When the pandemic first hit, trade shows, conferences and networking soirees were slashed and canceled. And then, like any marketers worth their salt, teams quickly reimagined experiences to proffer a plethora of socially distanced and virtual events.
Now in late 2020, we’ve moved past the stage of tech requirements and logistics into a world of cinematic engagement and meaningful connection. Since user experience (UX) takes precedence more than ever, use these strategies to ensure your virtual/socially distanced events are leaving an impact and inspiring action.
Shake up the format.
If hosting a virtual meeting, it’s easy to go with good ‘ol Zoom. Webinars provide a strong medium for information dissemination abetted by Powerpoint and graphics. However, while effective, webinars can be downright boring, so ensure you’re orchestrating multiple live touch points throughout the experience.
Create an interactive two-way environment (or four-way, nine-way, 453-way, whatever is needed). The Institute of Internal Auditors, for example, peppered its virtual symposium with points of interaction that simulated an in-person conference. In addition to an agenda of presentations and Q&As, attendees could purchase items from a virtual bookstore or watch video ads during scheduled coffee breaks. Similarly, SAP hosted a virtual learning studio that provided learning exercises in a gamified, Jeopardy-style format.
Create connection conduits.
Key in on cornerstone engagement tactics that work in both virtual and socially distanced experiences.
PREWORK: Kickstart engagement before kickstarting the event. Send a survey to participants with questions, ensuring that they already have buy-in prior to that opening session. What keeps you up at night? What one learning are you looking to take with you? What does success look like in your role? Share the results and tailor the content to address the feedback.
ICEBREAKERS: People still connect with people. So create space, such as breakout rooms, for community builders. For smaller, more familiar groups, choose an easy, organic approach by posting a trivia fact and prompting attendees to identify the corresponding person.
For larger events, networking tools can add the needed pizazz, such as Icebreaker, an online event platform that connects groups through activities and games, or Brella, which can pair attendees one-on-one for mentorship and networking.
BREAKS: Don’t let your planned pre-session or break time become dead space. Offer live entertainment (magicians? favorite bands? comedians?) as an opener or midway through a session when attendees experience visual fatigue. Offer a fitness challenge during the breaks or host a virtual scavenger hunt. (Winner gets good swag!)
SWAG: Speaking of goodies … leverage opportunities to host giveaways, rewarding those that participate in challenges, complete surveys or simply register for sessions. (Check out a candy bag of fun ideas here.)
INTERACTIVE SURVEYS: Utilize live polls to get real-time feedback, direct where presenters spend more time or get a pulse on the knowledge level and needs of your audience.
PLAYLISTS: Tailored tunes speak to the heart. Create a playlist of themed songs around your event, and share prior (via email, text or social media event) or as part of the event kick off. Clairemont crafted a playlist to celebrate the 2020 Women in Business Week. (Hey, any jams you would add?)
PARTY IN A BOX: This one is my favorite. Set the atmosphere by sending your participants a box o’ goodies prior to the event, from branded swag to costumes and snacks.
Clairemont clients are cranking out coolness.
Check out these Clairemont clients putting these best practices to best use!
ZOOM THROUGH THE PAGES: Carrie Knowles, author of 40+ years and 2014 Piedmont Laureate, hosts virtual book clubs and writing workshops. With her sweet spot of 12-15 attendees, Carrie fashions an interactive format with storytelling, open dialogue and real-time exercises. For her book clubs, she helps create the ambience of the book by encouraging attendees to order food and beverages that fit the theme of the novel.
TUNES ON TIRES: Wendell Falls, one of the largest master-planned communities in the Triangle, keeps its residents connected through a bevy of socially distanced themes and events. Last month, Wendell Falls replaced its hallmark outdoor concerts with a traveling band. The Chatham Rabbits set up its band on a trailer and road tripped through neighborhoods, regaling porch-side guests with its storytelling and songs.
VINO AND VERBIAGE: Vita Vite, Raleigh’s acclaimed wine bar and art gallery, created a legacy of book clubs where friends gathered over a glass of wine to discuss their monthly read. VV owner Lindsay Rice concocted a special set up by welcoming her guests to BYOB (Bring Your Own Blankets) and join her on the spacious lawn outside her North Hills location. Groups could order a favorite wine/beer and cheese plate from the bar and “pod up” into self-made mini discussion groups on the lawn. Blanket + beverage + book = beloved good time.
Events are our specialty.
And we have an invitation for you.
- Borrow a few of our good ideas!
- Out of ideas? Email us to tap into our expertise!