Emcees and Fundraising Auctioneers are highly skilled public speakers. They consider diction, cadence and inflections to mirror the tone of your event and ensure their words have maximum impact. They will know when to pause and for how long for impact but not awkwardness.
They boldly enter uncharted territory knowing that they are doing it with an audience watching their every move. They will be comfortable with mistakes, aptly able to recover in such a way that feels like the mistake was always part of the show. They are relaxed, poised and will invoke emotion in your viewers.
2. A passion to connect
Professional hosts have a passion and desire to connect to an audience, even when that audience can’t provide feedback, body language or eye contact. Your hosts will create a connection and emotional relationship with the viewers.
They will be comfortable with making eye contact, knowing that they will never actually see the audience looking back at them. The hosts can’t appear to be reading words from a teleprompter (even if they are).
3. Great improvisational skills
The hosts for your event should be entertainers. They need to be well prepared so that it feels natural and conversational. But sometimes, they will need to react in the moment with little guidance or scripting.
The Emcee and Fundraising Auctioneer need to provide dynamic entertainment and a fun factor to your virtual event. Otherwise, viewers are going to tune out and literally turn off.
You need to think of each host as a brand ambassadors for your cause; one who skillfully leverages their role to inspire guests to give generously. This certainly will not be like an episode of Saturday Night Live with a studio audience to cheer and clap. So, knowing how your Hosts will act and react is critical to the success of your online gala.
Moving your event to an online medium can be stressful: Will the technology work? Will anyone tune in? Will the result be positive? Invest in a professional Emcee and Fundraising Auctioneer. You are securing professionals who can ensure that when the camera is rolling, the event is entertaining, inspiring and results oriented.