While “pivot” was a business buzzword in 2020 that described what we all had to do to stay afloat in an uncertain business environment, I challenge all the pivots of the past to look to the future and evolve. The pandemic arrived at the same moment broadband internet speeds and videoconferencing technology were able to support robust virtual communication. Technology was no longer an add-on, but the main act to stay connected.
Looking ahead, workers are returning to offices, social events are happening in person, and concerts are back. Where does that leave us? What have we learned?
We learned that innovation happens when we are inspired and have the space to let our creativity flourish.
Before our pandemic-induced communications pivot, it was common to have to wait a day to see video footage of an event recorded by a camera in a ballroom; now, we can experience a virtual event in real time and with professional production techniques. We learned that it’s possible to make virtual nearly as good as in-person.
Companies diverted their resources to build web platforms to host pre-event web content, registration, integrated attendee engagement platforms, and sponsor benefits.
How the content was created also became important. Strategic event hosts and producers found the best attendee response when streaming highly produced pre-recorded content on the day of the event mixed with a truly live livestream of the presenters.
Show organizers developed a whole new guidebook of virtual event best practices, which was evaluated, discussed, and implemented. Grace was shared among us all—from attendees to vendors and hosts. The goals were clear: bring people together around captivating content.
We were also innovative in how we brought people together socially during virtual events. The immediate response and feedback from virtual photo booths, trivia nights, and chat windows in virtual event presentations sparked additional conversation and brought people together.
I was pleasantly surprised to realize that I sometimes learned as much from an online text chat with fellow attendees as I did from the main presenter. It opened my eyes to the promise of idea sharing and instant collaboration. We need to challenge ourselves to maintain the benefits of synchronous (and asynchronous) connectivity going forward, even when we are finally able to return to in-person experiences.
As many of us worked from home and collaborated with colleagues over videoconference, one thing remained clear: virtual event fatigue is a real thing. While we logged in to our company’s collaboration platform, we longed for the day we could be back together in person. It’s simply not as good when you try to give friends a hug or shake hands with colleagues virtually.
While we work toward opening the world back up, there are new considerations we have to keep in mind. We need to take what we have learned about innovation and virtually connecting a larger, more diverse, global audience and remember that content and connectivity drive benefit.
While events may be evolving to better suit the needs of attendees, presenters, and sponsors, budgets and resources will always remain a limiting factor.
How do you maximize your resources to provide the greatest value? Work with your partners and team to find ways to make the technology work for you. New tools and resources are coming to market every day, but without a clear understanding of your goals and challenges, you’ll get lost in a sea of options.
If you are planning a hybrid in-person and remote event, understand your experience goals. If you have the team, time, and budget to let creativity work for you, you can support a uniquely collaborative dialogue between your in-person and virtual audience.
We have seen people’s desire to connect, and the technology exists to make it happen. Putting together the pieces of a successful hybrid event will continue to spark our industry to innovate.