This is a guest post written by Mallory Gott MA, CAE, founder + creative director of G+A | An Experiential Design Firm. Mallory has traveled the globe designing amazing experiences for people from all walks of life and across a breadth of industries and specialties. From product and brand repositioning to customer acquisition to organizational cultural restructuring, she helps for-and non-profit clients apply G+A’s proprietary design thinking framework to discover solutions to their seemingly unsolvable problems.
The Lottery Effect
Really, think about it. What would you do if you learned that you had just won the jackpot, that you were a newly minted multimillionaire? Most of us could rattle off a series of replies as if we’d been rehearsing them in the mirror each morning for decades. “Quit my job, travel the world, hire a private chef.” The list could go on ad infinitum.
Now, consider how doing those things would make you feel. Quitting your job? Most likely, that would evoke feelings of freedom and/or cheerfulness. Traveling the world? Adventurousness, excitement, or giddiness. Hiring a private chef? Calm and relaxation.
Yes, each of the things we’d dream of doing were we to win the lottery, we dream of doing because we believe they produce for us highly desirable feelings: freedom, excitement, relaxation, etc. This idea, that solving an unsolvable problem, i.e., winning the lottery, produces specific outcomes, i.e., hiring a private chef, which enables us to experience desired feelings (relaxation) is what we call The Lottery Effect. Interestingly, The Lottery Effect is not just restricted to fantasizing about the mega millions.
As event creators, we often fall prey to The Lottery Effect. We set ourselves up for disappointment believing the false paradigm that only in solving an unsolvable problem can produce specific outcomes, which in turn evoke the “right” feelings both for attendees and ourselves.
Case in point, we ask ourselves questions like, “How can I create a virtual event that meets attendees’ needs and successfully replaces a place-based conference?” Upon closer inspection, however, this seemingly innocuous question falls squarely into Lottery Effect territory, sounding, to our unconscious minds, something like this:
“Once we can convince attendees that we’ve created a virtual event that will meet their needs and they believe will adequately replace our annual conference, we will achieve our registration goals, better satisfaction scores, and an improved bottom line, which will make us feel more secure, confident, and satisfied.”
Notice any similarities?
Winning the Lottery
Once I win the lottery
Once I convince attendees that we’ve created a virtual event that will meet their needs and that they believe adequately replaces our annual conference
Quit my job Travel the World Hire a Private Chef
Ample registration High attendee satisfaction Increased revenue
Freedom Adventure Relaxation
Confidence Security Satisfaction
The Lottery Effect: A W(ere)wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
Although the unsolvable problem questions that comprise the first portion of our Lottery Effect statements almost always seem important and worthwhile, they are actually wolves in sheep’s clothing, or, more accurately, werewolves in sheep’s clothing. In reality, these seemingly crucial questions create an even more demanding series of implied requirements for success setting us on an extremely narrow path to victory.
When we begin with questions that so narrowly define success, we are forced to identify elusive answers to those questions, silver bullets if you will, as the only means by which we can generate outcomes that will enable us to experience desired feelings. Suddenly, the search for silver bullets, rather than the design of experiences that evoke universally recognizable feelings, drives everything we do.
In the case of winning the lottery, the question “How do I win the lottery,” and the even more demanding requirements it implies (in order to win the lottery, I must identify the correct sequence of numbers from an enormous array of choices, pick the correct date on which to buy a ticket, and so on) may seem laughable, but when viewed through the lens of virtual event design, they are much more sobering for teams who hadn’t realized the sizeable, self-imposed roadblocks they are navigating.
From the well-meaning question, “How do we convince attendees that we’ve created a virtual event that will meet their needs and they believe adequately replaces our annual conference,” springs forth a slew of nearly insurmountable, implied obstacles. The question transforms into this unspoken statement:
“In order to convince attendees that we’ve created a virtual event that will meet their needs and they believe adequately replaces our annual conference, we must:
Accurately identify and prioritize the needs of a wide variety of individuals;
Convince that same diverse group that we hold the monopoly on the definition of their needs and can simultaneously fulfill them via a single event;
Define “adequate replacement” for a divergent body of stakeholders and garner their universal acceptance of that definition; and
Achieve attendance, revenue, and satisfaction goals.”
