Design your Event for Digital

The best place to start when considering taking an event online is to look at your current physical events. And learn from them. Take time to design your event for digital, don’t just try to replicate your physical event. Truth is, it probably wasn’t that good anyway!


Now I am not being personal or specific, I am making one of those general comments: not all physical business events are that special.

For the last ten years or so I have been working as an events consultant helping organisers and organisations to run better events.

And I have been pretty busy.

The vast majority of these projects have been redesigning physical events.

These events had to change to deliver more value.

Let’s admit we have never been the best at using the latest techniques to help us improve our events.

So like every product or service, there is always room for improvement.


Physical business events


We have all attended conferences with dull as dishwater presenters and boring content.

We have all visited exhibitions and walked past rows and rows of uninspiring stands.

We have been at events and met no new connections.

We have spent a lot and gained little.

But of course, we have all attended brilliant conferences and amazing exhibitions too.

And that’s my point.

Not all physical events are the same.

Some are great and some are not.

The reason that some events are rubbish and some are spectacular comes down to two things:



Your panels are probably pretty boring. And you never have enough mics!

You can’t just push rubbish events online: you have to design your event for digital


If your physical event is shoddy it is not because it is a physical event, but it is because it has been poorly designed and/or poorly delivered.

If your online event is shoddy it is not because it is a digital event, but because it hasn’t been designed for digital.

One of my earliest consultancy projects was to help an Institute to run online events. This was way back in 2012.

Kudos to them for considering it before most other organisations were thinking about it.

But they were doing it all wrong, they hadn’t considered how the event would work for a digital audience.

The Institute wanted to live stream their physical conferences.

They wanted to point a camera and expected a digital audience to pay for the content.

The problem was the content was pretty bad.

It was boring, uninspiring and unoriginal.

My advice was to sort out the actual content, before thinking about trying to engage an online audience.

My consultancy pivoted. From taking the events online to creating content that was ready for a digital audience.

We had to design the event, in part, for a digital audience.

Design for digital


We can all create virtual events but we have to design them for a digital world.

A world that is very different from the physical one.


So here are my simple three steps if you are getting ready to take an event online:


1. Realise that your physical events are not perfect products

Take this opportunity to reevaluate the value proposition of your physical events: exactly what was in it for all of your stakeholders? Be honest, be bold and be brave. De-construct your physical event and get to the heart of the value for those involved.


2. Do not try to replicate your physical event in the digital space, but look to replicate the value or even better INCREASE the value

We shouldn’t be trying to replicate physical events online. Those event organisers or organisations who take this approach will create poor experiences and poor value propositions for their stakeholders.


3. Design for digital

Spend time designing your event. Get to know the digital world and immerse yourself in that world.

Consider the opportunities and challenges of running an online event.


When we run physical or virtual events we have to focus on the experience we want to create and the value we want to deliver.

Once we design our events to deliver maximum value and the best possible experience we will create better events. Be those physical, virtual or hybrid events.

Published On: April 1st, 2020 / Categories: Conferences & Congresses, Exhibitions, Online Events /