How to Offer Great Virtual Experiences: Lessons Learned from Social Media
Some things should never change, like being kind to others or making time to spend with family and friends.
It turns out the same holds true when delivering a virtual event, as I recently discovered from an amazing opportunity. I had an opportunity to assist in the planning and execution of a first of a kind virtual leadership conference for women in dermatology. Featuring over 200 participants from Canada, USA and Spain including 21 speakers and 10 corporate sponsors; Everyone participated virtually over seven hours of live streaming presentations, panel discussions, real-time polling, group social feed, private one-on-one chats and seven simultaneous sponsored breakout sessions.
Some things should never change, like providing a comfortable environment where great speakers deliver relevant content and engage audiences through active participation.
On the other hand, some things require change. It has been my experience that simply trying to reproduce an in-person experience in a virtual environment doesn’t work. More importantly, trying to reproduce what we think worked may result in ignoring the benefit of improving on and delivering an even better experience. Tools that have been staring us in the face for the past decade when you read an article on your LinkedIn or Facebook feed.
Some things require change, like embracing a social media platform mindset, adopting a simple intuitive environment to deliver an array of relevant live and on-demand content that drives individual participation and reinforces a sense of shared connection through interactions rather than passive attendance.
If you asked me back in February of this year if it was possible for a virtual event to replace an in-person event I would have said absolutely not. Perhaps this will always be true to a certain extent, at least when you consider the social, and culture benefits of travelling to unique destinations to network with colleagues. I was recently reminded of this by someone who I shared a beer with on the patio outside a meeting room overlooking a canal in Amsterdam. He thought it was Copenhagen. We were reminiscing about that shared experience in a private one-on-one chat during our “first of a kind” virtual conference…so perhaps we were engaging in a way we would not if we were sitting at opposite ends of a large conference hall.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed that for most of us. We no longer measure the success of an event by how many attendees registered. Rather we can actually see who’s participating and measure engagement in real-time during a live streamed event and after an event by measuring access to on-demand content. Feedback is immediate. Hastily-filled or incomplete evaluations are no longer a problem when participants can provide their input in real-time. In fact, data collection is the soul of most social media platforms so it is not surprising to find a whole new world of accurate metrics built into the back end of the best virtual platforms. The ability to collect accurate and objective data provides a new way to evaluate return on investment for participants, organizers and sponsors.
I am grateful for discovering new skills, engaging with new people “outside my bubble” and looking forward to the opportunity to help others deliver many more great virtual event experiences. The future may even allow for a marriage between the best practices form both in-person and live virtual events.
Leave a comment, schedule a call or contact me if you would like to discuss how I may assist you deliver exceptional virtual experiences.