Hi everyone, here’s a big hello from Portland, Oregon. Welcome to another episode of B2B Marketing & More! Today, I have another fantastic guest – David Meerman Scott.

David is a marketing and business growth speaker, advisor to emerging companies, author of 12 books, including “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” and “Fanocracy” (PR and WSJ bestseller). Last year, pretty much during the pandemic’s peak, he also published an ebook called “Standout Virtual Event”.

Today we talk about how to create a standout virtual event.

In this episode:

  • What does it take to create a stand out virtual event?
  • What are some of the key elements that event managers should pay attention to when creating an online event?
  • In what ways virtual presentations are different, and what should speakers do?
  • Learn more about “theatrical” and “cinematic” types of experience.
  • How to manage big virtual events and make connections with the audience?
  • How to create and use the script for the virtual event?
  • What are some features and platform considerations for a virtual event?
  • How can marketers sharpen up their presentation skills?
  • How to interact with the audience in an online event?

Quotes from the episode:

“I don’t show slides through the event app. I show slides on a big secondary screen over my shoulder. Why? Because the default for the virtual event platforms is that the slides take over. People get bored. They don’t want to look at slides. They want to look at human beings.”

“The world is always looking for new ways to learn about what’s going on out there. To learn about what your area of expertise is. But what the world doesn’t need is someone to just parrot what other people are saying.”


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To expand your knowledge about virtual events, and how to improve your online webinars and presentations, check out some of my previous episode and blog posts.

The Journey of Transitioning #CMWorld 2020 to a Virtual Event

Simple Ways to Make Your Video Calls Look and Sound Better

How to Deliver a Virtual Presentation to Management Successfully


Hey, a big hello from Portland, Oregon. Welcome to another episode of B2B Marketing & More! I have, I’m telling you, everybody, I have a fantastic guest. David Meerman Scott. Oh my God. I listened to his keynote probably about ten years ago. Although he can touch on various topics for today, we will talk about how to create a standout virtual event. David, welcome to my show.

David Meerman Scott: Hey, it’s great to be here, Pam. Thank you so much for having me on. This is awesome. I can’t believe that it was ten years ago that you saw me speak.

Pam Didner: David, you being around for a long time. (laughs)

David Meerman Scott: It makes me feel old. I know, I know I have. I haven’t told very many people this because it’s freaking me out, but this month, as we’re recording this. I turn 60. 

Pam Didner: You know what, David, can I tell you something? I think you look fabulous.

David Meerman Scott: It’s very kind of you. I feel I feel great. I feel better. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I can do, um, I can do 15 pull-ups, which not very many 60 year-olds can do. I’m not 60 yet. I’m 59 and 11 months. But this month, I do turn 60. 

Pam Didner: Well, happy early birthday. 

David Meerman Scott: Thank you. I appreciate that. 

Pam Didner:  So, Um, David, I love your third book. Uh, The New Rules of Marketing and PR was one of the first books I picked up 10, 11 years ago. And, uh, to get myself educated on digital marketing. And I loved that book very much. I know that your latest book is Fanocracy. Did I say that correctly?

David Meerman Scott: I say Fanocracy, but the way you said it’s perfectly fine. 

Pam Didner: And then you also publish a very nice little ebook called Standout Virtual Event last year.

Pretty much during the peak of the pandemic. So, speaking of the pandemic, accelerating, uh, the virtual communication and virtual events. Unfortunately, you and I both want this to be over as soon as possible.

And, but, you know, looking ahead, at least for 2021 is. Still going to be with us for the first half of the year. And can you share with us, uh, what are some of the key elements we should pay attention to to to create a standout virtual event as, uh, even marketing managers? 

So there are two sides to this one is I want you to ask your opinion in terms of, okay, what should a speaker do? And the first one is what should an event marketing manager do to create virtual events. So let’s start with that. 

David Meerman Scott: Okay. Great. So I think that we’re going to be locked into primarily virtual for the entire year 2021. The main reason is that it’s going to take a long time once things are safe to book an in-person event because it takes six months to book and invite people—

Pam Didner: And planning. Planning takes a long time.

David Meerman Scott: Yeah. Yeah, that’s correct. So I think, I think we’re in this until. You turn to the area. Um, and so the first thing is that many people tried to simply take their in-person event and stuff it into a Zoom room. 

Pam Didner: Yeah, you can’t do it. 

David Meerman Scott:  Um, and people recognize now that they’re different. And the main difference I see is that an in-person event is a theatrical experience. Whereas a virtual event is a cinematic experience, and those are two very different things because in theater, if you’re in a two-hour play, then there’ll be maybe two or three set changes, and that’s it. And you can, you know, the scene happens and maybe a couple of other actors come on, come on and so on. But it happens in, um, in a theatrical way. 