Many groups never recognize how heavily implied, absolute truths such as these influence their evaluation and prioritization of the design of the million tiny touchpoints that create a virtual event experience. They unknowingly dilute the potency of a feelings-led design approach, crippling their ability to create experiences which resonate with people on a much deeper level of emotions.
“We’ve just got to get through this,” becomes a common refrain and rallying cry once the Lottery Effect has created its false binary, which tauntingly jeers, “discover the solution to your unsolvable problem by navigating a difficult obstacle course of implied demands in the hopes that people will connect with what you create…or fail.”
The Lottery Effect: You’re Already a Winner
Fortunately, the Lottery Effect problem is far from unsolvable. In fact, it only requires a paradigm inversion. In place of a “solve first, feel next” approach, G+A’s 4D experiential design thinking framework employs our unique “feel first, solve next” approach. What do feelings have to do with virtual event design? The same thing they have to do with good design of any kind: universality.
When we begin with feelings first, the difficulty, struggle, confusion, and other commonly accepted ‘realities’ inherent to virtual event design fall away. Why? Because feelings are universally understood on a level that needs no definition for attendees or producers, effectively creating immediate success and rendering decision-making and evaluation effortless.
Returning one last time to the quandary, “How do we convince attendees that we’ve created a virtual event that will meet their needs and they believe adequately replaces our annual conference,” we can see how a feelings-led approach truly shines.
In place of trying to convince attendees, we can ask ourselves:
Are we confident in the program we’ve produced?
Are we confident in our messaging about the program, both tone and content?
Are we confident in the level of innovation our program includes?
Instead of grappling with how best to meet attendees’ needs, we can ask ourselves:
Are we secure in our approach to assessing those needs?
Are we secure in our efforts to address them?
Are we secure in our communication about what we’ve done and why?
In lieu of hoping to create an adequate replacement for an annual conference, we can ask ourselves:
Are we satisfied that we have designed a high-quality virtual event experience that can stand on its own two feet?
Are we satisfied with the experience we created for ourselves as a team while we planned and produced the event?
Are we satisfied that we’ve done the best we could, no matter the monetary outcome?
If and when we respond to a feelings-led question in the negative, we need only ask simple follow-ups to regain our footing and move forward confidently: How can we evoke desired feelings as we design this touchpoint? How can we once again feel first and solve next?
The days of cramming into large convention halls are out of sight, and integrating eLearning into education strategies is the future. Backed by a team of specialists ready to go the extra mile, CommPartners has been helping organizations do just that while creating dynamic virtual events for over 20 years.
Part of our mission at CommPartners, especially now, is to provide our community with useful information and learning tools. To meet that goal, we decided to offer a scaled-back version of our in-person User Conference planned for this summer. We created PEAK 2020 Virtual Bootcamp to help associations and organizations adapt and prepare for the transition to virtual events. During Bootcamp, you will build a Virtual Conference toolkit and contribute to our learning community.
Looking for more reasons to attend?
Hear from CommPartners experts on creating a successful virtual event.
Learn how to transition your in-person conference into a Virtual Conference.
Understand the benefits of including Virtual Conferences in your education curriculum going forward.
Hear success stories about organizations that have successfully implemented Virtual Conferences and other virtual events.
Attend 2020 Virtual PEAK Bootcamp from the comfort of your home.
Gain ongoing access to Bootcamp resources and past sessions from PEAK conferences.
Walk away with a Virtual Conference toolkit to use as you create your online learning strategy.
Join CommPartners experts for an afternoon of sessions on July 31, 2020, that will expand your knowledge of virtual events and prepare your organization for the future! Register now!
Were you gearing up for our 2020 PEAK User-Group Conference scheduled for July 30 & 31, 2020, at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.? We aren’t out of the game yet; we will back at the ballpark for the PEAK User Group Conference in the summer of 2021!
