News | Published April 04 2020

Russ Lidstone, CEO of The Creative Engagement Group: How to unpack the potential of virtual events

As the fallout surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic continues, working from home is becoming the norm in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus. Writing for The Parliamentary Review, Russ Lidstone, CEO of The Creative Engagement Group discusses challenges and solutions for the live event industry.

The live event industry is facing an unprecedented challenge. What now for experiential marketing? You won’t be surprised to learn that, in the last couple of weeks, our long-established Hybrid & Virtual Events team has been inundated with briefs.

As an unusually shaped communication group that works across live, digital, virtual and film, we understand how daunting it is for our clients having to restart the planning process in the face of cancelled live events. The anxiety communications professionals are feeling because of the short lead times, apprehension about entering unfamiliar territory, and even cynicism about what can be achieved with a virtual event.

It would be easy to make the mistake of thinking of virtual events as video conferences.

But they’ve come on a long way. There’s no need to halve your content delivery, cut breakouts from the agenda, or deliver long livestreams of PowerPoint presentations.

We don’t look at virtual events as a means to re-create the experience of sitting in a row of chairs and watching a presenter on stage. We also don’t suggest replicating the physical auditorium in VR either – and we say this as an agency with a highly successful VR & AR capability. Let’s not force virtual events to be something they’re not but celebrate what they are. It all goes back to your objectives and your audience. What do you want to create, not re-create for technology’s sake?

Here are three reasons a virtual event could be exactly what you need:

1. Bring your network closer – The likes of Skype and Slack helped us transition to flexible working. Imagine the networks we can build if we approach the tradition of events with the same gusto. Think about it: no seats to fill, no need to limit your attendee list. You can extend the reach to hundreds more, including people who would normally have to wait for the cascade after a face-to-face meeting.

2. Involve your audience more – Consider this a chance to engage your audience differently. Let your audience define what they ‘show up for’ by designing satellite sessions for niche communities. No more wasting people’s time with ‘old news’ or presentations that are only pertinent to some of your audience. We find a lot more meaning in experiences we’ve co-created, for example, sharing crowd-sourced stories in an employee engagement campaign.

3. Boost your content’s potential – Take this opportunity to give your content a wider reach and a longer lifespan. Your content is the core substance of a virtual meeting. Let your audience spend quality time with your content pre event, interact with it during the live moments, and replay sessions post-live.

Right now, we all need to look at our plan for the year and work out where best to place budget wisely – based on what you need to say, and to who. Once these unusual times have come to an end, we’ll once again have the luxury of different engagement options.

For hints and tips on how to make the most of the benefits above, read the full-length article here.

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Authored by

Russ Lidstone
CEO of The Creative Engagement Group
April 04 2020

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