In a cinematic experience. There’s, um, multiple scene changes, multiple camera changes, all kinds, of fast-paced action. And so, if you’re creating a virtual event as an event organizer, you need to think about how you can break it up into much, much smaller chunks.

Yes, don’t do the typical one-hour keynote when you can break that up somehow.

And have maybe a 15-minute talk and then a quick panel discussion and then a Q&A, and then a video and then a yoga break and, you know, just really break it up a lot. It’s very important as an event planner to make sure that all of the people who are speaking – whether they’re professional speakers or people who work for your company or people you invite who are not pros, but everybody needs to have good technology. 

Pam Didner: Or if nothing, it was a minimal, a good bandwidth. If you’re doing live. Minimal. 

David Meerman Scott: Minimal have good bandwidth, but they need good lighting, they need a good microphone is often ignored, and you have people who just wear, you know, an Apple earbud or something.

Pam Didner: Yeah. I agree.

David Meerman Scott: And a microphone, like both of us, are using good microphones to have this conversation, and it makes a huge difference in a podcast, but it also makes a huge difference in a virtual event.

And having good lighting and having a good background. 

Um, one thing that I do as a speaker and as an event planner, if you can do this, it’s certainly helpful is I don’t show slides through the event app. I show slides on a secondary on a big screen over my shoulder, in my virtual studio in my home, because the default for the virtual event platforms–whether it’s Zoom or WebEx or any of the other platforms–the default is that the slides are 

Pam Didner: The slides take over. The slide is the major, a key element of it. And they shrank the speaker to very small.

David Meerman Scott: The speaker is this little tiny thumbnails, postage stamp thing. And the problem with that is people get bored. They don’t want to look at slides. They want to look at human beings. And so I’ve managed to solve that by building a studio, um, kind of look a little, a little looks a little bit like a small television studio has my slides on a secondary computer over my shoulder. And then I run it using a remote mic. So the slides are moving, um, over my shoulder. Um, and that works great. It works well to do that. 

I’m not saying that’s the only solution, but I think you have to be. You have to think through how that will show you and the speakers that are part of the event.

Pam Didner: Okay, when you were talking about the in-person event and also the virtual event, and you use two words, and I love these two words. One is a “theatrical” type experience, and the other was “cinematic.” 

All right. Let me tell you how B2B marketing will say this. Okay. I’m a B2B marketer. So I did a deck and talking about how to create a rockstar virtual presentation. Yeah, the, I took a similar approach as you explained it, right. You know, the in-person event and versus a virtual event, the out very, very different. 

So you use very, very nice words. And the words I’m using is in-person event is “three-dimensional and, uh, the virtual event is “two dimensional” because it’s two dimensional is flat. Therefore you need to take into account within that frame what you can control.

So that’s how I go about and talk about it and then talk about the mic, lighting, background, and the presentation.

But I love the way you interpreted it so a lot more, how should I say, it’s more lively than mine? “It’s three dimensional vs two dimensional. That’s just so boring! 

David Meerman Scott: No, I think the 3D and 2D works. Um, another thing I like to talk about with virtual events is I imagine I have people imagine, um, a network television morning, newscast. So what’s, what does a typical network television morning newscast? Well, there’s going to first be the news, which one person typically reads at kind of an anchor desk. And they’re reading the news. 

Then you’ve got the remote where you have a person outside of the studio, perhaps talking about the weather or a traffic accident or something. 

Pam Didner:  So there are different elements juxtaposed. 

David Meerman Scott: It’s a very different element.

Exactly right. And then you’ve got, um, sometimes they have another part of the studio with some comfortable chairs where they do an interview segment. And then they have, um, a clip that was recorded before the live show that they roll on tape. Um, and, and each of these elements is typically short about five minutes. So I always recommend to speakers and, and for event organizers, to try to get their speakers to do this is can you mix it up in every five minutes, do something different? So…

Pam Didner: That’s so hard. I mean, because I feel both of us are speaking actually at conferences and being on the stage, you can move around people. You can be an actor if you want to. Right. And then, you can use your voice to dramatize in terms of the key points you want to talk about. But when you have a screen, it’s kind of like, it’s a shield, right? You don’t get the audience’s direct reaction.

You are literally kind of like a host doing a cooking show, talking to yourself and cooking something, but you are not getting direct energy. 

