Hosting a kickass virtual launch party… the Phlywheel way!

Ammo Somal

Ammo Somal

Ammo is an engaging writer, researcher, and communicator, with a penchant for humor. Back in the UK, he worked in communications and creative for everything from insurance companies to video game festivals. Ammo’s skills as a content/multimedia coordinator have been honed through creating and managing content and planning multiple editorial ventures.

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We certainly picked a strange time to launch Phlywheel, didn’t we? With everything going the way it has in 2020, we knew businesses needed marketing guidance more than ever. And we weren’t going to let anything stop us.

The launch itself was on Monday, July 13th. We worked with a PR firm to ensure word got out and, of course, kept up our great content while teasing the launch across our social channels. We made it into the top 10 products of the day on Product Hunt, published a press release, and were featured in a number of media outlets. But as everyone knows, it’s not a proper launch without a party.

Our launch party served four main purposes:

  • To welcome members (and potential members!) to Phlywheel
  • To celebrate the hard work that we all put in over the past year
  • To tell everyone a little bit about what we do and how the platform works
  • To also celebrate our CEO and Co-founder, Tara Hunt’s birthday!

But how were we going to throw a launch party to remember in the middle of a pandemic? We obviously had a lot to say and show everyone. But we didn’t want this to feel like a webinar or a lecture. This was a party, after all! We wanted to tell our story, show off the platform, and also have some fun with it. To keep things exciting and entertaining, we planned some wacky activities and appearances to punctuate the “boring” stuff. What kind of activities, you ask? Since you missed out and are probably feeling hard FOMO, I’d be happy to share the highlights below.

Starting off on the right foot

Much like those icebreakers you might do before team meanings, we wanted to start on a lighthearted note. Our (very popular) promotional video eases the guests into the event, while also giving them a quick overview of what Phlywheel could do for them.

One by one, we all appeared on screen to introduce ourselves. This was a perfect moment to tell the story about why we created Phlywheel:

“Tara: We built Phlywheel because we saw too many businesses in need of professional help…but couldn’t afford the costs of that help. I can’t tell you how many potential clients we couldn’t take on because they simply couldn’t afford it. It broke our hearts.

Stef: Exactly! So we sat down to figure out a better way to service small businesses with tools and guidance that could scale. We think that what we’re doing is pretty different. It isn’t just education or just a community or just tools. We combine community, content, tools, and coaching to guide our members towards their success..”

Look at the language used here. We approached the launch event as we would with any other public-facing demonstration in that we understood that storytelling is critical. Hooking your audience in with an emotive and human story is an excellent method to kick off an event.

Mixing things up

To keep the fun flowing, it was time to start pouring up some drinks! Phly Team member Angie created a signature cocktail using a recipe we had published before the event, so people could mix their drinks with us in real-time. Interactive segments like this are super engaging, and subconsciously train your audience to enter “pay attention mode” as they follow along.

Putting the ‘happy’ in happy hour

Next up, it was yours truly. As the resident master of ceremonies for our internal happy hours, it only made sense that I ease the audience into the sort of events they could expect with Phlywheel. I designed a few fun, but easy games to give attendees a sneak peek of our weekly happy hours. To showcase further services that we offer and incentivize engagement, we offered up the prize of a free 1-on-1 consultation with Tara. Explaining that this service usually costs $200 further created a sense of value. After a brief rundown of our events, it was time to play.

The key is to keep it simple, both technically and thematically. The games in any launch event should focus on accessibility and enjoyability. Since visual content is the most engaging, it made sense for one of the games to be an emoji-based game. The concept is straightforward: guess which movie, phrase, person hinted at by the emojis. The simplicity of emojis as a universal language made the game accessible, but it also kept the game very simple to follow and easy to execute. Too many moving parts in segments like this just means a higher chance that something will go wrong. Remember to ease your guests into the game… the first question was simply two emojis: 🇺🇸🥧. American Pie! Easy.

Game number two involved showing a tweet onscreen and asking guests to pick from three celebrities who wrote it. Choosing popular celebrities and well-known examples of their tweets keep things fair and fun. Ramp up the suspense by telling the crowd that the winners’ announcement will take place at the end of the event.

We’ve got a prob-llama!

Next up, team members Zach and Max briefly explained where to get started on the platform. However, there was a problem. An unauthorized member had entered the Zoom party. Uh-oh. It looks like we’d been Zoombombed

That’s right. We’d arranged for an actual llama to be live-streamed into our event. The keeper was also kind enough to tell the guests about the animals and the non-profit organization that creates these wonderful moments.

Sweet Farm (located in California) is the first non-profit sanctuary in the world. By linking veganic agriculture, farm-animal rescue, education, and the technology that’s revolutionizing food and agriculture production, they redefine what it means to be a sanctuary. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, it prevented them from opening the farm to visitors, which shut down a massive portion of their income. Determined to find a way to survive as a business, continue to bring joy, and educate, they created Goat-2-Meeting

Goat-2-Meeting is precisely what it says on the tin. Four months into Zoom calls can leave us pretty bored of this whole online interaction thing. However, Sweet Farm’s Goat-2-Meeting service offers a fun, fresh face to brighten up meetings in the form of various farmyard animals. Obviously, we went with the Llamas.

Making it look like something went wrong was an awesome way to reveal the surprise.

Get with the program

After that little distraction came team members Fernanda and Celestina to talk about the great expert guests we’ve got coming up on our platform. Expert guests bring with them an influence, one that is sure to wow potential customers. It was also an opportunity to showcase the diversity of talent and skill sets that our platform was bringing through. 

Knowledge is power

Switching up mediums is a surefire way to keep things interesting for your audience. We did exactly that by creating an animated explainer video, featuring our mascots Phlybert the toucan and Elphlyra the llama! 

Our Flavorite part

In standup comedy, you should always end with your best joke. In movies, it’s essential to have that dramatic denouement in the final act. The point is to end with a bang. That’s why we saved our most WTF moment for last. We paid for a personal message from musician, reality TV star, and giant clock model, Flavor Flav, via Cameo to sing Tara a happy birthday and give Phlywheel his blessing!

A surprise celebrity cameo, if you can get one, might be the perfect way to get people talking about your event, long after your event has happened.

From here, we offered some testimonials, announced prize winners, did a quick Q&A, and invited everyone (including guests) on to the screen before thanking them for taking part.

Don’t let a pandemic hold you back from a fantastic, buzz-generating event. if you’re looking to host a launch event from behind a screen, here are our top tips:

  • Have a strong opener that sets the mood while also telling guests a little bit about you.
  • Split up the other parts about you, and mix them up with engaging guest-based sections.
  • Tell a story! Reel your audience in with the human side of your brand.
  • Sprinkle in some humor – who doesn’t tell a few jokes at a party?
  • Interactivity is key! Games and similar activities work best. Incentivize these, too.
  • Try to limit the moving parts as much as you can. It leaves less room for failure.
  • Throw in some drama and pretend to be Zoombomed by a special guest.
  • Mix up your mediums to keep things fresh. Animations, music, slides, video, etc.
  • Top it all off with a little of the WOW-factor. Can you get a well-known person to join?
  • Bring everyone together in the end. It is a party, after all.

And most importantly, while it may not be ideal to have a virtual event, and it might be stressful to plan, remember to have fun. 

I’m very much looking forward to receiving my invite to your next virtual bash.

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