So the major conference was cancelled. For the foreseeable future, it seems inevitable that any event with more than 1000 people will have the same fate, so we have to be agile. For a lot of companies, this means transforming their conferences to virtual or hybrid events.
Dana Pake, an event strategist who has led event teams at InVision and Tableau, explained the implications of transitioning a live event to virtual. “Virtual events are nothing new, but they don’t create the same experiences. We need to figure out how to augment them so we can create the same connections that a live event does.” She suggested that we look at the Esports industry for inspiration, because they host almost exclusively virtual events that engage huge crowds.
The reality is that reshaping a multi-day, content-heavy conference into a webinar is just not going to create the same results. Attendees are less likely to leave feeling inspired, and they won’t have the opportunity to grow their networks by happenstance meetings, like sitting next to someone on a hotel shuttle. Dana suggested creating a hybrid environment where anyone who can gather together hosts a watch party of live-streamed content.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway is that virtual and hybrid events can’t just be a carbon copy of the live event content. When people are physically sitting in front of a stage, they are engaged. And they are more likely to stay engaged for the duration of the session. This simply isn’t the case for virtual events. If you think your audience isn’t going to pick up their phones and start playing Candy Crush halfway through a 60-minute session on lead scoring, you’re wrong. Instead, you need short sessions, heavy imagery, and ultra-fresh content. Dana suggested modeling the PetchaKucha method to create presentations that keep audiences engaged.