Ask Michael: How can I upgrade my virtual events?

Plus: A new book on the voice inside our heads, an invisible bookshelf (!!!) and a conversation with my new favorite YouTuber

Ask Michael is The Supercreator’s weekly Q&A dedicated to minimizing the guesswork, overwhelm and frustration from your creative life. This week’s reader-submitted question: With the pandemic normalizing virtual events, what are some tips business owners can take action on to increase their sales and engagement from digital programming?

When I’m planning a virtual event, I like to start after the program and work backward. How do I want attendees to feel when they leave? What do I want them to say or do? Where do I want them to go to deepen their connection with me and my business? And how much is my budget to facilitate this experience? Once I have answers to these fundamental questions, then I craft the components of the event that empowers me to answer these questions. For example, I gave a recent talk to a group of writers and in addition to sharing my slides, I also created a document that organized the knowledge from the presentation into a guide they could refer to when they feel stuck or overwhelmed in their own writing practice. I also included links to subscribe to my daily newsletter and my contact info, which has resulted in some extra revenue and seeded a few meaningful connections.

For all that’s dope about virtual events, there’s one downside: The challenge of keeping attendees engaged in a digital environment that’s far more distracting than an in-person one would be. So it’s worthwhile to think about how virtual events fit into your creative business. Perform an objective audit to make sure your verbal and visual identities reflect the look, sound and feel of your brand and that it’s distinct enough to stand out in a sea of sameness.

Your online programming should also satisfy your community's desire to belong. “Belonging is our inherent capacity and need for empathy, compassion and communication,” Saul Levine, Canadian psychiatrist, author and professor emeritus of the University of California, San Diego’s School of Medicine, wrote in Psychology Today. “It’s the extent to which we feel appreciated, respected and cared for as a group of close people. When we belong to these groups, we share values, rituals and attitudes. We experience feelings of warmth and welcome. Our lives are enriched.” Embed opportunities to build community and experience belonging in your events and you’ll discover that people are willing to pay a premium for it.

Your virtual events should be well-produced too. Invest in audiovisual equipment that brings out the best in you and your business. And finally, plan for the worst-case scenario because technology — just like life — is unpredictable. When I’m preparing a talk, I pre-record a quick apology in the case for whatever reason the event is canceled. I go over the high-level points that I planned to cover, add a few office hours to my calendar if attendees want to chat one-on-one and include a discount to the newsletter as a peace offering. I haven’t had to send it yet — knock on wood! — but I’m grateful for the peace of mind from knowing that I’ve got a make-do Plan B if I need it.

What I Wrote This Week

“Kellyanne Conway is more than just a proud mom”:

Capitalism explains why we’re predisposed to exploitation by problematic public figures. Media executives — who are primarily concerned with ratings and page views — and celebrities benefit from these rehab campaigns. They tap our human impulse to know what led the celebrity to choose how they chose and if they’re now different since they’ve come out on the other side. Whether in book, article or TV format, redemption sells. And savvy professionals like Kellyanne Conway and ABC’s executives know it. After all, the Conway family’s appearance on American Idol has earned it a multiple-days-long news cycle — including this story — and proves to others that the second-chance template is still effective. And while it’s easy to ask ourselves to be more discerning of this scam when we see it, perhaps the solution is to raise the standard that allows them to acquire and reclaim such power in the first place.

”Uber’s lousy driver culture starts at the top”:

It’s absurd to think one person — even someone with the insight and expertise of Rosenblat — can salve Uber’s flaws enough to make a meaningful difference. Uber’s lousy driver culture starts at the top with Khosrowshahi, an executive who fashions himself as a worker ally but is laser-focused on turning a profit. (Uber’s revenue was down 16 percent last quarter compared to the fourth quarter of 2019. It reported a net loss of $6.7 billion, earned less revenue and saw a decline of 16 percent in users who take at least one ride on Uber or buy at least one meal on Uber Eats. Uber is, however, predicting that its delivery business will be profitable in 2021.) He and his colleagues at other app-based companies are actively working against all the fundamental shifts that would make driving and delivering for them a worthwhile pursuit. So while it’s nice to know that Uber is self-aware enough to hire an expert whose experience will likely lead it to the necessary reforms required for Uber to be the force for good it claims, save your breath because it’s doubtful they’ll actually execute on them.

