We might be rolling our eyes at anything that starts with, “In these uncertain times…” but it would be hard to argue that there’s anything certain about the event industry these days. Broad sweeping cancellations, postponements, restrictions, and revisions have been enforced across events of all types and sizes. Quarantine has left event organizers and designers scrambling to come up with the newest, coolest, fastest, techiest, most creative way to engage fans, maintain revenue streams, and ya know, casually keep an entire industry afloat.
It’s a lot.
But we are, in many ways, figuring it out! All this social distancing has made it very clear that people are hardwired for gathering, sharing experiences, and connecting… even if we have to do it through a screen. As more events go digital/virtual, we’re all being forced to reconsider how to best reach our people and offer them the fun, interesting, transformative, connective experiences that they’re still craving and that we still love to create.
It has become clear that we can’t just turn a live conference into a zoom meeting, or try to pass off a concert video as a concert experience, but we can absolutely still offer meaningful experiences without totally reinventing the wheel. Every event is different, but among the zillions of articles about how to translate IRL events into digital/virtual experiences, a few simple truths seem to keep rising to the top:
Don’t Just “Recreate,” Keep Creating
You can’t just plop a live event into a digital framework and expect attendees to find or create the same kind of magic. If all or parts of your event just can’t quite fit into the virtual landscape, try changing up what actually happens at the event. If it was supposed to be a team-building activity in person, maybe it can be a team story-writing experience through Google drive.
Keep It Easy
If you’re asking your attendees to download a new app, pay for it, update their OS to make it work properly, check their email for a code to confirm, create an avatar, etc., etc., etc., all to access an event they’d originally planned on just walking into… you’re giving them too many opportunities to say “screw this” and go turn on the TV. Keep barriers to entry as low as possible and keep access in mind (not everybody is on a fancy new laptop, in a quiet room, alone, available at a given time, etc.).
Keep It Active
It’s not exactly breaking news that our attention spans are teeny. Remember that you’re trying to reach real people, sitting on their couch, surrounded by their home distractions. Try to honestly assess if this is something you’d want to do yourself, and something that could really hold your attention. Consider if there are opportunities to hide moments of surprise and delight within the programming, or encourage real interaction from your virtual attendees.
Now more than ever, as we’re all testing out weird new systems that we’re just not used to yet, be sure to help your audience understand what to expect. Double-check your instructions (which are hopefully quite simple, to begin with), and try to include enough information and foresight to mitigate the feelings of, “Am I doing this right? Is this the thing? Am I missing something here?” When possible, a video illustrating what the guest will see when they join/log-in/etc. can be very helpful.
Rethink Your Metrics Of Success
We’re used to navigating an online world of information, entertainment, and experiences that are typically cheap or free. If you can’t charge what you’d like (or anything) for the virtual version of your event, consider what kinds of integrations and activations might help you hit other metrics that can be valuable moving forward. Social sharing, click-through purchases, log-ins, demographic or psychographic info, and more can become the metrics you gather this year to help you sell in sponsors and advertisers next year, when – hopefully – we’re all back together again.
By Lydia Berg-Hammond
Lydia dreams up experiences where people can connect with brands the same way they connect with each other at MKG. MKG believes brands are people too and it’s the human qualities like kindness, humor, and intelligence that make a brand so appealing.
Interested in learning more?
Check out our webinar How To Run Successful Virtual Events. This fast paced, 60-minute webinar will help you become a virtual event maestro answering questions such as:
- How do I prepare and plan for my virtual event?
- Who do I need on my team to ensure my virtual event’s success?
- How do I create an interactive experience with my virtual event?
- What software, equipment and infrastructure do I need to organize and run my virtual event?
- What are the best ways to market my virtual event?
- How do I follow-up with attendees after the event is over?