David Meerman Scott: That’s right. You’re not getting the same kind of feedback. That’s true. But you can still mix it up every five minutes. So in, in a 45-minute virtual keynote, what I’ll do is. I’ll typically start with a chat, and I’ll say, and it all depends on which virtual platform is being used. Cause not all of them you can do this with—

Pam Didner: Do you usually do live or do the recording?

David Meerman Scott: I prefer to do live if I can. But, um, for one this week, I went into a studio and recorded. I went to a studio in Boston. I live 20 miles outside of Boston. I went into a studio in Boston. But what I’ll do, if it’s a typical one where I’m doing it in my home, is I’ll start, ask people a question and ask them to put the answer into chat. 

Pam Didner: So to get the people to interact with you.

David Meerman Scott: Yeah. And so, um, you mentioned at the top that my latest book is called Democracy, um, Turning Customers Into Fans and Fans Out of Customers. So what I say is, “what are you a fan of? Put it into chat.” That’s the first thing out of my mouth. I don’t say, “good morning.” I say, “what are you a fan of? Put it into the chat.” And so people go, “Oh, all right. It’s interactive.

The first thing out of this dude’s mouth is he wants me to do something” and then it’s cool because with some apps, like, for example, with Zoom,  it’s really easy to put that into chat.

And then if there’s a lot, if there’s a lot of people on the Zoom like I could, I did one a couple of days, a couple of days ago was like thousand people on the Zoom. It’s like going like too-dih-doo-dih-doo his, like you can see, Oh, someone’s “Boston Red Sox,” “pizza,” “red wine,” “coffee,” um, “Peloton,” you know, what are 

Pam Didner: How do you manage that, though? If you’re such big events, then it’s kind of like the tweets, like rolling very quickly. How do you manage that? 

David Meerman Scott: I will read. About 15, 20 seconds worth, maybe 10 or 15 or even 20 of the things I see, but then I’ll just let it go. 

Pam Didner: Okay. Then you focus on one of the key points, you come back and focus on the key points you want to do.

David Meerman Scott:  Right. And then I’ll, I’ll do a couple of slides. You know, share a little bit about Fanocracy, and then I’ll show a video. Yeah. And then a very short one-minute video. And, uh, I always have the video queued up. The person who backs the person behind the scenes shows the video, not me. I want the technology to be as smooth as possible. So I don’t show the video. And then I’ll talk for another five minutes. Then we’ll do a polling question. And again, the person behind the scenes will set up the poll and all that.  

Pam Didner: So there’s lots of preparation in advance to make things happen.

David Meerman Scott: Tons of preparation. I have to create a timeline by the sec, by the minute.

Pam Didner: So you have a show script, you have a show script. 

David Meerman Scott: I do. I do a run of the show. It’s every minute over the course of 45 minutes of what’s happening. And then I have a couple of videos where I’ve interviewed people, um, or I bring in somebody live for a very short Q&A–four-minute Q&A. Also, I’ll frequently do that will be someone who used some of my ideas, and they’ve grown their business as a result. And I love doing that. Um, sometimes I’ll have, uh, I’ll have a surprise guest, and this is super fun. 

I was presenting, and it was a big event. I was like a lot of people, and it was an important event. So I was presenting, and then I quoted Seth Godin. When I’m a big fan of the stuff, I said, you know, going to read all his books, here’s a quote I love from Seth. And I read the quote, and then Seth came in live. 

Pam Didner: Oh, I love that. That is such a nice surprise. Oh my God. Everybody was like, “Whoa!”

David Meerman Scott: And it blew people’s minds because they, it was so unexpected.

Yeah. And, um, and so the element of surprise in a virtual event, either that the organizer can create. So, um, I worked with an organ. I’m still working with an organization called Skillsoft. What Skillsoft does, which is super cool, is they have a surprise musical guest. 

Pam Didner: Oh, wonderful. I love that. 

David Meerman Scott: Then, after the musical guests finish playing some music live. Um, there’s a Q&A with them, the musicians. And so it’s, it’s super cool. But anyway, going back to getting back to Seth Godin, it blew people’s minds because they’re all marketers, every, you know, I would imagine 95% of people, they know who I know who he is. And, um, and, and it took five minutes of Seth’s time. Yeah. And he’s a very, very generous man. He was willing to do that for me.

I’m willing to do that for the audience. Um, there is the audience, the mind is blown, and then I’m on, I do another five minutes of slides, you know? So by the time 45 minutes rolls around, I’ve shown four videos, we had a surprise guest.

We did a polling question. I might do a breakout group, depends on the presentation and so on.