This is a guest post written by Jordan Schwartz, president, and co-founder of Pathable, an event app and website platform for conferences and tradeshows. He left academic psychology for the lure of software building and spent 10 years at Microsoft leading the development of consumer-facing software. Frustrated with the conferences he attended there, he left Microsoft in 2007 with the goal of delivering more value and better networking opportunities through a next-generation conference app. Jordan moonlights as a digital nomad, returning often to his hometown of Seattle to tend his beehives.
A lot goes into event planning and management. From the conception of the event’s big idea to everything leading up to the day of the event (and even after), different event logistics are deployed to make the event a success.
When you have put all the required logistics in place but then a disaster like the COVID-19 pandemic strikes, you can either choose to cancel your event or look for an alternative. Thankfully, many event organizers are finding pivoting to virtual events as the best option to save costs and retain their audience.
When you have decided to pivot, you have to go back to the drawing board to restrategize and decide which of your event logistics will be relevant to your virtual event production. The following are some ideas of what can stay or can be adjusted in order to have a seamless pivot:
Technology is required to produce any kind of event and your technology requirement depends on your event type and budget. Some solutions often deployed for events include:
Event planning software
Facial recognition and check-in apps
RFID badges for audience verification
Credential Management and Payment Integration
3D Projection and displays with spatial augmented reality
Live streaming and On-demand event video platforms
Lead retrieval, etc.
Whatever technology plans you have made for your event will require an overhaul when pivoting. While you might still retain some of the solutions mentioned above if you had them in your plans already, an all-in-one software is most appropriate for pivoting.
Event Stage Reservation and Production Management
You will need an event stage if you do not plan that your speakers will live stream from their own base. This might be an actual stage in an event hall or a studio from where you can produce and live-stream your event.
This will also include other things you need for your stage set up such as decor, background (if not using a virtual background), seats for speakers, a podium (if necessary), screen, sound production, and any other requirements that suit your event plan.
If you have chosen to use a live stage, you will also need the services of your onsite production crew. The team will include people managing the stage, audio-visuals, and other support required to produce and live stream high-quality content.
Registration and Credential Management
You will have to retain some of your registration logistics such as your online registration platform. However, some other aspects of credential management strategy such as on-site check-in, etc will have to change. Your registration data should be integrated with or migrated to the virtual event platform to facilitate easy attendee login and use of attendee data that will be required on the platform. These features can be used to create community and facilitate networking.
Event Content Collection/Retrieval and Management
Whatever means or platform being used to collect, retrieve, and manage your event content such as PowerPoint presentations, keynotes, videos, ads, and other prepared content can be retained. This content should be readily available to feed into your virtual event platform anytime.
You can talk to both your content management platform provider and virtual event platform provider to work out modalities for data integration or migration.
Event Activities Scheduling
Your event activities schedule can be retained with some adjustments. Keynotes, panel discussions, and breakout sessions can remain as planned, but you will have to be mindful of timing. The activities should not be longer than an hour because of the short attention span of online audiences.
The tea breaks and meal breaks can be retained. While there may not be actual dining, people can use the time to do whatever they like or even have a meal at their own location.
The networking and happy hours can also take place on the virtual event platform. Attendees can participate in the activities using your mobile event app.
Event Promotion and Marketing
Some parts of your event promotion and marketing plan will remain while some will have to change. You can retain your event website and sustain the momentum of your publicity on social media. However, additional promotional content should be created to portray the new virtual experience, so that prospective attendees can begin to anticipate the event.
In addition, rather than you or your partners producing branded items, the attention should be shifted to producing branded hashtags, images, and short promotional videos that can be publicized on social media.
Sponsor and Exhibitor Management
Your initial plan to give sponsors and exhibitors maximum brand exposure during your live event should be implemented for virtual. Your team should provide guides to sponsors and exhibitors on size and resolutions for branded images and videos. Your team should also work with the virtual platform provider to determine how and where to strategically place the promotional content from sponsors and exhibitors.
