The Celebrity Factor: New Ways to Engage with Virtual Attendees

November 16, 2020

Mark Roberts

Mark Roberts serves as CMO of PGi, where he is responsible for all marketing operations worldwide, driving growth opportunities and building brand recognition for the company within the communications market.

Now that the novelty of online and virtual events has worn off a bit, organizations are looking for new ways to keep their audiences engaged. Many are turning to a perhaps unexpected source for inspiration: Hollywood.

It makes sense when you think about it — Hollywood knows how to tell a good story, and their stars are engaging. Plus, they know how to keep their audiences coming back for more, and that is pretty much what every company wants, no matter the specifics of their business objectives 

Engaging with virtual audiences is easier than it might seem — and the approach works for both large and small companies. It just requires some forethought, a compelling story and the right messenger.

Virtual events may never entirely supplant live events, but employing them allows companies to connect with audiences in a new but just as powerful way. Virtual events can offer great value and a solid return on investment, but success necessitates looking at and planning events differently.

The power of personality

At in-person shows and conferences, companies often turn to celebrities as a draw. But talent comes in all forms, and a “celebrity” doesn’t need to appear in a blockbuster movie to be famous.

Companies often want to use an executive team member, thinking they will be a draw for attendees. Instead, consider a looser definition of the term “celebrity” and look to a noteworthy entrepreneur or someone within a particular industry who will draw attendees and engage with them, even virtually.

As an alternate approach, look to other sources for talent waiting to be tapped — maybe it’s a customer, a partner or a team member in their own organization.

Inspiration for the moment

The world is facing COVID fatigue. We all want to know when the world will return to “normal.” But honestly, that may never happen. Instead, we’ll move into the “Next Normal,” where we’ll take with us the lessons and the new ways of operating we learned during the pandemic and apply it to the challenges ahead.

People often turn to celebrities because they value something about them, whether it’s their perspectives or their stories, and they are personable. Just like a movie has a story arc with bits of drama and a happy ending, people want to know that the drama of the moment will lead to a satisfying conclusion. 

Right now, people can use some motivation. They want to know circumstances will improve and that the doldrums of COVID won’t last forever. People want an inspiring story, and there are many exciting happenings that are propelling companies to succeed even during a trying year.

What was the key to their success? Audiences will find that secret interesting, and it will give them ideas they can use within their own organizations.

More than “one and done”

As people engage with brands and organizations in a new way, the opportunity is to build an ongoing relationship — one that remains in the “Next Normal.”

For in-person events that happen only once a year, attendees may not hear from the event sponsor until it’s time for the next year’s event. People are growing more comfortable engaging virtually, and now they expect to do so regularly, so find a way to connect with them virtually on an ongoing basis. 

Look at how celebrities engage with their fans on social media. Many companies use social media to project their message to a broad audience, but if they’re not taking time to foster a relationship with their followers, perhaps they should amend their approach and deliver content that inspires and keeps audiences clamoring for more.

An event should never be “one and done.” Instead, it should be the launching point for ongoing outreach and marketing, so build a plan and put in place everything you need to execute it.


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Overview: The award-winning Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) goes the extra mile to make every day extraordinary by offering customer service excellence and industry-leading partnerships. From their dedicated in-house Rigging team to their robust Exhibitor Services, The Center of Hospitality brings your imagination to life by helping you host unforgettable meetings and events. With more than 2 million square feet of exhibit space, world-class services and a dream destination, we are committed to making even the most ambitious conventions a reality. In October 2023, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners voted to approve allocating Tourist Development Tax funding for the $560 million Phase 5A completion of the OCCC. The Convention Way Grand Concourse project will include enhancements to the North-South Building, featuring an additional 60,000 square feet of meeting space, an 80,000- square-foot ballroom and new entry to the North-South Building along Convention Way. “We are thrilled to begin work on completing our North-South Building which will allow us to meet the growing needs of our clients,” said OCCC Executive Director Mark Tester. “As an economic driver for the community, this project will provide the Center with connectivity and meeting space to host more events and continue to infuse the local economy with new money and expanding business opportunities.” Amenities: The Center of Hospitality goes above and beyond by offering world-class customer service and industry-leading partnerships. From the largest convention center Wi-Fi network to custom LAN/WAN design, the Center takes pride in enhancing exhibitor and customer experience.  The OCCC is the exclusive provider of electricity (24-hour power at no additional cost), aerial rigging and lighting, water, natural gas and propane, compressed air, and cable TV services. Convenience The Center is at the epicenter of the destination, with an abundance of hotels, restaurants, and attractions within walking distance. Pedestrian bridges connect both buildings to more than 5,200 rooms and is within a 15-minute drive from the Orlando International Airport. The convenience of the location goes hand-in-hand with top notch service to help meet an event’s every need. Gold Key Members The OCCC’s Gold Key Members represent the best of the best when it comes to exceptional service and exclusive benefits for clients, exhibitors and guests. The Center’s Gold Key memberships with Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and Walt Disney World greatly enhance meeting planner and attendee experiences offering world-renowned venues, immersive experiences and creative resources for their events. OCCC Events: This fiscal year, the OCCC is projected to host 168 events, 1.7 million attendees, and $2.9 billion in economic impact.  The Center’s top five events during their 2022-2023 fiscal year included:  AAU Jr. National Volleyball Championships 2023 200,000 Attendees $257 Million in Economic Impact MEGACON 2023 160,000 Attendees $205 Million in Economic Impact Open Championship Series 2023 69,500 Attendees $89 Million in Economic Impact Sunshine Classic 2023 42,000 Attendees $54 Million in Economic Impact Premiere Orlando 2023 42,000 Attendees $108 Million in Economic Impact