And so then people say that the reaction I get is, “wow, that went fast, and you were just bang, bang, bang, bang. I didn’t have time to get bored.” And that’s what I want to do. And then, and then I might, I might do question Q&A right after, but I typically prefer to stop, take a break or do or have them do something else and come back–half an hour later, two hours later the next day, and do the Q&A at another time. 

Pam Didner: So I took a slightly different approach, and I love your ideas. And you spend a lot of time just make sure that your keynote is not boring.  I do many private events and the way I do a day, a couple of things. And I just want to share with you. Often, I used gifs to animate the key point I want to get across, and I use many movie references from time to time. 

Another thing I do is very similar to yours, but yours is kind of live but mine is the post-production. So I use a 4k camera and record my talking; I talk the whole time for forty-five minutes. And, but I tried to make it, I try to make it as lively, as animated as possible. And then I do post-production. When I do post-production is the slides wall will be, uh, will be injected. And the places and post-production they will use, you know, they zoom me in and zoom me out.

Sometimes they will make me small, make me big, and have a special effect coming into it.

So, uh, when I do a recording for keynote specifically, I do very similarly to yours, but I’m more focused on the post-production part of it on my recording side. But you are more focused on, hey, the live elements of it.

David Meerman Scott: Yeah, and both work. And I’ve done, I’ve done the post-production side. Do you do post-production yourself, or do you have a team that does it for you? 

Pam Didner: I have a team doing it, and we will talk through it, and the things about the post-production are the sky’s the limit, right? And you can spend as little as $500. You can spend as much as $10,000 to do post-production and also, I also agree with you multiple different camera angles. I don’t go to a studio. I usually have one camera that I face the camera, and I also have a side camera. Does that make sense using my room as you can see my background but is the side camera and the front camera, and that will give the video editors, uh, enough footage to play with?

David Meerman Scott: Gotcha. Yeah, no, that makes total, that makes total sense. Do you do live sometimes, too or always recorded? 

Pam Didner: Um, so I do live as long as I know that. I mean my room and, uh, the bandwidth is good.

And when I do live, you know, I always have to do a pep talk with myself, like literally 10-15 minutes before that.

“You’re going to do this. You’re going to do this. Pam, you’ll be great!” I have to pump myself up. Do you know what I’m saying? Because that is what I come to realize that the voice I carry is very important. If I just say, “Hello, Dave is very nice to have you on my show.” And instead, say, “Dave, it’s so good to have you.” But you know, to say that I have to pump myself up and get myself in a zone, you know what I’m saying (laughs)

David Meerman Scott: Especially, especially because we’re doing these things from our homes and, uh, you know, with an in-person event. I mean, you feel, and you hear the audience, and you can smell the audience. I mean, you know, you can’t help but get pumped up. But you know, you’re in your room, and it’s like,” Oh geez. You know, it’s like,” um, so I think you’re right. I think you do have to do that. I try to do that myself.

Pam Didner: Very good. Um, You touch on the standout events and the from event organizers perspective. I love it.

And you’re talking about your own experience, how to make it fun and assure that you experience as a speaker. 

Um, I have many marketers that come to me, and they have a great experience. They also have a lot of knowledge. But they’re kind of shying away from sharing the knowledge because they feel that they are not good enough, or they feel like, “Oh my God, you know, I’m too old. Oh my God, I have two main gray hair. Oh my God. I, you know, I, whatever, I don’t have a right outfit.”

It has a lot of reason associated with it, but I always encourage them that just be themselves.

Do you have any suggestions regarding how marketers want to sharpen up their presentation skills, what they can do to make that happen, or even be a speaker, for that matter?

David Meerman Scott: You know, first of all, I think, um, we’ve we all have some form of knowledge, that’s needed that we, we should be sharing with the world. The challenge is trying to figure out what that of that is. 

Pam Didner:  Yeah. I hear you. 

David Meerman Scott: The way that I like to look at that and the way that it’s been very helpful for me to think through it is, um, there are a few times in my life when I managed to see patterns in the universe that nobody else is talking about. I’m not saying that no one else is seeing them. I’m saying nobody else is talking about those patterns in the universe. So you mentioned my book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR, that you read about ten years ago. So that book, um, was arguably the first book, um, about what we now call either “inbound marketing” or “social media marketing,” or “content marketing,” you know, whatever you want to call it.

This new form of marketing was the first one to write that book. Um, and so what happened to me is. That’s the first part of my career in the corporate world.

And I worked in the financial information business for companies like Dow Jones and Thompson Reuters. So even before the web, I had worked, um, in the information, the online information business.

