Virtual Events – Why the Little Things Count
Life is messy and unpredictable. People are energized by the unexpected.
You’re organizing a virtual event. Someone on your team asks you how you want to introduce the keynote. The team goes back and forth discussing the various options, weighing the pros and cons of every idea that is presented. This goes on for nearly two hours and leave still unable to nail down just the right words to use and what PowerPoint slide design to go with.
You know that saying “the devil is in the details?” You are in a living manifestation of this old cliché.
Why do people get so bogged down by precisely the curriculum vitae and which style of bullet points to use on their introduction slides? I have a few theories…people are striving for perfection and some people cope with anxiety by burying themselves in busy work. But do your attendees really care about which style of bullet points you use in your slides?
Before you double check the title of this blog, yes, the little things do count. But the little things that do matter in a virtual event are often overlooked because they are overshadowed by the mundane details that make an event from perfectly good to “perfect.”
The Right Little Things Make Virtual Events Extraordinary
Now, I know it’s possible to do this painstaking questioning of every move you make in an in-person event, most seasoned event managers and organizers accept and invite a level of spontaneity. Not because they have low standards but because they know the element of novelty is a key part of what makes an event exciting.
Embrace a sense of spontaneity in your virtual events.
In fact, that’s the little thing that your virtual event needs. People are energized by the unexpected. Imagine yourself as an attendee at a virtual event (perhaps you don’t need to imagine).
You get into the lobby, it’s silent. The speaker, a disembodied voice, begins immediately introducing the event. Someone on the team doesn’t realize they’re not on mute and you can hear the ambient noise of whatever location they’re in, occasional tapping on a keyboard and clicking of a mouse.
It’s like everyone at the event is in on the joke, starting conversations about their shared experience before the event even starts. And for some reason, in a play back it would be obnoxious. But, at a live event, it has a sort of charm.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
I’m not implying you should manufacture this scenario. We both know it’s funny at first, but quickly gets annoying. What I am suggesting is rather than embody “the devil’s in the details,” embrace the cliché “don’t sweat the small stuff.”
That’s not to say don’t notice it. There’s a lot of creative thinking that can set your event apart waiting for you in the little stuff that matters. Here’s an idea: could you add music or other ambient noise in the lobby of your event? Maybe as the host introduces the speaker as well. Every event calls for something unique. Ask yourself where in your event, it might make sense to add an element of sound, it could make your event have an element of pleasant surprises.
What’s the next step in the attendee’s journey of a virtual event?
Let’s see a new scenario through to its short end. Maybe the host is going on and on and they only have one PowerPoint slide for their intro so there’s nothing holding your interest, so you start looking up new dinner recipes to try this weekend and soon leave the event altogether. Or you walk away from your computer to do the dishes and decide you’d rather have Netflix in the background than the event.
Maybe there’s some things you can prerecord to ensure it’s clear and concise and gives you the opportunity to add a more engaging visual element to your event. At an in-person event, often there will be prerecorded videos to drum up excitement for speakers. Why not leverage this idea at your virtual event? It will keep your attendees engaged, ensure introductions are short, sweet and to the point, and the use of mixed media in your event will continually surprise attendees.
Give Attendees Options
Alright, they’ve kept your attention, you’re watching speakers and panel discussions. You start a conversation with a few people throughout the last few events, in fact, you think some of these new friends and colleagues would get along. At an in-person event, you’d simply schedule a meet-up in the hotel restaurant or at a local restaurant or bar.
Why not provide ways for your attendees to meet up virtually? You could run happy-hours around specific interests so like-minded attendees can interact in a more open format. You could also provide easy ways to set up chatrooms, have group video or voice discussions and exchange virtual business cards.
Part of the spontaneity of a live event is that attendees have agency over where they go and when. Virtual events can sometimes feel like stagnant black boxes filled with voice after voice and PowerPoint slide after PowerPoint slide. Provide your attendees with a litany of options with ways to explore your event, connect with like-minded attendees and engage with a variety of media.
Personalize the Experience
Last scenario. You saw an activity coming up in one of the event rooms that you want to join. But you can’t figure out where the link went. Was it in a Tweet, email, or chat message? When you’re at a live event, you can find an event staffer to help you navigate the event to get the most out of it for you. Why not give your attendees a similarly personalized experience with intelligent guidance? Yes, I’m talking AI, but it’s also more than that. Stay with me.
I have three ideas off the top of my head, but I’d love to hear yours too. Please leave a comment with any creative ideas of how to personalize your virtual event attendees’ experiences.
- Use a bot to help attendees navigate your site. With prepopulated answers you can easily direct attendees to FAQ pages, certain events, or even provide attendees with suggested content catered to their interests.
- Take this a step further and deliver interest-based playlists of content so attendees can easily find everything they’re looking for. You could even include a recommendation engine to more finely tune the content they’re delivered based on their behavior with previous content and collective data from similar attendees to drive them to the best content.
- Have dedicated team members in charge of the experience for defined, like attendees. Have attendees self-select their interests and assign team members to be their virtual event guide, keeping them posted on panels, speakers and virtual meetups associated with the interests they selected.
When creating a digital event, don’t get lost in pointless minutiae, instead focus on the right little things and get creative about how you’ll facilitate the best experience for each of your attendees. Walk through your attendees’ possibilities and imagine how you could make it more spontaneous, more surprising and more exciting.
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