Michael Whitehouse is The Virtual Event Guy.
Having run events since 1996, he was fascinated by the potential of virtual events when everything went online in 2020. The events he saw were often dull, unengaging, and little better than a YouTube playlist, and he wanted better so he started running his own.
Focusing on interaction over opt-ins, he creates events which are a truly human experience across a virtual platform. Attendees (and speakers) come away with new connections, new ideas, and often new prospects and partners.
Now, he runs these highly interactive, powerful, and fun events for clients to reach their audience with their message.
At least that’s the official story…
The Superhero Origin Story
It all began with a visit to a secret government summit research lab. Exposure to Visible Light Spectrum Radiation turned the mild-mannered Michael Whitehouse into The Fun Virtual Event Guy!
Gifted with supernatural powers, Michael travels the Internet, fighting against boring, dull, awful virtual events, and creating amazing, powerful, and life-changing summits that don’t suck.
OK. That’s not exactly the story, although Michael is often exposed to Visible Light Spectrum Radiation (as well as dihydrogen monoxide.)
When the Pandemic came, Michael Whitehouse had been a local magazine publisher in Southeast Connecticut (near Mystic, CT, on the Long Island Sound.) Most of his business came from in-person networking. He was so much into networking that he wrote a book on it called The Guy Who Knows a Guy.
With the Pandemic came the end of in-person networking events, and a very precipitous pivot.
As a networker, Michael immediately saw the incredible potential in everyone going online all at once and started connecting with people all over the world.
Having run live events, mostly in a geeky fandom space, since 1996, he was excited by the potential he saw in virtual events. People coming together from around the world! How exciting.
He was very quickly disappointed.
Some events were nothing more than videos on a website, like a YouTube playlist that had to be watched on a certain day.
Other events were “live,” but the audience had no connection with the speakers or other audience members. It might as well have been a recording.
He spoke on one event where he was told there was an audience, but to this day, he has never seen evidence. He was brought into a Zoom room and told when to start talking. He spoke to his own face for 30 minutes, and he was done.
No questions from the audience. No one opted in to his website. No one reached out.
He might as well have just talked to his bathroom mirror.
He felt there must be a better way.
He thought about in-person events and the fact that the real business gets done in the hallway or the bar. He decided that if he ever ran a virtual event, he would have a Zoom room called “The Hallway.” It would be an open networking space where the real business could happen.
In February 2021, he ran his first virtual event called Conference21. While he didn’t call it The Hallway, they used a platform with extensive breakout capacity. Speakers and attendees were able to connect almost as if they were in person, and the feedback was incredibly positive.
Over the next couple of years, Michael would run many more events. Technology would improve, and he would develop the concept of the Awesome Virtual Interactive Event: a 6-hour event with 10 speakers, each speaking for 15 minutes, with 15-minute interactive blocks between them.
He never expected these summits to be a great business success because they were built around what he would enjoy, and not what was “commercially viable.”
Turns out that other people enjoy what he enjoys, and running events that people enjoy is a good business model.
These events have allowed the speakers and hosts to get powerful results off small audiences and very modest investments. After all, 30 highly engaged people are much better than 3,000 people who aren’t paying attention.