Lenora Henson of Burning Soul Press: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Run a Live Virtual Event

Authority Magazine
Authority Magazine
Published in
8 min readAug 2, 2021

KNOW YOUR PLATFORM. Before you go live, it’s a good idea to know the ins and outs of the platform you plan to use. Take the time to study the process and even do a dry run to be sure you understand how it’s going to go. Disruptions happen, sure, but major technical difficulties will result in drop offs and leave an overall bad impression. It’s best to be prepared with confidence in your troubleshooting.

As a part of our series about “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Run a Live Virtual Event”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lenora Henson.

Lenora Henson is the Marketing Manager of Burning Soul Press. She’s had a lifelong affection for stories and the written word, making her passionate about working with authors and helping them share their message. She has been immersed in the world of indie-publishing since 2012, is a nineteen-year veteran of the newspaper industry and is the author of six books. She specializes in book launch parties and prefers to work outside the box. On any given day, Lenora can be found knee-deep in various creative endeavors or pottering around the garden.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I grew up in a creatively ambitious family, and while the majority of them were naturally talented musicians, I was the lone wolf writer. As the fifth of six kids growing up on a homestead in rural Illinois, reading and writing became an important quiet outlet for me to escape the busyness of big family life. Playing with Fisher Price Little People in my sand box, walking barefoot in the family gardens and running wild on the river bottoms, I was always creating stories, imagining worlds and developing the intricacies of personal dynamics. My unknown writing talent was exposed when my second grade teacher was over the moon about a story I wrote in my free time, and assigned the whole class to write their own. Deeply changed and encouraged beyond measure, I knew then what I wanted to be in life: an author.

Can you tell us the story of what led you to this particular career path?

As I grew, I continued to write fiction, but found myself on the journalism side of publishing to make a living. This was a world I would learn the ins and outs of for the next twenty years. I reported for two years and then merged into photography {queen of the dark room}, ad design and layout. I witnessed firsthand the major changes in technology including using one of the very first digital cameras on the market. For years I worked closely with businesses and advertisers, gleaning a plethora of wisdom about marketing. And while I appreciated the experience in the newspaper industry, my heart was always set on books. In 2012, while still working in newspaper publishing, I made a decision to indie-publish a fiction series. This led to seven solid years of writing and book promotion, a world in which I thrived.

Having moved back to my husband’s hometown of Bloomington-Normal in 2019, I soon met Burning Soul Press CEO, Lauren Eckhardt through my stepdaughter. We became fast friends and after seeing what she was creating with BSP, I knew that had to be a part of it. With over two decades of publishing and promotion experience, I became her go-to girl for all things marketing. Working with passionate authors has married my love of stories with my knack for creative and effective marketing.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

This one time, in launch camp… I was gearing up for a book launch that was about a week away and realized I hadn’t sent out the Advanced Reader Copy to the launch team. One of the main purposes of the launch team is to read the book early so reviews are locked and loaded for launch day. Fortunately, it was a quick read, and our launch team was on top of it!

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Oh yes! Indie-Publishing was still a fairly new phenomenon when I got started in 2012. I didn’t even know it was a thing until I’d made the decision to publish. I thought I’d be pitching to a traditional publisher until an online search introduced me to Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn. She showed me that indie and hybrid publishers, like Burning Soul Press, were wonderful alternatives. The Creative Penn truly gave me the direction I needed.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The want has to be greater than the need.”

This quote has been in my back pocket for many a year. I have found that if you don’t really want to do something, you probably won’t, but when passion meets purpose, big shifts happen.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit about your experience organizing events in general?

Sure! Having come from a big family, I was the one carrying around the clipboard making sure things got done. As for events, it started with organizing family holidays and reunions, and morphed into planning company events, such as open houses and parties. I’m a woman of creative detail, but I can also zoom in and out with pragmatic efficiency. This duality led to wonderful book launches as well as many other author events.

Can you tell us a bit about your experience organizing live virtual events? Can you share any interesting stories about them?

Well, I quickly realized early in my book marketing career, that readers were scattered all across the globe, and discovered they could be reached through the power of online launches and fan chats. I’ve organized many live virtual events for Burning Soul Press, including trainings, courses and launches. We are creating live virtual event processes for BSP authors to make the experience even more productive and enjoyable.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job creating live virtual events? What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

ClickUp did a great job with their LevelUp 2020 Webinar. I was impressed with how organized and seamless the all-day event was. The host did an amazing job, and speakers were relevant and helpful.

What are the common mistakes you have seen people make when they try to run a live virtual event? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Narcissism. There’s a give and take with live events, it’s not all about the presenter. You have to offer something to get people to come. You have to be relatable to get them to stay.

Which virtual platform have you found to be most effective to be able to bring everyone together virtually?

Streamyard and Zoom are my go-tos.

Are there any essential tools or software that you think an event organizer needs to know about?

Screen sharing is the best!

Ok. Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our discussion. An in-person event can have a certain electric energy. How do you create an engaging and memorable event when everyone is separated and in their own homes? What are the “Five Things You Need To Know To Successfully Run a Live Virtual Event” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. KNOW YOUR PLATFORM. Before you go live, it’s a good idea to know the ins and outs of the platform you plan to use. Take the time to study the process and even do a dry run to be sure you understand how it’s going to go. Disruptions happen, sure, but major technical difficulties will result in drop offs and leave an overall bad impression. It’s best to be prepared with confidence in your troubleshooting.

2. ARRIVE EARLY. For book launches I recommend arriving backstage at the event half an hour early. This gives you a hot second to test your equipment, make sure you look okay on video, adjust your setting and background if necessary and coordinate with everyone involved in running the event before you go live. Those minutes will slip by and you’ll be glad you had every extra second. I’ve had authors arrive early and authors arrive late. The ones who arrived early brought their A-game to the live event.

3. ENGAGE YOUR AUDIENCE. During the BSP book launches we always take time for Q&A from the audience. After all, this live event is a two-way street. The author is offering their book and message as a point of value to the audience and it’s prudent to offer the audience a chance to respond to that message. Bring on an interviewer or facilitator to field questions for the author if necessary. If it’s a relatively small group and you have plenty of time, then by all means answer all the questions. However, if time is of the essence or the group is large then highlight the broadest and the most interesting questions put forth. Readers love to get insight into an author’s ex perience, and it is thrilling to have an author respond to your questions.

4. GIVEAWAY. Offering a giveaway in exchange for a newsletter sign up, likes and subscribers is another good way to engage that give and take relationship with event attendants.

5. SURPRISE YOUR AUDIENCE. If you want to make your event memorable surprise your audience with a well-known guest, a special announcement or something unexpected and valuable. This will keep your brand and event on the mind of your attendees longer than normal!

Let’s imagine that someone reading this interview has an idea for a live virtual event that they would like to develop. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

Decide your topic.

Decide your platform.

Decide your timeframe.

Super. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Put down the phone and pick up a book.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I really admire Mary Heffernan of Five Marys Farms. She’s a marketing genius who is down to earth, knows how to tell a brand story and provides an amazing service. She runs a small business from scratch course and a ranch in northern California. A business lunch with Mary would be super insightful, plus she owns her own restaurant so I know the meal would be top notch!

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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