3 Ways to Go Beyond the Virtual Panel with Fan & Guest Interaction
Interactive fan experiences are a core part of the convention experience. Between autograph sessions and meet-and-greets, convention appearances are an important source of income for many actors and other celebrities. However, with current limitations on face-to-face interaction due to COVID-19, events and celebrities have turned to virtual alternatives to emulate the experience digitally for fans. In this article, we’ve rounded up information about all the different ways fans can interact with celebrities digitally.
Virtual autograph sessions can vary in format. At the very least, attendees receive an autographed item from a celebrity of their choice, which is shipped to them at a later time. However, elements such as item availability and level of interaction with the celebrity all depend on the event organizer and celebrity.
Short for “Video Shout-out,” vShout offers a selection of photo prints through their online shop, but also allows fans to mail in a personal item to be signed such as a photo, poster, DVD sleeve, figure, or book. All mail-in items must be approved prior to purchase. Unique to vShout is the Zobie Certificate of Authentication, which is included with all purchases. James Spence Authentication can be purchased for an additional $8. In addition to the signed item, attendees receive a personalized video message of the autograph process. Participating celebrities include voice actors, actors, and musicians.
vShout has previously partnered with FunimationCon to provide a virtual autograph experience.
- Cost: $40-135 per person
Purchasing autographs through Streamily looks like a simple online store, with personalization capabilities and a space for special requests (though not guaranteed). What sets Streamily apart, however, is that celebrities broadcast their signing sessions live on their own accounts such as Twitch or Instagram. When making their purchase, fans can also submit a comment for the celebrity, which will be viewed while their item is being signed during the livestreamed autograph session.
- Cost: $25-100
Unlocked: Virtual Autograph Chat
Unlocked is a mobile livestreaming platform used by actors, cosplayers, and industry professionals in the anime, gaming, and comics.
Unlocked’s virtual autograph sessions include a FaceTime interaction through the app while the talent is signing the autograph. Fans can also submit a question in advance to be answered during the personal face-to-face moment. Fans can choose from several items via Unlocked’s online store, provide their own item, or opt for a FaceTime call only. Unlocked also offers pre-signed items via their online shop.
- Cost: $20-55
Autograph Photo Only
While it is the simplest option, buying autographed photos through an online store is also the most impersonal. Fans can choose from one or more photos depending on the celebrity. Personalization can be requested in the order notes, but listings (such as in ReedPop’s Metaverse) may not state whether such personalization is possible.
Meet & Greets
The format of a virtual meet-and-greet is fairly standard. Virtual meet-and-greet sessions generally consist of a short video call between the attendee and the celebrity held through programs such as Zoom. The session length and number of attendees permitted in a party are up to the discretion of the event organizer and celebrity.
HomeCon was one of the first pioneers of the virtual fan experience. Conceived in 2020 in direct response to restrictions on in-person fan events, it was an entirely virtual event experience that explored the possibilities of digital interaction. Meet-and-greet sessions entailed a five-minute Zoom call with a celebrity of choice, with participating celebrities including select actors from television shows such as The Rookie, Vikings, Orphan Black, Dark Matter, and more.
- Cost: $50 / $80 per person + tax
- An additional four guests could be added for $120 + tax
- Time Limit: 5 minutes
ReedPop’s August Metaverse offered digital meet-and-greets, personalized video messages, and autographed items from celebrities. Meet-and-greet sessions offered fan interaction with either an individual celebrity or with multiple celebrities depending on the package. Additional people were permitted to be present in the meet-and-greet call as long as they were in the same physical location. Attendees later received a recording of their meet-and-greet. Participating celebrities included voice actors from Overwatch, actors from Black Lightning and Star Trek: Picard, and select comic book writers.
- Cost: $22-77 per person + tax
- Time Limit: 2-3 minutes
Cameo is mainly known for personalized video messages, but they recently rolled out a meet-and-greet feature that celebrities can offer as an option. Meet-and-greet sessions are held over Zoom and can include the purchaser and up to four friends for no additional cost. For a much lower price point, celebrities can also offer one-on-one text conversations with a fan.
- Cost: Varies; average $100-500
- Time Limit: 10 minutes
Personalized Video Messages
Virtual personalized video messages often do not include direct interaction between the fan and the celebrity, but they do offer a degree of customization. Fans can include details for personalization such as their name and a request for a specific phrase or action, though fulfilment of these requests is not guaranteed. Video messages tend to be about 60 seconds maximum.
Reedpop’s Metaverse also offered personalized video messages from participating celebrities. Fans provided the recipient’s name, along with details such as interests, hobbies, hometown, birthday, age, etc. so that the celebrity could make the message as personalized as possible. While fans could request character voices in the instructions, they were not guaranteed. Participating celebrities included voice actors from Overwatch, as well as actors from Black Lightning and Star Trek: Picard.
- Cost: $22-77 per person + tax
- Length: 30-60 seconds video
- Limitations: 250 character limit for script/instructions; no endorsements
Cameo’s biggest draw over the years is the ability to purchase a personalized video message from a wide selection of international celebrities. The types of celebrities on Cameo include athletes, actors, comedians, social media influencers, gamers, musicians, reality TV stars, and more. Pricing and availability are entirely determined by the talent and/or their agency. Fans receive their personalized video within seven days of purchase as guaranteed by Cameo’s policy.
- Cost: $1-$2500 + tax
- Length: No requirement; average 25 seconds video
- Limitations: 250 character limit for script/instructions; endorsements permitted if paying for a Promotional Cameo video
These are just a few formats for fostering virtual fan-celebrity interaction, but in the digital landscape, possibilities are endless. New means of connection are sure to arise as we continue to navigate social distance, so if you have any different methods, let us know! Leave a comment or join the conversation in our LinkedIn group.