As event marketers prepare for a new year of virtual events, they’re searching for equally new ways to create tangible experiences for consumers that incorporate all the principles of multisensory engagement, which tap the memory-making receptors in the brain. To drive buzz around its forthcoming murder mystery series, “The Flight Attendant,” HBO Max delivered an interactive “coffee-ology” experience to influencers complete with a luxurious tasting kit.
Yep, the perks of this virtual event went beyond a caffeine high (although we experienced that, too). But that wasn’t all. This virtual event served up a hot cup of “whodunnit”-style fear, too. More on that in a moment.
The series’ theme was intermittently woven throughout the experience, right down to the “luggage” we were asked to bring to the event (milk, ice and a kettle, among items). During the experience, coffee master Aran Sael guided us through the process of making a collagè cappuccino, Thai iced tea and Seoul Dalgona—each one more delicious than the last, even if we were making a gigantic mess. So what made the event a success? Let us walk you through three tips gleaned from the experience.
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Enlist a technology host.
It’s no secret that the perils of hosting a virtual event include technical difficulties, which can often make or break the experience. For this event, HBO leveraged a pre-event host who welcomed attendees and checked in with them as they arrived to address any technical issues they were experiencing. He also reminded us to heat up some water and get our ingredients in order before the experience officially kicked off.
During the event, we noticed him behind the scenes, muting attendees when necessary and pinning Sael’s feed to the top of the virtual platform. At the end of the event, he returned to thank us for attending and offered technical information on how to stream the first episode of “The Flight Attendant” before it premiered. The strategy ensured everyone was able to experience the event as intended, and allowed Sael to focus solely on teaching us to make our concoctions.
Hands down, Sael was one of the best virtual event hosts we’ve experienced. His knowledge of global coffee trends and expert coffee-making tactics ensured we learned as much as we could about what we were making and where it originated. But it was his storytelling and engagement strategy that kept us hooked for the duration of the event. He told stories of living in Rome in college, traveling the world as an adult, and beyond. Whenever there was a lull, like when we had to mix ingredients for several minutes, Sael was there with a quick and relatable story to keep our attention. Perhaps our favorite part was when he observed several attendees’ empty coffee cups and did a tea leaf reading of sorts, predicting their jobs, personality traits and interests. And guess what? He was spot on. Attendees were both surprised and delighted, ourselves included. Also worth mentioning: his witty jokes were right on the money.
Add a surprise twist.
Everyone loves a good twist, and with a murder mystery like “The Flight Attendant” to promote, HBO knew it had to find a way to surprise attendees. It all happened as Sael was teaching us the final steps of making the Seoul Dalgona. Just before adding our cardamom, a woman clad in black barged in, put a rag over Sael’s mouth and held it there until he sank to the floor. She then began speaking through an ear device to an unknown source about “turning us in,” reading off attendees’ real information, like their address and the name of their dog.
Then, we watched as three more attendees were attacked, with men placing bags over their heads and dragging them through their homes as they screamed. Most of us understood that this was part of the experience and enjoyed watching it unfold. But some attendees were rocked, checking their security systems and the bolts on their doors—we may have glanced at ours. One couple even talked about dialing 911 before we talked them down (no joke).
It’s moments like these that a brand knows it’s done something right.