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Opportunities, barriers & the transformation of virtual priorities

Virtual events are unique. To quote Mirella Di Blasio (virtual event instructor at Infopresse and president of Lulu Events): they are a communications channel all their own. 

The Lulu team has directed several virtual events in recent months: Galas, VIP events, conferences… With their expertise, and by applying a considerable amount of market monitoring and study analysis, they have identified a number of particularities that are unique to virtual events. This article presents the opportunities to be seized and the pitfalls to be avoided, but also sheds light on the changing priorities of event guests, which have been manifest since the inception of virtual event consumption.

Opportunities

Virtual events are distinct from in-person events. Though it may seem reasonable to simply copy/paste an in-person event and then adapt it as a virtual event, this is a method that should be most definitively proscribed. Virtual provides unique advantages that cannot be derived from in-person. It is therefore essential to benefit from these advantages!

1. The transformation of human contact: from formal to informal

At the start of the pandemic, when telecommuting was only just staring to become the new norm, opening a window into people’s intimacy may have seemed intrusive and uncomfortable. It was all new at the time. Nevertheless, several months later, we have understood that the removal of formal barriers, such as having a view of an executive’s living room or a client’s children, can confer certain advantages. This opens the door to the possibility of approaching people on a more personal level, and is applicable in equal measure to both telecommuting and virtual events. As such, there is a very real opportunity to more easily touch people through their daily lives, and to breathe more authentic life into one’s message by approaching people more humanely.

2. The world at our fingertips

The “virtual” world is your oyster. Digital platforms have global reach. Though this may seem obvious, this fact should never be neglected when planning a virtual event. The international nature of virtual events can help give rise to all sorts of original and unprecedented experiences, which would otherwise not have been possible. 

With the entire world now within everyone’s reach, the potential for increased income is a factor that should not be ignored. Why remain limited to the usual target network when virtual platforms enable omnipresence? It is essential to begin thinking on a global scale, with a playing field that is now defined solely by the size of the planet.

3. The elimination of physical barriers makes networking more accessible to everyone

Picture this: you have just arrived at a corporate soirée of the type that had been common prior to the pandemic. The hall is filled, but you don’t know anyone in attendance. You scan the room and see several groupings of professionals, wineglasses in hand, all engaged in active discussion. Who do you approach? How should you address them? How can you pierce their conversation bubble? How do you engage in meaningful interaction? These answers are not equally self-evident for everyone.

In a virtual environment, the hindrances of physical barriers are eliminated. Approaching people becomes easier through organised networking than it ever could be with organic networking. There is no longer any need to break into the bubbles of others. The virtual realm confers an advantage: for the majority of participants, this new reality is far less intimidating than the feeling of being a fifth wheel at an in-person get-together. This presents an opportunity to network in a much more effective manner, free from the usual physical encumbrances, enabling new contacts that would have otherwise been far more complicated to establish.

Pitfalls

People spend their days looking at screens. When organising a virtual event, it is important to make it distinctive so that guests might enjoy the event, and to effectively deliver a message. Here are a few of the pitfalls that should be avoided:

1. Prerecording your event

Though this might (?) seem like the simpler method, this approach should be disregarded. Recording everything ahead of time (emceeing, interventions, monologues…) makes events less spontaneous and natural. It is important to generate content with strong human warmth and emotion, especially in this very particular time. Moments of unplanned levity, such as stammering or uncontrolled laughter, are precisely what make virtual events feel more human.

2. Being on stage is not the same as being on camera

“Charles, our vice president, is a highly talented office party emcee. He will therefore be hosting our virtual event”. 

No. Though Charles may be great at leading a group, this does not mean that he will be able to manage all the technical aspects of a virtual event, or even know how to direct an event. Particular qualities are required when addressing an unseen public on camera, as opposed to addressing a crowd on stage. Several factors must be accounted for when addressing a public on a virtual platform, which is why it is ideal to hire a professional master of ceremonies with the ability to manage unexpected situations and orchestrate the various technical aspects of a film studio.

3. Zoom et al…

People spend their days on videoconferencing platforms such as Zoom. Should they be provided with a different environment – one that is more engaging, interactive, and personalised? The answer is YES! Multiple solutions are available at reduced cost. All that you need in order to find solutions that can be adapted to your demands are the correct information and a bit of research. Several functional and innovative platforms currently exist on the market, and they are quite capable of fulfilling your requirements.

The transformation of priorities

In the pre-pandemic context of in-person event participation, guests had 3 priorities at heart, which helped them determine whether or not an event was relevant:

1. Content

2. Networking

3. Entertainment

From the moment that virtual events began growing to their current level of importance in our lives, we have witnessed a complete upheaval of these priorities. Of current importance to guests:

1. Significant interactivity

2. Entertainment

3. Content

So, what does all this mean?

Significant interactivity is the drive to engage with content that provides a certain PLUS: an opportunity to learn or to conduct business, etc. Considering the endless hours that we all spend in front of our screens, it is not unusual to seek out something unique, different, and relevant from the virtual events that we take part in… to help distinguish them from simple Zoom meetings.

Entertainment doesn’t necessarily require a visit by Bonhomme Carnaval, oh no! By entertainment, we simply mean applying an engaging and innovative approach to networking and transmitting content. Guests seek entertainment that is relevant to an event’s objectives and content.

Which brings us to the third priority: content. It is essential to surpass what the web can offer. With the massive amount of free, relevant information that can be found online, we must push the envelope when it comes to the content we provide for our guests if we wish to make an impression and generate added value, and this remains true whether the event is free or not.

In closing

Virtual events have led us to evolve, and, especially, they have also demonstrated new behaviours: whether it be mastering new communication styles or simply finding new ways of approaching our work. It is even more essential for us to control these subtle particularities, as they will continue to remain highly useful for hybrid event formulations, a direction in which events have begun trending with long strides. 

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