This past summer President Bill Clinton gave a keynote speech at a Microsoft partner conference. He talked about his vision for creating a global conference to aid economic development – “I would like to know that within two years you could have a meeting like this in sub-Saharan Africa with people from 130 countries.” I thought that would be cool and wondered what it would take to pull something like that together. More importantly, most of the event’s audience would not be able to make that trip and how would you create a digital version of that in-person event so the virtual attendees would get just as much if not more from the online experience.
Here were a few initial thoughts if I had to pull this together:
- What are the core benefits for customers to attend a conference: to learn more about the content, to teach others about their expertise, to meet subject matter experts, get answers to specific questions, to inspire new ideas, meet vendors who can provide solutions, to set up formal meetings, to make serendipitous relationships, engage with community, to get away from the office, to party with like-minded people, etc.
- Once you determine the core customer benefits – how can you create a compelling digital experience for each item for the online audience? How can you digitize 1-to-1 and 1-to-few meetings, Birds of a Feather sessions, stimulate community, provide access to the content, allow users to engage experts, etc. Develop a simple user interface which ties these digital experiences together.
- Once you determine the core customer benefits – do more of it at your in-person event. A common concern about virtual events is that it will cannibalize the in-person attendance. However, there are many features of an in-person event that is just not replicable in the digital world. How can you enhance these user benefits for your event?
If you work with a major virtual event vendor they’ve probably thought through many of these points and built the features into their platform. However, they don’t know your audience as well as you do and it’s a worthwhile exercise to run through as you plan your in-person, virtual and hybrid events.