Digital and hybrid events? What a development in recent years! Such event forms will certainly replace some traditional presentations or seminars in the long term, precisely because they can fulfil the event objectives just as well or even better. Soon the coexistence of physical live productions, digital events and hybrid forms will be a matter of course.
Speaking of the "best": Are there certain success factors that distinguish good from bad digital events? Definitely. But these success factors are by no means all brand new, we basically already know them from the classic organisation: from professional invitation management to an experienced moderator to a target group-appropriate programme to a fruitful networking atmosphere.
In virtual space, however, events have a very decisive difference: because every guest, participant or visitor is always only one mouse movement away from the "exit". A quick click and gone! Usually for good. So how do you keep these people interested? Better yet, how do you get them so excited about the event that they actively interact with the host and the other guests and even contribute to the agenda?
The following "learnings" do not claim to be complete; they are largely based on experiences that moweb research has had the pleasure of making as organiser of several of its own events. The following applies to all points: Everything can be done, but not everything has to be done; after all, it is always a question of goals and, of course, of budget.
Here is a sample invitation process, described as if in fast motion:
Six, three and two weeks before the event: sending physical invitation packages, follow-up material and the classic reminder: "SOON it's time!
Seven, five and three days before the event: New facts about the speakers, exciting links to get you in the mood and another reminder: "TOMORROW is the day!
Six hours and 60 minutes before the start: The revelation of another highlight and the final reminder: "It's almost time!
If the notifications always convey a real news value, they arouse excitement and expectation in the target groups and are perceived as a valuable service.
The early mailing of a material package makes the difference when a creative reference to the event occasion is recognisable. A concrete example: boxes including a high-quality cocktail shaker and the corresponding ingredients for mixing to enhance the evening event's supporting programme. In this way, the digital event is delivered into the living space of the participants. Another example: The simultaneous "unboxing" of packages is staged to emotionally create a sense of community.
Even more than in the past, it is necessary to communicate to the target group what specific benefits they can expect from the program. And who they will meet virtually. And where. For example in chats, forums or in networking lounges. Collaboration tools, with which the guests can collaborate creatively on the event content, e.g. by means of whiteboards, are particularly beneficial. And not just during, but also before and after the event.
As with basically every event, a professional moderator should lead through the programme to guide the guests and yes, also pay attention to breaks so that the participants are not overloaded with too much information and threaten to "switch off". Several virtual rooms require a correspondingly (high) level of staffing on the part of the organiser, so that contact persons are always available in real time, wherever they are.
Just as wheelchair users at trade fairs are prevented from progressing by an (unnecessary) barrier, there are also barriers in the digital sphere that scare away potential guests or even exclude them from participating. A good user experience (UX) is the keyword here, i.e. an easy-to-understand, intuitive user guidance and, for example, no unnecessarily complicated access procedure to start the event. It is a must for every organiser to send different people on test runs in advance and observe whether the "usability" is really given.
If it is a full-day event followed by an evening programme, frequent breaks are obligatory, otherwise sooner or later screen fatigue will set in, which will ultimately lead to the participant's exit. That would be a pity for the entertainment programme. By the way: As a general rule, after-work activities should not start before 6 pm. The willingness to sit down in front of the computer again is greater if there is still time for the family or a run in the park after the working day.
An event dramaturgy tailored to the target groups with a surprising beginning, a stimulating middle section and an (announced) highlight at the end is one thing - but not enough. As in real life, it is about creating spaces of opportunity to give a guest the maximum of self-determination. This includes the free choice of different forums, chats, virtual (retreat) rooms or even the opportunity to meet a VIP guest exclusively. It also includes the choice of several camera perspectives during the programme. This is the only way to get out of the outdated "transmitter-receiver straitjacket".
An absolute binary for every event manager, but the security and quality of the internet line, microphones, cameras or even the digital event platform should be considered fundamentally insecure. Consequently, the following applies: Test. Test. Test. And in that order and with that frequency. Wherever possible, technical redundancies are a sensible investment. Because while the moderator can at least make himself heard with a loud voice in the event of a power failure at a trade fair, the virtual guest is usually: gone!
Should a digital event really end after the closing words? No. Because only then do the organisers give their guests the chance to continue the discussions or whiteboard projects they started at the event. An elegant form of binding the target group to the host beyond the event.
The choice of the specific platform depends, of course, on one's own objectives, but is rarely decisive in the war. The decisive factor is rather how an organiser uses existing features as creatively as possible and considers: How do I increase the individual benefit for my guests? Or in other words: How do I turn the event into a valuable resource for everyone involved - including the host himself?
Of course, even the best digital event will not come close to the emotionality, authenticity and liveliness of a live event. A certain amount of sterility will always remain. Nevertheless, it is already a valuable addition to the event landscape, with sometimes considerable advantages in terms of efficiency (e.g. location costs), effectiveness (e.g. technical presentation options), sustainability (e.g. travel costs), convenience (e.g. time required for participants) or the sheer range of potential guests.
With every event, we all learn something new. Because technology is also developing rapidly - with what feels like weekly leaps in innovation. What's more, our moweb guests also gain new experiences with every digital event, which is reflected in a constantly rising level of expectation.