Regardless of our outlook on the meetings industry, we can no longer disregard the so-called digital event sector (some refer to it as virtual). In 2020, there have been many investments made in this sector. To illustrate, I want to highlight some investments of the past year: Hopin $165 mil., Bizzabo $138 mil. and Streamyard $250 mil.
Of course, the most recognisable growth indicator of the sector is the rise of ZOOM stock. Although the stock slightly stagnated at the end of the year, its value is still very high and settled at around $383,40. Where the development will halt, is hard to foresee. What we do know is that this segment of the meetings industry is here to stay. If we ignore this fact, we may find ourselves struggling in development. When we asked our colleagues whether digital events will stay with us after the crisis, 40% of them answered in the affirmative. It is likely that among them there are several introverted participants of the younger generation, who prefer such events.
A phenomenon has occurred that psychiatrists refer to as ZOOM fatigue. It is known that video calls cost us as much energy as live meetings. According to scientists, technology is interfering with our usual complicated human communication methods that have been configured over centuries to help humankind survive. The problem that seems impossible to solve is complete synchronisation, but many things can go wrong, even from a technical viewpoint. How this challenge will be dealt with in the future is hard to predict. Nevertheless, the meetings industry has lived through numerous crises (I have been through three major ones myself). After each crisis, the meetings industry grew stronger.
Above all, I am most worried about the immense lightness with which the IT sectors offer us “heaven on earth”. If we believe their marketing promises, then organising digital events is “easy peasy”, and the profits are greater and faster than those generated by pyramid schemes. Heaven on earth, which can solve any problem an event organiser can imagine for just 10K. It is remarkable what finds its way into my inbox on a daily basis.
Whenever I talk to colleagues who have organised a complex digital version of events, the situation is anything but “easy peasy”. At the last digital event Conventa Trend Bar New Europe, we unanimously agreed that organising digital events is arduous and more complex compared to organising classic events. Consequently, the threshold for organisers has increased significantly. If before the crisis practically anyone could organise an event, it now takes significantly more knowledge, capital, technology and professionality. Thus, there are surprisingly few serious digital events.
Despite the intolerably easy promises made about the simplicity of organising digital events, we have to stay in touch with reality. The world of event organising has not been turned inside-out and has not become simplified, as many from the digital events sector like to portray. It has actually become more complex and requires a more professional approach from teams. The event world requires teams that unite and appoint new positions such as 3D designers, music arrangers, digital moderators, etc.
If you wish to create a truly great digital event, then the following ten elements are absolutely imperative, without which no digital event could exist. We made certain of this at our most recent digital event Conventa Trend Bar New Europe.
1. Creating event content
Although artificial intelligence is capable of creating content, it is far from creating the added value that human intelligence can. We attend events chiefly due to their exceptional content. Frankly, not even the most advanced computer can replace the human added value, and I believe this will remain so in the future.
2. Events are created from the heart
To create great digital events, we require much emotional intelligence. In other words, if your events are generic and dull and your communication one-sided, you have a recipe for disaster. Conversely, creating an authentic relationship, where both sides give and receive, is crucial. It requires a significant amount of emotional intelligence, which programme solutions cannot offer.
3. Event creativity
Not even the finest technology can replace the creativity of the best event organisers. It is creativity that separates man from machine, even though the machine is always faster and smarter when it comes to automatisation and optimisation. Creative surprises spice up events, and in my opinion, the future will be no different.
4. Digital management of the event community
Programme solutions can offer us help when recognising event participants’ behaviour. However, a ton of creativity and knowledge is needed to connect a community with our event. It is this field of digital marketing where digital preachers offer much and give little. It goes without saying that artificial intelligence needs to be transferred to people.
As event organisers, we need to be able to connect effectively with the participants, which is something artificial intelligence has not been able to do yet. Even if artificial intelligence ever succeeds in connecting with the audience, it will never be able to replace intuition, creativity, and the use of all the senses that are unique for live events. Thus, we need good mediators between technology and event participants. The magic word is interactivity.
6. Production and postproduction
For creating a serious digital event, we need an excellent team. Such a team can quickly amount to ten or more professionals from different branches; from multimedia technicians and cameramen, to sound engineers and lighting technicians. As long as we want to execute events professionally, this part of the story is necessary.
7. Event analytics
Digital events produce an enormous amount of information. The key question is how to distinguish the valuable from the irrelevant. Analytics shows what participants did before, during and after the event. Data is strategically important for clients. Nevertheless, the wheat needs to be separated from the chaff, which only experienced and competent professionals know how to do.
