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The challenge and opportunity of the virtual venue

For many of us, out of necessity we now live our working lives in the virtual world. With the majority, if not all, of communication happening through video calls and emails, “real life” events feel like a distant memory. So how can organisations successfully shift their event programmes into the virtual world?

Like with any new venue, it takes time to figure our way around the space, to uncover how we can best utilise it to achieve our objectives and remain connected to our audiences.

With our event “venue” moving online we have all been on a voyage of discovery in the virtual event space, uncovering the many benefits, and challenges, of our new “virtual venue”.

It’s certainly not a simple lift-and-shift of our in-person event delivery model into an online space, that plainly won’t work. It’s six months now since we were forced into this new world, which looks set to remain in place for the foreseeable future, so how can we ensure we continue to create valuable and memorable events?

Content should arguably be the heart of any event

Content is king should apply as much to events teams as it does to content marketers. However, as we have seen at our conferences, many delegates attend with a key intention of networking with their peers and building new relationships. With that ability to network among delegates being severely restricted, the content of our event is now more important than ever, to attract and engage our audiences.

Within this, we need to ensure we can provide true value to our audience, with even more touch points, engagement and interaction, to build and maintain our relationship with them. Now, more than ever, we need to therefore take the opportunity to uncover what our audience really want, and need, and determine how we can effectively deliver it to them.

Always-on connectivity and smart devices

Technology and the internet have provided us with the ability to connect to anyone at any time, in any location, through a whole host of channels; emails, instant messaging and social media just to name a few. With this level of connectivity, we can interact and deliver content to our audiences on various platforms at different times. This brings with it a whole host of advantages including our events reaching new audiences who aren’t restricted by time or location. Ironically though it doesn’t enable us to create the connectivity between delegates which they so crave.

Now, as many organisations look to take advantage of the freedom from location and physical space offered by a virtual experience, the challenge lies in standing out from the crowd. Webinars are now omnipresent it seems, and where before we would not necessarily have had to compete with international events if our event was taking place in the UK, now perhaps we do. In addition to this, once we have attracted our delegates to join, there are so many distractions available in the online space. How can we minimise the risk of the audience drifting, simply opening their inbox or opening a new tab in their browser and getting stuck into another task? And that’s not to mention online event fatigue!

Time to innovate

To overcome these challenges, we must find new ways to create a memorable experience. Whether this is through the tools we use or the content we deliver, we now have the opportunity to carve out something new – which is both intimidating and exciting.