Anatomy of Virtual Events
Article actual date: Mar 26, 2020
For the past weeks, and at an accelerating pace, Jublia has been fielding inquiries on our Virtual Solutions. I myself, have been having open-ended chats about everything related to virtual events. It is simply a new virtual reality that the events industry has to rapidly transit into as the current disruptions to organising traditional physical events is looking to be a long drawn one.
This reflection will be focused on breaking down the fundamental differences between Virtual and Physical Face-to-Face events. By understanding these basic building blocks, physical events will be more equip with the knowledge to help them transit into the virtual realm. Better still, to appreciate the new environment and effectively tap on the unique value propositions that a fully digital experience has to offer.
A stark difference between physical event attendance and a virtual one is the amount of effort invested in participation.
When an attendee attends a physical event, there is a huge amount of cost (transportation, hotels etc.) and time (going to onsite meetings, walking through exhibition aisles etc.) incurred.
Compare this to a virtual environment where we, as online users, expect speed and efficiency when transacting through a screen with limited real estate. We expect things to be a few clicks away; actually better if its just 1 click away.
Physically, we are always having to deal with actual distance in every actions (having to reach out to my cup for instance) but in virtual reality, we don’t necessarily expect to do so.
Thus, having to replicate an environment like a physical event in the virtual realm has to be questioned if that is really necessary. We expect to replicate the immersive experience of a physical event by having attendees go through efforts similar to attending the physical event (e.g. walking through virtual aisles, conducting virtual meetings at a fixed time and location). But wait, do the actual users expect to do so?
Real users behavior in the virtual realm is completely different and it should be thoughtfully considered when deploying any digital solution to virtual-ise your event.
On a side note, it is the positive return on physical efforts that makes it so rewarding to attend physical events. Of course negative returns are what causes complaints that organizers are all too familiar with.
Modes of Communication
In a physical event, we pretty much have just one primary face to face mode to converse: verbally (sales pitches at exhibition booths, speaking sessions etc.). And to effectively communicate verbally at events, parties will need to be able to see each other in person too.
However, virtual meetings can take multiple formats which everyone are pretty much accustomed to. For example, exchanging sourcing information over email, negotiating over chat tools (Telegram, WeChat, Messenger, LINE, Kakao, WhatsApp etc.), virtual visual meetings via conference call tools (Zoom, GotoMeetings, Google Meet, QQ etc.), direct phone calls and more.
It is therefore important that meeting designs be adapted to how people connect virtually and not simply replicate what we are familiar with in physical events to the virtual event.
A rather popular request recently to illustrate what I meant: “I would like my attendees to now be able to set a meeting time during the days of my virtual event with a Conference Call (e.g. Zoom) link sent to both individuals to meet”.
Do expect a mismatch with real virtual users intent, as users will likely not wait until a designated time in the future to converse. They will probably just pick up the phone to establish a first contact. I myself will totally do that.
Communication is simply expected to be more real-time virtually.
On a side note, while you may think that since such real-time modes of communication already exist, what’s the point of physical events? Well, in person meeting is simply, without any doubt, the most effective. And this is why people are willing to incur the effort in attending events physically.
In a physical event, we converge all event organizing efforts to a certain point of time; the days when the actual event is happening.
However in virtual reality, there is full possibility that an event can be a lengthened period of time (e.g. over 1 month) instead of being limited to a restricted time period as there is no hefty venue rental involved.
Furthermore, only certain types of live streams (e.g. product launches, sports finals) or live gaming events which necessitate getting together at a certain point in time in exchange for incentives (getting the first view and knowledge, or unique digital gifts) have been successfully in getting the crowds together, digitally, at a single point in time.
It is more difficult to converge crowds virtually than physically to a single point of time.
By appreciating time scoping of your event and by mixing up different digital medias (e.g. pre-recorded, animated shorts, live streams, virtual connections), you can then be able to craft a suitable virtual proposition for your crowd engagement.
In essence, redefine the time frame of your virtual event to better suit your audience so as to augment a new engagement paradigm for your users.
As companies comes to terms with the negative economic impact, inevitably budgets will sink and procurement power will see a huge decline (generally speaking, but this will vary amongst industries).
While B2B Events facilitate trade efficiently in fairly good times, it also has to adapt it’s purpose in tough times. So what do we do when buyers may not be buying at a healthy quantum in face of fiscal tightening by companies? Exhibitors and sponsors are most likely not going to be as involved.
This discussion point came up with an industry veteran and the concept of “mindshare” was mentioned.
In tough economic times, B2B Events need to adapt and strive to be the main congregation point by effectively connecting parties to share knowledge on how to mitigate current situations. This creates the platform for your exhibitors and sponsors to enhance their “mindshare” too, rather than simply focused on trade activities.
All these in effect, will in turn help to create attributions to your event brand as a positive supporting force for the industry you serves.
Event Continuity Planning (ECP)
At the current state, events scheduled in the next few months (Apr-Aug 2020) are facing high level of uncertainty. Postponement/cancellation seems to always be on the card as there is no signs of recovery yet.
Organisers thus are planning in advance and the concept of ECP has never been so relevant.
On top of having a Plan B, the game changer in ECP lies in that whatever you have crafted as attendance values in Plan A (physical event), in times of postponement or cancellation, can be readily transferred and deployed in Plan B (likely virtual).
I will highly encourage organizers to not only have a Plan B in mind. Do take the extra effort to craft an ECP that thoughtfully connect the dots between Plan A to Plan B in every aspects: Event content, programs, registration, payment policies, matchmaking, sponsorship and more.
This will help to bring sanity and results in such unprecedented times of uncertainty.
Other thoughtful articles like this are actually very useful for organisers who are looking to introduce virtual events. If you think this post is a good one, please share with your industry colleagues or friends too.
If you happened to have missed our previous announcement, Jublia has a platform that can fully support your Virtual Events with our best in class matchmaking and content CMS that is readily integrated with any video tools. We will love to speak to you about it!