Four key lessons as Motorola switched 100 in-person events to 80 virtual ones

As the pandemic upended the electronics brand’s high-decibel in-person plans, it focused on fewer, but more engaging online initiatives to stay connected with locked down consumers.

Four key lessons as Motorola switched 100 in-person events to 80 virtual ones

How does a brand that is historically used to hosting dozens of high-visibility events, launches and reveals manage during a pandemic, with sweeping cuts to in-person attendance and the explosion of an assortment of virtual conferences, webinars and roundtables?

In the case of electronics brand Motorola, which typically organises as many as 100 in-person events annually, shifting gears for 2020 meant a rapid recalculation of how to keep the brand fresh in the minds of consumers, without inundating them with events and activations at a time when they struggled to cope with a surfeit of invitations.

As the pandemic rapidly spread around the world, Motorola had to roll with the punches and make changes to its events calendar. The action started early for the brand, because the launch of its Motorola Edge family of products was initially scheduled for Barcelona during the Mobile World Congress—one of the year's most immersive, high-tech in-person launch events.

Instead, Motorola found itself hastily recasting plans, as the pandemic upended this key mobile technology event. Instead, in a matter of weeks from the original launch date, the team held its first ever virtual event. It unveiled Motorola Edge+ and Motorola Edge through a dedicated launch 'e-vent' page on the Motorola blog, which hosted product information and highly engaging video content, including virtual reveals. Approximately 6,000 unique visitors came to the launch event page at the time it went live.

“From the start, we had to re-evaluate and streamline which components to include in each launch event,” says Luciana Vedovato, executive director of global communications at Motorola. “In switching to completely virtual events, we had to reconsider which elements to prioritise in an online setting so that we could still deliver an engaging, informative and successful event for our key stakeholders.”

That was just the start. The company ended up holding 80 virtual events in 2020. But this was a significant drop from its in-person plans, as the brand sought to deliver quality over quantity.

“We knew hearing from our Motorola leadership was key for our audience, which is why we included executive participation in every single virtual event we produced in 2020,” Vedovato says.

As the year progressed, Motorola’s top executives quickly learnt some lessons about holding—and scaling—virtual events. Here are four pieces of advice direct from Vedovato:

1. Engagement matters, in person and online

Finding new ways to engage virtual participants is key—virtual fatigue is real. For journalists, we found success and efficiency in using a combination of pre-recorded videos and live Q&A. This enabled the media to watch the pre-recordings at their own leisure and then come prepared with specific follow-up questions for the live Q&A with Motorola’s engineers.

2. Managing an audience saturated with online content

While it was crucial to create virtual launch experiences that were just as immersive and unique as previous in-person product moments, nowadays less is more. Throughout the year, we paid careful attention to not overwhelm our audiences with too many activations, options and details. Attention spans are short, so events must cater to that. We also understood not every product launch required the same virtual event scope or size. For example, when launching the Motorola Razr 5G, the brand focused on an immersive, fashion-forward event that showcased the product’s flippable design. By including a movie theatre feature and high fashion event look and feel, the Razr 5G story was fully brought to life. 

3. Understanding your audience is key

Understanding and defining your audience is a critical first step to ensuring a virtual event is just as engaging as an in-person moment. From the presentation and script down to the length of the launch and selecting the right speakers, each element needs to be carefully thought out to make sure you effectively capture the audience’s attention and communicate our key messages. For example, In Motorola’s case, with Europe being a critical market for 5G technology rollout, the brand chose this region to hold the largest Moto G 5G Plus launch event. Choosing the right platform is also key. Since Facebook is the predominant communicator in the Philippines, the team decided to launch the Motorola Razr 5G and Moto G 5G Plus through Facebook Live events to drive and capture as much interest and exposure as possible.

4. Make it simple for other markets to recreate

As a global company with product launch dates varying by market, Motorola rarely has just one singular launch moment for our products. It was therefore even more challenging to switch from in-person moments to virtual events. To enable all markets to successfully recreate each virtual event, Motorola compiled new digital checklists and best-practices documents, and offered as much virtual support as possible to our local Motorola PR teams to help them create a launch moment that would meet the specific needs of their region and effectively communicate with their key audiences. 

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