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The Need to Rethink Virtual Conferences, Conventions, and Group Meetings

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The Need to Rethink Virtual Conferences, Conventions, and Group Meetings

In response to the lockdowns, conventions and conferences went instantly from in-person to the virtual get-togethers and online event speakers. With the successful vaccination programme, we are already seeing things return to in-person and hybrid events. However, whilst organisations continue to hold virtual events and gatherings, below are some thoughts and guidance.

Some Key Challenges for Virtual Conferences, Conventions, and Group Gatherings:

  • Meeting and Interacting with Peers and Executives – One of the key reasons why most people attend events is to have face time with people they interact with all year long, but want to connect “in person.” Or the opportunity to “make connections” face to face with people they want to interact with in the upcoming year. Virtual conferences, and even the “virtual breakout meet-ups” are not as well equipped with providing the attendees with these interconnections.
  • Back-to-Back Video Sessions – As much as in person conferences are back-to-back sessions, when attendees find a session not stimulating, they have the option to skip it and usually rejoin for the next relevant session. Largely this is because they are part of the captive audience. However, with remote back-to-back session virtual events, it is harder to recapture the audience for the rest of the conference as they don’t have as much of a driver to reconnect.

Recommendations for those that are hosting online gatherings. These include client events, company meetings, departmental meetings and award ceremonies:

  • Tighten Up the Content – While in-person events needed to work on a schedule to align with room changes and breaks, online content does not need to stick to 60 and 90-minute segments. If the presenter can say in 20 minutes everything they need to say, don’t stretch it out to an hour. Often less is more.
  • Leverage Mixed Media Content – Some people watch/listen better, others absorb content better by reading it. Provide materials in two formats (written and presentation). That way participants can gather information that best suits their method of absorption.
  • Keep it Interactive – Just as delegates like to interact with speakers and colleagues at live events this is equally important to try and emulate this online. Breaking the ice needs to be actively sought on line. It makes sense to include a question and answer session with your speaker. Also to ideally create a virtual front row to help with rapport. Break out groups and panel discussions also help. You may also like to consider online surveys and polling.
  • Consider Gamification – perhaps the fun elements of games can be incorporated in a non-gaming capacity. Virtual events provide a great way to apply gamification techniques, including trivia quizzes and puzzles. It is also possible to include prizes to encourage participation.
  • Think about External Speakers, Presenters or Entertainment – As with live meetings, online professional contributors from outside the organisation can enhance your event. They can add another perspective. A professional moderator can ensure both your external and internal speakers are fully supported in engaging with your audience.
  • Remember to Provide Engagement Before & After Event – social media and the actual event website can provide the perfect means to promote your event. Make sure you communicate the logistics and event value to delegates. Give plenty of notice to ensure maximum attendance.  Then post event engagement can be achieved with online feedback.

Conclusion

In short, taking a 2-hr, 2-day, or week long in-person event and doing the “same thing” online in a virtual video model seems to have worked well a year ago when we all got locked away overnight. However, a year later, it makes sense to get creative on how to share content and host an event differently. We are already spending our entire day in front of a screen, so let’s get delegates’ attention by doing something new.

Returning to fully live events is likely to be a gradual process, so leverage some of these suggestions.  Look at other great and creative ideas to do things “better” in this new combo in-person / remote online world that is ahead of us.

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