Thoughts and Things

In Conversation With: Kenneth Kyrell

We’re at the point in the life of the internet where if you’re interested consumers investing their attention or dollars into your creative work, then you’ve gotta come correct. And if Atlanta-based DJ and media personality Kenneth Kyrell’s new YouTube vlog is any indication, then it’s clear he’s gotten the memo. Kyrell is only two episodes in, but the production values are legit and he’s charming enough to make the most mundane tasks — walking from airport baggage claim, shopping at Target, taking a business call, to name a few — feel like must-see viewing.

“The biggest thing I have learned so far has been the beauty of finding perfection within imperfections,” Kyrell said to The Supercreator. “When I first said to myself ‘I am going to start vlogging,’ I had the idea of these beautifully crafted vlogs with immaculate editing, amazing lighting, and a look for every frame. Once I started doing it, I realized that was not realistic and I am [now] becoming more comfortable with trusting the process, getting better with editing along the way and not being afraid to show myself in my true element.” Kyrell also enjoys the opportunity to replay how he handles certain situations and see himself from a different perspective. “There are some things I need to work on but there are also new things I love about myself that I have found through this journey thus far.”

Another lesson he’s learned: If you have something to share, chances are there’s someone who can connect to it — even if it requires you to be vulnerable and step out of your comfort zone. “The moments in which I second guess about sharing are usually the moments when I get the most feedback from where people that are like ‘I feel the same way’ or ‘I've been through the same thing,’” Kyrell said. “That alone, makes vlogging worthwhile in my opinion.”

Subscribe to Kenneth’s weekly vlog to get notified when he posts new episodes.

From The Archive

“This is what happens when Black journalists stop being polite and start getting real” (published 6/9/20): My friend Natalie suggested I listened to “The Test Kitchen,” a new miniseries from Reply All, a podcast from Gimlet, a Spotify-owned narrative audio brand, about the toxic culture at Condé Nast’s Bon Appétit. (Ironically, the most recent episode of the series has opened up Gimlet’s own Pandora’s box.) Natalie and I are both Condé alums — and personally, it was both riveting and triggering to listen to experiences from Black journalists I’ve never met but identify so deeply with. Last summer, during the climax of the racial reckoning, I reflected on my time at Condé:

Black people have experienced the trauma of state-sanctioned violence for years and spent even longer calling out the inequities perpetrated by white supremacy against us. All this time, newsrooms have excluded Black creators, save for one or two roles that feel like tokens, from enjoying the socioeconomic value our contributions generate. When I started my magazine career as an assistant in the fashion closet, one of the other two assistants was Black. He and I both knew we had to show our exceptionalism every day to prove ourselves worthy of our seats at the table; our white counterpart, on the other hand, rode the wave of her multiple internships and influential connections, unworried about if her next mistake would be her last. And although I received valuable mentorship and opportunities from several editors that helped me sharpen my voice and point of view and fast-tracked my ascent from subordinate to peer, ask enough of us and you’ll realize that my experience was the exception and not the rule.

One More Thing

A post shared by Kelly Rowland (@kellyrowland)

I loved hearing Kelly Rowland describe the moment former Destiny’s Child bandmates Beyoncé and Michelle met her newborn son Noah: “The girls were literally over here at the house just recently and when they met the baby it was like another part of my heart just… Being able to share space with Michelle and Bey is truly a gift.”

The singer went on to express gratitude for the longevity of their friendship. “I’m just so grateful for them and they are a highlight of my life,” Rowland said. “Not professionally, but our friendship and our sisterhood -- you're going to make me cry.” Here’s to long-lasting friendships! 🥂