You know, the services that my company, um, the companies I worked for were making were electronic information services used by brokers and bankers and, and government agencies. And so when the web came around, everyone was like, “Ooh, that’s so weird and new and different” And to me, it was “no, I know what this is. I’ve been doing this for a decade.” 

When people started to market on the web, they applied an advertising model to marketing on the web. And you remember, back in the day, it was about banner ads. 

Pam Didner:  Yeah, I know. 

David Meerman Scott: And I said, “no, it’s not about the banner ads.” No, it’s about publishing, and the new rules of marketing and PR were all about creating content as the form of marketing. Yeah. And so that was a pattern in the universe. 

Pam Didner: That you saw before anybody did.

David Meerman Scott:  Yeah, there might’ve– now I’m not saying I was the first person to see that pattern. There were probably other people who saw the pattern. I was the first person to write about it and speak about it. So what I recommend to everybody who might be a little bit shy about relating their ideas, either as a speaker or writer or whatever it might be in the world is – always looking for new ways to learn about what’s going on out there about what your area of expertise is, but what the world doesn’t need is someone to just parrot what other people are saying.

Um, so I always say, you know, “please let us know your original ideas. We are eager to learn from everybody about what is new and different and interesting, in your own words, in the, in the way that you see patterns in the universe, unlike other people.” I mean, bringing on it’s fabulous. 

Pam Didner: Yeah, and on top of it, I would like to add David, it’s okay to put yourself out there.

David Meerman Scott: It is okay. It’s a good thing to put yourself out there.

I think where people get tripped up, and I think it is sort of the essence of your question is don’t be so shy or fearful that you feel you just have to parrot what others say, because we’re all making this stuff up as we go along.

Pam Didner: (laughs) It’s so true. 

David Meerman Scott: It is. And, um, and you know, I’ve had some success with. The stuff I’ve done, but I’m going, I’m making it up as we go. I go along and, and everybody can do that. And it, but it’s just a matter of, of being original and getting your stuff out there and being able to say, “yes, this is the reality that I see. And I can’t wait to share it with others.” 

Pam Didner: Okay, so if you are listening for this specific episode with David Meerman Scott, put yourself out there, get your original ideas and share that with us. So with that being said, I have one silly question I would like to ask you to close. What is you are most useless talent?

Like you have this talent that nobody knows about, and you was just like, “Oh my God, this is completely useless and add no value whatsoever to the society.”

David Meerman Scott: I can cut a half-pound of Brie cheese to within one, 1/100th of a pound almost every time. 

Pam Didner: Oh my God. Okay. That’s I don’t think that’s, you know, No, I think not useless. That’s useful. (laughs)

David Meerman Scott: Let me, I’ll give you the background on this weird talent. Um, so for, um, for three years in high school and summer, every day after school and Saturdays and summers during college, I worked in a cheese shop. 

Pam Didner: Wisconsin? I’m kidding (laughs).  

David Meerman Scott: Um, and, uh, I was in, in, uh, in Connecticut and, um, and one of the most popular cheeses that we sold was brie, and it was in these sort of four-pound wheels and, um, you know, a wedge of brie that was about this big and, um, they’re very consistent in terms of how thick they are. And I could, I could look at the cheese, I could gauge the thickness, and I’d put my knife down and go chunk, take the piece of cheese, put it on the scale. And very often, it said 0.50, maybe 0.49, maybe .51 or .52. The boss always said, “if you’re going to, if you’re not going to hit 0.5, Oh, at least hit the high side so that I’m making a little more money,” (Pam laughs) But yeah, that’s a very useless skill. 

Pam Didner: For now. You never know, David. Something will come up. You know, something marketing and cheese will be related. I mean, it will tie back together.

David Meerman Scott:  There you go. 

Pam Didner:  So it’s wonderful. Wonderful to have you. Thank you so much, David, to come to my show. And then now that’s a wrap, and thank you so much, so much for listening to my podcast. If you liked the podcast, please subscribe to my podcast on your favorite listening platform. 

If you have any questions, reach out to me anytime on any social media channels or email me Feel free to join my Facebook community, too, if you’re up for it. Build Your Marketing Skills to Get Ahead. I answer every single question you asked again. Love, love, love to hear from you. Take care. See you next time. Bye.

What can Pam Didner do for you?

Being in the corporate world for 20+ years and having held various positions from accounting and supply chain management, and marketing to sales enablement, she knows how corporations work. She can make you and your team a rock star by identifying areas to shine and do better. She does that through private coaching, keynote speaking, workshop training, and hands-on consulting. Contact her or find her on LinkedIn and Twitter. A quick note: Check out her new 90-Day Revenue Reboot, if you are struggling with marketing.