The Five Forgotten C’s Of Virtual Events
June 20, 2011
No two virtual events are the same. VIVA Creative has produced virtual product launches that are lead generation machines, virtual user groups that are content-driven, virtual wedding expos that generate commerce, virtual annual meetings that extend reach, and many others. While some virtual events have similar goals, they are never identical. To effectively meet your business goals, it’s reasonable to expect that your virtual event will require some level of customization – yet many platforms promise “off the shelf” solutions. While the virtual events business needs to be scalable to be sustainable, flexibility can sometimes be a challenge. Choose wisely and make sure that your technology platform offers enough customization to effectively meet your objectives.
The power of content is enormous. Good content can save a bad virtual event. Bad content can kill an otherwise great virtual event. You can’t afford to step out without great content. At VIVA, we place tremendous emphasis on helping clients develop a content strategy that will support their intended virtual event outcomes. Rarely will this strategy include a back-of-ballroom camera filming a talking head with slides. We have established best practices for virtual event content – and the industry has responded. Ask yourself, does your content educate, entertain, inform, persuade, or change perceptions? Content doesn’t have to be expensive or flashy, but it does have to be high quality, engaging, and designed specifically for this interactive virtual medium. Settle for nothing else.
After content, comes context. Context describes how the virtual experience is wrapped; it explains how the experience unfolds. What is the design, background, environment, framework, or situation surrounding your virtual event? What navigation, copy, branding, colors, and style imbue the experience with meaning? What are the circumstances under which the event is created, including its function, purpose, timing, and intended audience? How do all of these things combine into a branded audience experience? What relationships will be formed because of your event, either online or in-person? If you get the context right, it will magnify your content in a way that resonates. If you design your virtual event without considering context, you will be making a huge mistake – because context is how audiences subconsciously process information online.
Technology should make interactivity fluid, intelligent, and incredibly useful to virtual event attendees, but interactive features on many platforms are clunky and awkward. Innovation is desperately needed in this area. We’ve learned that strong content presented in the right context is the key to unlocking connection. Connection is the Holy Grail for many virtual event producers – how do we get people to engage, interact, and socialize in a virtual event setting? People are more likely to engage and actively respond to content when the context inspires them. This is why networks like AMC-TV turn to VIVA to create their virtual experiences. We understand the intersection of context and content to create interactive, fun, and discoverable virtual experiences that connect people and keep them engaged for hours – not minutes.
Most virtual event platforms are built to be scalable and repeatable – with template-driven administrator tools. Financially it might make sense, but from a user-experience perspective it can be lackluster. As marketers, we know our audiences expect fresh, unique experiences. Don’t underestimate the importance of originality and creativity in virtual events. You need to take your audience by surprise, strengthen your brand, and imbue the experience with value. Don’t underestimate the value of design in the UI. Your virtual event is a reflection of your brand and your customers are watching.