Virtual Event Best Practices – Make it Personal

Virtual Event Best Practices - Make it Personal

Most of us probably have a favorite memory of attending a cookout that offered a wonderful selection of goodies like burgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, ice cream, watermelon, and other summer foods. We would pile our plates high, then settle in at the picnic table to share and listen to stories.

What made those such memorable experiences, though? Is there anything that we can learn and maybe leverage in our online venues and events? We explore virtual event best practices by examining ways to make it more personal and meaningful to the end user from a virtual event platform.

It’s my time

In early 2020, when we started our COVID-19 lockdown, virtual events (both external and internal) were more directed and linear. Today, with the complexity of working from home and multiple digital interactions (distractions), people want to create their own custom schedules and pathing through a virtual event (experience). Sure, they will watch the keynote, but they also want to select their own journey and build “My Schedule” that includes the topics that they want to learn, explore, and share. Carefully blending the right experiences—like Industry City at THINK (static) and chat (interactive)—shifts control from presenter to attendee and starts putting attendees “in charge.”

Tip 1: Consider “My Schedule” moments that can lead to scheduled and anticipated interactions.

Respect my time

Standard meetings used to be an hour. During the pandemic, we’ve seen a shift toward shorter, more concentrated meetings. For virtual events, whether external or internal, attendees want shorter, snackable content.

A customer we recently interviewed told us, “I can watch 10 minute videos all day, because I can watch them while eating lunch or between meetings,” but he does not want to be “force-fed a 45-minute or hour” video.

Tip 2: Create bite-sized content. Remember that less is more.

Let me share easily

With social media, we’re all used to sharing stories and experiences. Remember those campfire stories?

During virtual events, when attendees see relevant, thought-provoking content, they’re motivated to share and further engage on the topic. Chat and one-to-many interactions are expected.

What we have seen recently is that chat, both 1:1 and 1:few, is being used with higher frequency. It’s less about “Hi from Morocco” and more about: “Hi Aaron – saw your great question in the chat. What’s your experience with AI sentiment analysis and may we have a sidebar on that?”

In addition, the ability to easily bookmark and share a video or watch on demand, “on my own time,” is becoming more important. Anecdotally, we have seen increased video-on-demand viewing after both external and internal events, as attendees make the time to watch the video stories that they want to see and may have missed. Seamless social sharing empowers attendees to share the “must-see” moments, and, instead of doing this just after an event, the long tail of consuming and sharing content is extended.

Tip 3: Think 1:1 moments that drive deeper and more satisfying interactions.

The takeaway

CMOs, CDOs, CIOs and even CHROs need to think differently about their communication strategy and toggle the virtual event conversation between 1:many and 1:1.  We have seen that virtual event attendees are interested in receiving widely broadcast messages (e.g., keynotes) and also in participating in meaningful 1:few or 1:1 interactions.

Next time, we’ll add a few logs to the campfire, and focus on why it’s critical to take the time to truly understand your attendees interests and needs and how to create memorable virtual moments. That is for our next Key Virtual (Campfire) Experiences that Inspire Storytelling.

Want to learn more about virtual event best practices for you, your event, and your strategic goals? Request a 30-minute consultation with our IBM Virtual Experience event experts for both external (public) and internal (workplace) events.

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Lead author:

Yuri Salnikoff, IBM Customer Digital Transformation & Virtual Experiences Lead

Contributing experts:

Laura Miller, IBM Customer Digital Transformation & Virtual Experiences Strategist
Stacy Nawrocki, IBM Head of Watson Media
Demetri Kambanis, IBM Customer Digital Transformation, Technical Director, Virtual Events