The migration to online events has gone from preference to necessity. Even after restrictions on social distancing subside, the reasons for moving traditional destination events to virtual online equivalents will continue as both presenters and attendees become more acclimated to new conventionalities and the economic and environmental advantages of limiting travel continue. The following is both a guide to setting up successful online events and a new approach to planning, imagining, and developing events. 

gravitation  //  ONLINE EVENTS

A New Event Mindset

It's hard now to imagine your personal and professional life without a smartphone. Yet we managed fine back in the day of phones with cords or flip tops and key pads, because we knew the rules and had no perception of what was coming. When Steve Jobs showed us a new world of possibilities by introducing a personal screen that reacted to touch, we had no idea its potential. We though Angry Birds were pretty neat. Online events are also on the verge of such a break through. But we are currently in the "Angry Birds" stage. The next step will be aligning technology with the path of human behavior. 

Tools like Online Meetings (Zoom), Streaming Video Platforms, Event Augmentation Mobile Apps, Chat Threads, Slack, Facebook Live, and more, have given us a collection of disjointed starting blocks. They are our current perception of what an online event is. Though significant advancements, no one is at risk of confusing them with the experience of going to a destination event. They are still a shadow puppet version of the real thing. You can watch concert footage of Woodstock, but if you ask your uncle what it was like, he will simply say "You had to be there".

Creating an online version of what was traditionally a destination event, starts with asking "what will it mean to be there?" The answer will and should be as different as there are different kinds of events, and different objectives for both event presenters and event attendees. Next ask "what makes it an event?" A live stream of a speakers presentation is not an event, especially if it can be replayed long after it's over. It is simply a viewing experience. An event is an engagement, as in, it engages its attendees. Engaging content is only the beginning. 

We won't set up stage lights or buffet lines in the offices or living rooms of every online attendee, and the goal is not to recreate live events online. The goal is to pinpoint the objectives of live events and find new and real ways of accomplishing those objectives. Primary objectives are easier to identify, like "present company strategy" or "announce new product". But many objectives are secondary qualities and consequences that come along free for the ride with destination events. For their online equivalent, they need to be engineered into the event. Heres a list of just some of those secondary objectives. 

Shared Experience

It's the difference between seeing a movie alone or with a theater full of people. There is a sense of "We" to a destination event. A group momentum. A "we discovered this together" impact that shouldn't be lost.

Choice and Discovery

We go to destination events not only to listen, but to discover. We have choices to make based on our interest and objectives. We need to bring that into online events. 

Networking and Community Building

We go to live events to meet people, make connections, feel a community with interest groups, make sales connections, and find potential service partners. Face to face. We want to chat with experts and tell our story.
 

Hype

Both presenters and attendees don't want to just inform or learn, we want to get excited about it. It's not hype in a phony or manipulative way, but in a true impactful way. Its production value and showmanship that create lasting impression and action. 

Brand Impact

No mater the type of event, both attendees and organizers want brand impact. A visual and immersive dive into the thing that brought us together. A zoom meetings black grid of nameless faces is the antithesis of this.

Story and Momentum

Events have a beginning and an end. They have a theme. They unfold. They are a story to be told. They have a launch, a series of branches, a highlight, and a conclusion that create momentum and resonance. 

Attendee Identity

When we go to events, we bring ourselves. We get a lanyard with our name on it. We come ready to be recognized as a member and representative. We don't have a camera off or mute button. 

Production Value

When we go to events, we bring ourselves. We get a lanyard with our name on it. We come ready to be recognized as a member and representative. We don't have a camera off or mute button. 

These are things we take for granted when creating a destination event, but have cut from our expectations 
of online events. We do this less as a result of the limitations of technology, but more from our lack of planning and intentional design. The goal is not to produce a virtual recreation of them, but to create new conventions that accomplish the same result.

Building the Better Online Event

Notice we have avoided the term Live Event and Virtual Event, for the duller and more archaic term Online Event. A video stream can be live or recorded, neither are an event, and to call your event virtual is to admit it is not a real thing, but a fake facsimile of something it can not be. No, we are creating something real, that just happens to be online from remote locations. Go into it with this belief, and make it it's own true thing.  

If you have a track record of successful destination events, then you have a blueprint of objectives already in hand. If not, you have license to invent a completely new thing. Either way, the process is the same — start with the objectives.

Not just the primary objectives, but the secondary objectives as well. Objectives for both the event hosts and attendees. What do both want out of the event? What are the value expectations from both sides? 

If online events are an emerging convention (no pun intended), then it will take some visionary thinking to see them emerge. That's a lot of "well what if we..." thinking. What are the guidelines for this trial and error approach to event planning? A firm grasp of available technology, its limitations and advantages, is a necessary component of success, but just as important is an understanding of human behavior. People will accept new conventions, even if they challenge past norms, if the content and results are real rather than contrived. If the content of the event has value, the method of delivery will be accepted. If the social interactions are authentic, the method of interaction will be accepted. So the key to a successful online event is no different than its destination equivalent — it's the value and authenticity of the content and interactions.

 

The only inescapable difference is the venue. It's not a convention hall, it's a 16 x 9 computer screen. We can see and her it, we can not touch it. That should not leave us to conclude we can not interact with it. Finding new ways of interacting will define emerging online event conventions. 

The ingredients of building a successful online event are much the same as the ingredients of successful destination events. That should not be a surprise, but because online events in the past have not been seen as a possible equivalent, that thinking has not been applied. The following is a list of ingredients that should be applied in the same regard as they were for destination events.

Planning

Preproduction

Logistics

Branding/Theme/Messaging

Presentation Development

Attendee Services

Pre and Post Engagement

Planning and Pre-Production

Gravitation designs custom corporate templates to pitch decks that represent your brand, product and service story. We design presentations to service the presenter and the brand through content development, great design, captivating visuals, and clear information. 

Custom Templates
Presentation Organization
Slide Deck Refresh
Pitch Development
Story Crafting
Mission & Vision

Presentations for Curriculums

Learning Module Systems 

Planning and Pre-Production

Gravitation designs custom corporate templates to pitch decks that represent your brand, product and service story. We design presentations to service the presenter and the brand through content development, great design, captivating visuals, and clear information. 

Custom Templates
Presentation Organization
Slide Deck Refresh
Pitch Development
Story Crafting
Mission & Vision

Presentations for Curriculums

Learning Module Systems 

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