You worked on your phone through the only speech you really wanted to listen to, your fellow attendees were suspicious about why you wanted to interact with them (and the sponsors didn’t think you were worth their time), you spent most of the evening gatherings with people you already knew before they left for a dinner that you weren’t invited to, no-one came to sit at your table during the break-out workshop, the event catering was the same as it ever was, and you forgot the few things you had heard by the time you started working on the share-out deck while in the middle seat of the plane home…
…Were real world conferences and events ever really worth it?
Maybe it really is the right time for events to go virtual.
When, I asked PSFK Labs team to look through their database of weak signals and new ideas developing around virtual events, the researchers found that a lot of the experimentation in the space can be found in sport, fashion and gaming. They told me that there's an opportunity for anyone who throws real-world events to develop truly engaging eVents especially if they explored these opportunities:
Ready-Player Platforms: Look beyond current video portals and video conferencing technologies and consider esports, gaming and social platforms. These services have advanced with the pace of technology and user expectations of the web. They offer new levels of interactivity, with Twitch in particular, is looking to evolve its offering beyond games.
Hype the Attendance: Leverage media platforms that are developing their video offering, like Instagram and Reddit, to access broader, global audiences. Facebook’s VR world, Horizon, should also be a consideration.
Influencer Exclusives: Invite social media influencers to record and share content from your stages and other event experiences. They could shoot a different angle for a talk, provide running commentary or go back-stage. This third party commentary would get shared on the influencer’s network and on the event organizer’s feeds, too. Read this PSFK case-study.
Insider Reporting: Ask employees to act as reporters from the event, too. Staffers can be armed with a phone or just a web-cam to provide supplemental feeds to an event. Read this PSFK case-study.
Use Data to Enhance: Leverage the information gathered from real-time viewing habits to adjust the content and information that the attendee receives.
Overload the Info: Augment the live viewing experience with additional information and stats or even offer a second screen experience for phones or tablets.
Easter Egg: Hide fun content and features that can be discovered by the audience. Some TikTok-enabled events are using music that’s already popular as memes on the platform.
Embedded Attendee: Allow virtual attendees to ‘sit’ anywhere—even on the stage. eSports fans already have the option to view the games they are watching from multiple viewpoints, even from within the theater of the game itself.
Use Data to Connect: Connect like-mindeds in the audience by matching profiles. Use this approach to help sponsors pinpoint the right attendees to interact with.
Watching Parties: Coordinate virtual and IRL meeting spaces that help people watch your e-event together. These gatherings help attendees focus together on the content and interact with each other to build on the ideas they learn. Read this PSFK case-study.
Create Team Challenges: Build virtual teams out of the audience and speakers and set tasks and challenges throughout the course of the event. Platforms like lowkey.gg make team-building easy in esports.
Make Them Play: Keep the audience engaged and motivated by mixing the content up with activities between (and sometimes during) main sessions. Consider running contests, virtual games and even karaoke!
Augment the Attendee: Provide content that could enhance the way the attendee appears to the others. Share branded background videos to play in video-conference calls and then send exclusives as prizes when they win games or the karaoke contests!!
Sell Stuff: Let people buy things from you— both physical and virtual. Some of the most successful live-streaming companies are ecommerce retailers.
Gift Exchange: Provide a mechanism for attendees to reward speakers, event organizers and other attendees with monetary rewards and other tokens. Platforms like TikTok allow video creators to make money through in-app gifting from viewers in live-stream sessions.
Stream Sustainably: Consider using some of the ticket price to off-set your event’s carbon footprint. While there’s a significantly less waste created by a virtual event, streaming has its own environmental impact.
“My Twitch channel started as something that I didn't see available, which was my interests: video games and drag. I wanted to watch that and I was like, ‘No one is making that so I'm going to produce the content that I wish was available to me,'” famed Twitcher Deere recently told NBC News. It was that frustration that convinced Deere to launch Streaming Queens and combine two distinct genres.
Like Deere, we all now have the opportunity to design live-streams that we would want to consume ourselves. While events have been held back by a lot of traditional thinking from events producers (exaggerated by the caution of sponsors), people’s tastes have changed and the types of content they want and the ways they want to interact have radically evolved.
It’s time for a complete make-over! So, look out for how PSFK responds to the ideas above with experiments in virtual events during he next few weeks and months!