Today’s blog post is inspired by the recent Veterans in Tech Summit.
I’m grateful to Capital Factory and Microsoft, the organizers, for the honor to host, emcee, and participate in that highly-inspiring event. It was an afternoon of valuable discussions, panels, and working sessions to encourage further participation of veterans in the private tech sector and insights on how they can leverage this sector for business growth.
It was an afternoon of fun, learning, and guidance for most participants. As for me, it was also a moment of reflection, especially on what running events will look like after COVID-19. The future we once saw for the events industry has shifted. Today, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on what will become the new “normal,” how event organizers can improvise, adapt, and overcome new COVID-induced challenges. Of course these changes will take a great deal of effort and discipline!
Managing virtual events
In a recent survey by Eventsforce more than half of event planners fear they don’t have the right skills to organize successful virtual events. This is alarming considering that hosting virtual events is currently the only viable solution to missing in-person interactions.
However the significance of virtual events may also outlive the coronavirus pandemic, considering a recent Condé Nast survey found that as many as 90% of the respondents revealed they would still be interested in virtual events, even after the pandemic is long gone.
Navigating technology challenges
A successful virtual event has many moving parts that require proper attention. These range from creating a proper content strategy, devising ways for audience engagement, and choosing the right technology tools and platforms. According to research, 20% of event planners avoid virtual events because of a lack of infrastructure and expertise.
Event organizers should take the time to understand how virtual events work. This could mean joining and participating in a few virtual events. Lessons and experience from here can prove valuable in their preparation to organize their next virtual events.
Creating a defined content strategy
Our attention span keeps getting shorter. It had already become increasingly difficult to engage the audience pre-COVID, the pandemic has made maintaining that engagement far more challenging. Content for these events should be more enticing and valuable now that guests will be ‘attending’ from home.
How do you keep the participants engaged and invested in the event?
This goes beyond just replicating the content flow and strategy of a live event. It has more to do with creating an overly exciting content strategy that fuses excellent content delivery with truly fabulous networking and social aspects.
Networking at virtual events
As challenging as it is to network at virtual events, the Capital Factory event provided us an opportunity to initiate several meaningful connections.
Wearing the hats of Capital Factory mentor and Special Advisor at The University of Texas at Austin, I jumped on networking sessions on Hopin to talk with folks like Jimi Threet and hang out with friends/colleagues like Sabrina Wojtewicz, Craig Cummings, Samantha Snabes, Brendan Mullen and many others. Michael Sarraille did a fabulous job talking about his journey during the Fireside Chat. His book, The Talent War is also a very good read. It’s worth checking it out!
Virtual events should provide opportunities for audience members to initiate professional connections. While there are several virtual events networking ideas you might consider, the time, efforts, and creativity invested here will pay off.
Audience communication and engagement opportunities
It’s easy for the audience to participate in in-person meetings.
However it is a challenge to pull this off at virtual events. There should be two-way communication between the audience as well as the speakers and moderators. One-sided communication will lead to boring scenarios where members of the audience will not be as engaged or invested in the event.
Some ideas to help boost the audience engagement in this new future of events include incorporating Q&A sessions, feedback and opinion sections, polls, social community features, QR code scanning, virtual breakout rooms, etc.
Managing hybrid events
Like virtual events, hybrid events have also become more popular, thanks to the pandemic.
Hybrid events are just as they sound, a hybrid of both a physical (in-person) event and a virtual (online) one. This means that as the event is taking place in a physical venue, it’s also being attended by an interactive online audience.
This kind of event offers flexibility for audience members who can choose whether they’ll be attending in-person or online. It’s important especially as people are wary of attending in-person events nowadays due to the risks associated. As such, hybrid events can help strike a balance between the fundamental human need for connection and our awareness of our new normal as a society.
Running hybrid events in the new normal
Hybrid events combine the challenges of in-person events in a post-COVID world along with the conventional challenges of organizing virtual events as you’ll need to cater to audiences on two platforms; offline and online.
Some of the challenges in-person events will face from here on out include, but are not limited to; ensuring onsite screening of attendees for COVID-19, putting effective social distancing rules in place, keeping the number of delegates reduced to reasonable limits, and ensuring top-level hygiene standards and provisions in place at events.
To say COVID has made events organizing more challenging will be an understatement.
In-person events have become a sort of taboo; even in instances where they are still acceptable, they are no longer what they used to be. Virtual and hybrid events have gained more prominence in recent times. Adapting to this sudden ‘new normal’ is always going to come with costly and difficult challenges.
From ensuring the relevance of meetings, events, and conferences, to the audience to choosing the right platforms for both virtual and in-person events, among others; event organizers need the right commitment of time, resources, and efforts to adapt to this new world. The future of events here and it comes with a new definition of ‘normal’.
Thanks to Thom Singer, Maura Nevel Thomas, and Scott Carley, and the National Speakers Association for their valuable tips and techniques for hosting and moderating events in the new normal. Consult with them if you want to know how to pull off an online event! And thanks also to CACI International Inc and Baker Botts for sponsoring the event for supporting Veterans in Tech.
Think I can help at your next event? Why not reach out and let’s find out.