The need to transform live events and trade shows into virtual ones has received a lot of reaction these past weeks. It’s time to get proactive about bringing a better online experience to attendees, whether you’ve faced postponement or cancellation or not.
Digital is not going away. As we all adapt to a more robust life online, the content that event organizers present and how it is presented will become even more important. How participants are treated online, considering their perspective, is paramount. Attendees are attempting to engage with you past the barrier of their computer monitor or laptop screen – no longer are they present with all their senses in a room with hundreds or thousands of others. The smaller screen sizes we’re all relegated to right now limits visual perspective. This new, myopic environment begs for a different, strategic approach in order to engage and excite viewers.
Analyzing audience expectations is the first step in understanding what type of online experience or event program to deliver. Rethink if this should be a virtual reboot of an annual meeting or a new gathering. Know the value of your event for each stakeholder. Have attendees been meeting online in less-official ways? Are there certification requirements that needs to be met? What sales and marketing tools are exhibitors using now with the loss of events? Knowing these answers determines the content needed.
Based on the new view of event objectives, a content delivery plan should emerge. While it might be more typical to share information all at once, perhaps in a two-hour program, that may be a short-sighted approach. Instead, consider whether the content will be better absorbed if received in shorter bursts, followed by small-group interactions via chat rooms. Work with presenters to segment their content, perhaps splitting a speaker into two or three different portions of your event.
Or perhaps a longer-term engagement journey can be structured by offering pieces of information in an episodic fashion over time – essentially allowing multiple touches that build relevance and strengthen relationships. For certifications training and lots of breakout sessions, a multi-week online engagement may deliver higher value.
There has been a lot of forgiveness as we’ve collectively made our way up the digital learning curve. Moving forward, expectations for more sophisticated production value – especially if participants have paid to attend — will continue to increase. Consider a balanced approach of live and produced content that incorporates a solid program architecture and encourages engagement. There are easy and effective ways to employ expert production crews while still maintaining social distancing. Require presenter rehearsals and coach them on their audio and video appeal, as well as how to induce participant activity.
Gamification can enhance the attendee experience. Achievement levels, leaderboards, incentives for future conferences and freebies are all ideas that have proven to be effective. Chat, Q&A, professionals hosts and social media tie-ins contribute as well.
Begin to transform behaviors and build online experiences for communities today to be ahead of the curve tomorrow.