Virtual Events – a mandatory need or innovation?

Virtual Events – a mandatory need or innovation?

Tibor Hodik Managing Partner 12/10/2020

Managing Partner

On the one hand, it has become a cliché that COVID-19 turned the world upside down, and on the other hand, the virus is the most effective digital transformer. It is a fact that before 2020 only some people organized an event without personal presence, but now everyone is trying to create the events on a digital platform. Let me introduce our experiences of the previous months.

Right in the beginning an important question asked: can a virtual event be the same as a real one?
Well, yes and no. We cannot replace live communication, the experience of personal presence, the buzzing, or the flow nor stage production - for now... In addition, we can "only" digitally stimulate 2 out of 5 senses with more or less success. There are two factors contributing:

  • The computer is an odd-one-out device to attend an event. There are things that we do not do on the computer, at least we have not done it by so far. Basically, each visitor joins the virtual event from their own device that they control. So, the success of the event is in the hand of the attendees, based on their device: hardware updates, their knowledge, routine, and the willingness to cooperate.
  • The digital platforms are delivered by IT teams which means, the system it is created with a software developer logic. In the rarest cases it consists some event management or communication approach. It is a misconception to list all the elements of an event on a piece-by-piece basis and try to map them on a website.

A virtual event is a fantastic thing, it definitely has a place among the communication tools. Properly applied and implemented virtual event effectively supports business goals. It will never be the same experience, but we should achieve well-thought-out and defined goals with a system of digital tools that requires a different approach.

What shall you be aware of when organizing a virtual event?

Quality content is a must that is visually presented with enough interactivity. The screen is the key because this is the only way to connect with attendees. Most likely there is something else happening around the visitors at home and we must impress them and get their full attention.
Professional performers, with professional streaming all professionally prepared. We all know the classic TV fail story when the announcer was wearing his underwear with a jacket… Anything can happen in a live broadcast and trust me, it does! So, maximum preparation is a mandatory step.
Smoothness. It is much easier to lose attention sitting front of the screen. Even the best live event can be ruined by an organizational fail, the same is exponentially true in a medium where most of our visitors do not have a routine that would guide them in an ambiguous situation.

What can make the virtual event even better?

Based on our focus group research, the experience -as a factor- clearly dominates and that is one of the main reasons why the attendees join. One of the most important questions that needs to be clarified is why our guests will join, what will be the experience for them? The exclusive company? The amazing show? Special content that cannot be seen elsewhere? Whatever it is, let us give it to the participants, who already honor us by giving their precious time.
The biggest challenge at a virtual event is the space itself. Choosing virtual event tools and the right platform determines the experience just as much as the real venue.
Involve the guests. It is much easier to get their attention in a dialogical form, moreover the information and messages communicated are exponentially better, if the participants can place them in their own context. Ask from them, answer them, find the place of immediate reactions in the content.

Only real and digital events exist? Will everything be digital from now on?

For a while, it looks we are in a need of digital channels, but we do not plan for that in the long run. Digital devices create a new dimension in event experiences, expanding the possibilities. We are able to create hybrid events with the efficiency and engaging power of the digital tool that enhance the on-site experience.
I can see that a virtual event was only a necessity in the short term, but it is also a huge development opportunity for the future. Not only IT or event management nor broadcasting task is to create one, but the event needs a serious preparedness and a stable project management experience as well. After this unstable period, it will create big changes in these fields. On both the provider and the client side who react quicker, move in time and develop will acquire the knowledge that will give a huge advantage in the future as well.

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