You must decide whether you will broadcast your event directly, pre-record it or make a combination of both. Considering this, the key criterion is the level of interactivity you wish to achieve. Next to that, the length of individual content segments is equally vital. Half an hour is the length which most digital formats support. Anything longer than that can be problematic.
9. Networking and event formats
Networking is one of the main added values of live events. With regard to networking, the choice of format plays a crucial role. Luckily, there are numerous possibilities. However, you must know your focus group well, understand what will work, and whether a quiz or a chatbox will suffice, or if you will resort to more sophisticated gamification forms.
10. Sponsors and partners
They are the most problematic part of digital events. Although there are several options, it comes down to your partners. Some are satisfied with a virtual stand, while others expect complex branding and content marketing. It is here that we can innovate and create new forms of monetisation.
KEY OUTTAKES FROM OUR EVENT
Out-take 1: Video streaming
Video streaming has to be flawless. Wherever you might broadcast your event, it has to function without interruptions. The combination we use is video mixing via vMix and live streaming to Vimeo or other social media platforms.
Out-take 2: Video conferencing platform
For a successful digital event, it is vital to showcase created content. A chat room, file exchange, interactive tables and other interactive tools have become standard now. In any case, choosing a suitable platform is relevant to the needs of the event itself. You get what you pay for.
Out-take 3: Professional studio
If you desire to make your digital events appear professional, we sincerely recommend using a professional studio. Most studios in Europe unite the best professionals and enable professional pre-and post-production, as well as video editing of the entire recorded event.
Out-take 4: KISS
When organising digital events, everything should be based around the KISS principle (Keep it Simple, Stupid). Our advice is to check your video-conference system. If access is overcomplicated, consider changing the platform.
Out-take 5: Lead generation
Do not imagine that you will create the same connections as a live event. That is simply impossible, although you can at least partly simulate a live event situation. Thus, you should constantly follow and analyse information about the event.
12 PRO TIPS FOR ORGANISING A SUCCESSFUL DIGITAL EVENT
1. Never ever try to copy your live event into its digital counterpart. It simply does not work, and we can prove that anytime.
2. Registration for a digital event should be super simple and quick. If you fail in this respect, participants will go away before the digital event even starts.
3. The “waiting room” or “digital hall” of your event is extremely important and needs to ensure that participants stay with you from the very start of the event and follow the programme they are interested in.
4. The number of participants that attend an event is fewer than the number of registered participants. It is smart to figure out how to increase the number of active participants.
5. The more complex the content, the higher the number of necessary elements.
6. Following the event, your videos need to appear appealing. Make sure that the videos are equipped with proper graphics. Post-production is vital.
7. The event format has to be dynamic, whereas the speakers’ presentations should be short and sweet. Dynamic content is imperative.
8. Static cameras are boring. Ensure that your event is filmed from different angles. Hence, you require a professional camera crew.
9. Make sure there is additional content during the breaks. Engagement features, Q&A, polling and numerous other opportunities are a must.
10. Guarantee professional technical support throughout the event. At the same time, ensure integration with various tools you otherwise use.
11. E-marketing needs to be included in your system of communicating with participants. It is an important criterion for choosing a suitable platform for your event.
12. An event’s online anchor is extremely important. It has to be rich in content, easy to use and fast to (re)load.
In the past ten months of digitalisation, another matter has become obvious. Only about 20 to 30% of magical platforms are actually easy to use and follow the KISS model. On the contrary, most solutions are complex and hard to get around. They can quickly scare participants, who decide to go elsewhere after a few minutes.
Now, I want to appeal to all digital events gurus to try and convince me that organising is, in fact, “easy peasy” and that I am plainly wrong or too old to understand the brave new world of digital events. I will be truly pleased if someone from the digital event sector could enlighten me. In the meantime, I will closely follow how many video conferencing systems stay with us.
Is ZOOM really free?
Almost unanimously, this question would get the answer that it is free. Perhaps someone would add that it is free for up to 100 participants or only free for 40-minute meetings. The freemium business model of Zoom has, therefore, been generally well-received.
In practice, though, you require several extensions and add-ons to make everything work well. For professional use, the best option is to choose the Zoom Video Webinar, which includes everything a professional might need (https://zoom.us/pricing/webinar).
Why is ZOOM’s commercial model so important? Primarily because practically every provider is copying their business model. In a way, it has become a benchmark of the meetings industry.