Updated: Jun 24, 2021
As doors begin to reopen again after a year long period of closure, we are seeing a slow return to the life we all remember, with physical gatherings, events conferences, and other social activities slowly returning.
We're seeing a powerful push to connect again, to somehow find our way back to being normal humans. Even with the virtual realm now thrust upon us, the appeal of face-to-face networking and in-person presentations still remains strong—and stubborn. The desire to relate to each other and the content we consume through a common and genuine experience is innate. We want to gather—if not together in a physical way, then in a virtual one.
Finding Connection in a Virtual Place
“Virtual events require a new tier of creative thinking, one that celebrates the unique ways we navigate life digitally, as opposed to physically, and which are constantly mindful of the desire for a shared common experience. It's a discipline that drives our digital thinking at 24G.”
Replicating the networking features and energy of a Las Vegas-style conference from your dining room table is hard. Creating compelling virtual experiences is even harder. It’s more than just creating an online replica of the physical event we remember. Virtual events require a new tier of creative thinking, one that celebrates the unique ways we navigate life digitally, as opposed to physically, and which are constantly mindful of the desire for a shared common experience. It's a discipline that drives our digital thinking at 24G.
24G VXP - An Experience Platform for the Virtual Era
24G’s VXP (Virtual Experience Platform) was born virtual-first; a dynamic live online experience environment that leverages the learnings of online life—social media, live stream, on-demand video, games, competitions, and other incentives that get our synapses firing. All of this combines to create a self-propulsive, choose-your-own-adventure-style digital experience that incentivizes exploration and discovery while challenging the attendee to embrace the new.
When we build our experience platforms, we constantly ask ourselves: Is our virtual engagement strategy up to snuff? To the potential attendee, we ask: Are you curious to keep exploring? Will you stick?
Here are the most important factors we see in creating a dynamic virtual event, whether a conference, large presentation, or online training experience:
Make it Social: Meet, Greet, Like and Follow
A great virtual event platform should lean hard into the expectation and allure of social media. Avatars, background images, social links, meetup functionality, posting and post reactions, follows, and shares are all vital elements of the virtual event experience. Interactive is also key, with in-presentation commenting, the ability to see who is in each room, site heat maps showing what virtual events are attracting most visitor traffic are also worthwhile features. These are expected and intuitive components of the online world, and should be drivers in the virtual event experience as well.
Make it Work: Intuitive, Functional, Easy and Obvious
Whether for events of 50 or 50,000, users need a clear UI with easy-to-use conference track, keynotes, and/or breakout session scheduling with the ability to integrate with native calendar apps. Onsite support team members should be available to troubleshoot for attendees and presenters alike. Online tutorials should be ever-present to help users find their way and discover hidden event site treats. Activities and opportunities to connect with the larger community should be designed into the experience, to drive engagement and facilitate surprise connections
Make it Fun: Surprise, Delight, Play and Engage
The platform should provide intriguing treats and easter egg-like bonus elements beyond keynote speeches. The addition of points, badges, leaderboards, and a store to redeem points for swag, status, or exclusive access to special site activities creates a reason to explore and meet new attendees during the process. Polls, quizzes, brand-focused games, and site-wide competitions drive greater engagement, create community, provide fun bonus content, and give attendees a reason to explore during conference quiet times.
Also, it’s important for virtual event planners to remember that some of the best moments of any conference occur unplanned, and frequently outside of the big keynote speech halls. Online event experiences should be mindful of the same desire for serendipity and surprise around any virtual corner. Social connections, games, ad hoc creative gatherings like virtual cocktail parties all help build a sense of community and connection beyond the live stream basics.
For example, in the virtual experience world, an online store like the one featured above, can deliver more than just physical swag. You can transact points for special access, or connections to more intimate virtual gatherings happy hour style activities with event presenters or celebrity performers, or open up access to experiences or games.
Make it Memorable: Storify, Challenge, Recalibrate and Experiment
For many, the virtual experience is all-new, but many of the same theories still apply—just in a more concentrated way. Creativity matters, even more so now in virtual environments where distraction is the norm. Well-crafted brand narratives require thought and preparation beyond just firing up your webcam. From delivery, to screen presentation and show format, to social interactivity components, to stage elements and other production hacks for the home presenter, each element holds a piece of the overall event story.
Innovation is key in the new virtual environment, begging creators to step in and challenge the expected, to recalibrate the typical event format with dynamic new ideas, with a completely digitized Expo Floor for sponsors, new storytelling styles, immersive activities, games, and groupthink challenges.
Make it Last: Video, Documents, Content, and Archives
The new virtual event platform does not have an expiration date. Live stream and on-demand video, PDF and PowerPoint downloads, ongoing event community contact—the treasure trove of archived content allows the virtual event platform to deliver an experience that lasts well beyond the scheduled conference dates for attendees, sponsors, and event organizers.
For virtual event organizers, consider the different phases of your event site, beginning with a pre-event buzz-driven registration portal. During the event, the virtual experience site becomes a busy swarm of live streamed and on-demand events, activities, meetups, and gathering. After the event, for as long as organizers, attendees and sponsors choose, an archive of content, connections, and possible new leads.
The challenge for virtual experiences is to engage, over and over again, with new activities around every corner. Our team at 24G has been crafting virtual experiences that connect and drive curiosity, and tap into our natural desire to play, share, and compete. In a world gone virtual, we are your digital experts. For a demo of our 24G VXP platform, already providing engaging learning experiences for some of the world's largest brands, drop a comment or feel free to connect.