You can also create time slots on the platform for attendees and sponsors to manually book appointments with one another. This can be done when all attendee data has already been collected and integrated with the virtual event platform. You can set aside some time before the event when attendees and sponsors are allowed to log on to the platform to book such appointments.
There can also be a virtual exhibit hall where partners display video showcases and other promotional items that attendees can view.
Event Customer Service
For in-person events, situations arise where attendees require assistance and there are standby customer service desk points to attend to such. This aspect should be properly preserved for virtual events as well. Attendees will certainly need assistance for a variety of issues that may come up while using your event platform.
You can provide virtually manned customer service points on your platform or have chatbots to handle and resolve complaints. Your arrangement can also include dial-in numbers in case some attendees are unable to access the platform or are having issues navigating the mobile app.
In order to reduce complaints, you can take all your platform users through a tour of the platform by producing a video guide and sending it to them ahead of the event. You can follow this up with an imagery poll to test their familiarity with the platform.
Event Communication Channel
Establish your communication line of command and assign roles. Your event team should have a separate communication platform apart from the main event platform for planning, implementation, and resolving technical issues.
You can use an event planning and tracking tool so that your team can monitor in real-time how the transition progresses before the event. On the day(s) of the event, there should also be a line of command to designate the troubleshooting and fixing of issues that might come up.
Travel / Accommodation / Entertainment for Event Production Crew
This might seem unnecessary considering that the event is now virtual. However, when you need a site to produce or live stream the event and you require some or all of your speakers and team to be on-site, they have to be catered for throughout the number of days their services would be needed.
So while you are not looking at having a large crowd, do have travel, accommodation, and entertainment plans for your team and your guests.
You should have contingency plans in case of disappointments that may come up during your event production. A common experience is poor network connection or outright network failure. Another one is absence; a speaker might inform you that they are not coming for reasons beyond their control (you can never predict what can happen during a health crisis).
A contingency plan might be to ask the speakers of all major sessions to pre-record and send their presentations even if you plan to bring them on live. Such content can be streamed when speakers don’t show up or if there is a network failure at their end.
To reduce incidences of bugs on the virtual event platform, make sure you do multiple test runs to ensure that everything is working as it should. You can use event volunteers to test out your platform and report any issues.
This includes everything that has to do with lead retrieval, post-event surveys, and others. Your virtual event platform should have features for easy retrieval of data and actionable insights from your event.
You can also use the event’s mobile app to send post-event surveys to attendees, sponsors, exhibitors, and partners to know their experience and measure the impact of your event.
For more virtual events tips and tricks, read CommPartners’ blog. For more information about Pathable, visit their website.
Learning at conferences can happen in two ways: peer-to-peer and from subject matter experts. Often, what initially attracts us to a conference are the impressive keynote speakers or interesting sessions that contribute to our professional development. Subject matter experts facilitate that kind of learning.
We are also drawn to the social aspects of a conference. The opportunity to network and discuss your field with peers is incredibly valuable. This is peer-to-peer learning. However, something we often hear about at CommPartners is the fear that virtual learners will miss out on peer-to-peer learning, the learning that happens in the hallways, at networking events, or during the meal breaks. While nothing can make up for a face-to-face conversation, it is possible to create a community within your online learning environment.
CommPartners’ LMS, or Learning Management System, Elevate, seamlessly integrates with Higher Logic, an organization specializing in interaction and engagement. Higher Logic allows your Virtual Conference to have a dedicated space for free-flowing conversation between learners that can move beyond the classroom and be as structured or as casual as you want. Here are some ways to facilitate peer-to-peer learning using Higher Logic’s community learning tools:
Include a discussion board in each session, adding a new dimension to the speaker’s presentation. This will facilitate a conversation that is specific to that session’s content and won’t get lost in other conversations.
Speakers can pose thought-provoking questions before a session to get learners thinking before the session begins or will engage learners before the session for more buy-in during the presentation.
