What It Takes To Put On a Virtual Event | Jacob’s Pillow’s Virtual Festival

by | Sep 24, 2020 | Livestream, Promotional Video, Virtual Events

There are several things that come into play when producing a Virtual Event.

Producing virtual events quickly became the core of my work this summer, particularly with Jacob’s Pillow Virtual Festival and Vail Dance Festival: The Digital Edition.

The Pillow hosts a dance festival each summer in the Berkshires, and when they had to make the difficult decision to cancel their in-person programming this year, they came to me. I helped produce eight weeks of virtual performances, panels, and community events! 

This was a big undertaking, but it gave me a lot of insight into what it takes to produce performances and events virtually. 

Don’t know where to start? Consider these steps.


Define goals for your virtual event.

It’s very important that you identify and stick to your goal for the virtual event. Do you want to bring in money? Is this event about visibility? Do you normally do an event like this, so you want to produce it as a virtual event to keep momentum going? 

Once your goal is clear to you, it will be much easier to move forward in the planning process.

The next factor is deciding whether you want to pre-record your event or stream it live.

This all comes down to your level of confidence, and knowing the risk-taking involved for live streaming your virtual event. Pre-recorded events can provide peace of mind—the video is complete ahead of time for you to review, and it can help in preventing in-the-moment technical snafus. 

This decision can also depend on logistical factors such as artist schedules! If you can’t have everyone ready to stream at a certain date and time, it may be easiest to preserve your vision for the virtual event by creating it ahead of time and pre-recording. 

Then, nail down your programming.

For the Pillow’s Virtual Festival, who would be included in the festival was decided ahead of time. That was the genius of Pam Tatge and Norton Owen! Then, my team came in to help with the design and look of the show. 


Be prepared to face challenges.

Many people ask me, what’s the most challenging aspect of producing a virtual event?

For the Virtual Festival, I think time was our biggest challenge—we did this very fast! The Pillow wanted to stay aligned with when the festival typically happens every summer.

Those who typically visit the Pillow over the summer could still tune in virtually. The cancellation of the in-person festival was of course a disappointment, but I’m happy we could plan fast and get amazing performances and panels out to the Pillow community!


Imagine how your virtual event can connect your community.

Virtual events are a great way to stay connected with your audience or community.

While of course it’s difficult to replicate the feeling of sitting in a theatre surrounded by fellow audience members and supporters, producing a virtual event provides a platform for connection. 

For #VirtualPillow, we really capitalized on place to create a sense of being there in person. We wanted people to feel the community, to reminisce. I think we were able to capture that in the design and look of the virtual performances and events.

If you have more questions about how to produce your virtual event, send them my way! I’m here to support you through the challenges facing the performing arts.

Nel Shelby is Owner & Filmmaker for Nel Shelby Productions, her New York City-based company dedicated to dance videography and editing. Nel shares her mission to preserve and promote the art of dance with her husband, Christopher Duggan, a dance and wedding photographer. They collaborate on projects with dance companies of worldwide renown, up-and-coming choreographers, dance educators, dance schools and more. Nel is Video Producer at Jacob’s Pillow and Vail Dance Festival and is also the proud Director and Producer of PS DANCE! — a New York Emmy-nominated documentary about dance education in NYC’s public schools.