By Nick Gold
Humans are social creatures, so it is no wonder that being kept within our four walls is something that does not come naturally to most. A live and face-to-face experience is something people crave. Shared moments and experiences between audiences are something that forever stick in our minds like photographs.
However, Covid-19 has halted those one-off experiences, the curated magical touches, cannot be felt right now. Of course, we understand that an experience through a screen cannot measure up to one in real life, but they are different in many ways. So, the conference and events industry need to re-imagine, not replicate. We need to focus on what can still deliver a unique and valuable experience in a virtual world. We need to deliver memories where the scope for imagination is only limited by the technology supplying it.
And so, where does this imagination come from? Where does the adrenaline rush, sense of wonder and amazement from live experiences come from? My answer is that there can only be one place right now and that is from the content. Without the opportunity to engage the full range of senses, we must focus on what the audience will hear and see on their screen.
There is no doubt that over time, as we get used to the new virtual world and we start to explore the boundaries that we have imposed on ourselves and see how we can push them, then the experiential side of the virtual event will improve and enhance the experience for the attendee. In the meantime, the focus has to be on mastering the content.
With the virtual environment having no barriers to entry, the glut of content available to an individual is ever expanding. This availability carries the burden of an expectation of free content, but this is an education process of a marketplace that has become front and centre of people’s perspectives. Elevating a virtual event through the content it delivers will create value above and beyond the ‘free webinar’. For all of us in the event and conference industry, while the live event is not feasible, this differentiation of the ‘free webinar’ from the ‘virtual event’ is critical and its messaging needs to lay bare the comparison.
To put it crudely, this is the difference between watching your favourite band at a sold-out Wembley Stadium or a cover band playing an interpretation of their songs in the pub on a Saturday night. The free webinar might deliver the same information, but it is background noise. Delivery and how we communicate is so important to keep an audience engaged.
It is challenging by there is no doubt the opportunity we have right now is unprecedented. There are no historical comparisons, we have a totally clean slate to work with. For the events industry to recover, thrive and prosper, the key is in delivery.
We must look to spark new ideas, educate, innovate, create, network, and share dialogue in an open conversation. That experience alone will forever be embedded in the mind and soul of the individual who was sitting in front of their device. The content and how it is delivered is far more important than ever before and will be a game changer for the events industry as a whole.
Nick Gold is MD of Speakers Corner and has been elected as President of the International Association of Speakers Bureaus.