Integrating With Your LMS
LMS’ that have paired community with learning have a more sustainable education system. Education and conversation become cyclical as topics are presented and discussed and then evolve into new ideas for future sessions.
Include a Higher Logic badge as part of your conference to certify attendees as community builders.
Include discussion boards on multiple areas of your site to facilitate networking and socializing that extend beyond the classroom. Learners can discuss advances they see their field, new technologies or topics, make connections with peers, etc.
Open up the discussion; this is an opportunity to ask your members for feedback about your organization or the conference or get them talking about the conference with other members.
Integrating Higher Logic discussion tools creates a dynamic community of conversation and knowledge among your learners. It provides the peer-to-peer learning that many conference attendees search for at a virtual event.
To hear more about Higher Logic and how to make your Virtual Event engaging, join Higher Logic’s Heather McNair for Make Your Virtual Event More Interesting Than What’s Inside the Refrigerator, a free webinar on May 28 at 1 p.m EST. Register here.
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For more information about peer-to-peer learning and how to integrate Higher Logic’s community learning tools, contact email@example.com
As you transition your on-site event to a Virtual Conference, it is important to consider how you will include the sponsors and other revenue opportunities your organization was counting on while providing a resource center for attendees. In a previous post, we touched on how to monetize your Virtual Conference, including integrating a Virtual Exhibit Hall into your Virtual Conference. Exhibit Halls can be converted to an online format easily and can be just as informative for attendees.
Designing Your Exhibit Hall
A Virtual Exhibit Hall is a home base for all your sponsors. The exhibit hall and each booth can be personalized, depending on the needs of your organization and sponsors/exhibitors. Before designing your Exhibit Hall, identify what features and customization you will be offering to sponsors/exhibitors in their booths.
PDFs, links, or any other resources that would typically be provided to attendees can be housed here. Video and photo assets like commercials or instructional videos or even photo albums can have a dedicated section apart from the downloadable assets and links, all within the individual booths. Going virtual doesn’t mean you lose all the exhibit’s visual and branding opportunities; sponsor logos can be presented in a carousel or posted in various positions around the conference site. Informational and educational posters can be displayed in each sponsor booth, or you can show them all in a collection on a separate posters page
Additional booth features include options for exhibitors and attendees to interact. In each exhibitor booth, there can be a dedicated section for exhibitor staff to “man” the booths and network with attendees via a chat feature. A successful virtual booth should be customized to match the sponsor/exhibitor branding. Have them submit logos or supporting images for greater brand presence.
When it comes to transitioning an Exhibit Hall from in-person to virtual, it just requires some creativity. Use this guide to see how easy it is to transform your on-site Exhibit Hall to a Virtual Exhibit Hall.
Make it Interactive
Once you’ve designed the perfect virtual hall to display your sponsors/exhibitors, the next step is to make sure your attendees interact with the page and the exhibitors. Sponsors are an important part of the vitality of your conference and learners should engage with them. Unlike at an on-site event, where exhibitors are confined to Exhibit Hall hours, your Virtual Exhibit Hall will be open 24/7. Use these tips to encourage activity on your Virtual Exhibit Hall:
Chat Feature: Whether it’s instant messaging or a discussion board, provide ways for attendees to interact with sponsors.
Scavenger Hunt: Organize a scavenger hunt around the entire Virtual Conference website leading attendees to the Virtual Exhibit Hall. You can make higher-level sponsors a required stop on the scavenger hunt!
Credits or Certifications: Offer your attendees a certificate or credit opportunities if they network or interact with sponsors or exhibitors.
Giveaways/Specials: Encourage your sponsors to offer specials or product giveaways when attendees visit their booth.
Surveys: Include a survey on your expo page.
Forms: Embed a Contact Me form to grow your subscriber list.
Including a Virtual Exhibit Hall can be a creative solution to include sponsors, provide more educational resources, and deliver a community-building opportunity. Create a stronger learning community with an interactive Exhibit Hall.
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To learn more about Virtual Exhibit Halls, contact firstname.lastname@example.org