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:
DESIGN and DELIVERY.
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 great online 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 online 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 or online events.
At the Event Innovation Summit in Barcelona in October a charming Spanish Gentleman and I got speaking about hashtags. As you do! He said he had seen the Event Innovation Summit hashtag being used and advertised but wasn’t sure exactly why the organisers and everyone else would use it. I very briefly said they are great and I have been going on about hashtags for a while!
We then started talking about EIBTM. He said “how can I get the most from the #eibtm? I said that would depend form what perspective he looked from. Was he talking as:
- an attendee
- an exhibitors
- a speakers or
- the organiser
Using EIBTM as an example he wanted to understand exactly how a hashtag if used properly could add value to his next event. I said I would drop him a note. And here it is in Blog format. I’ve looked at how each stakeholder could use the event hashtag to best effect.
How to get the most out of the #eibtm (or any event) hashtag
Now I am using the #eibtm hashtag as a live example but the outline really could be relevant for ANY event hashtag.
And I will look at how each stakeholder can use the hashtag to get more value from the event. With one week to go to EIBTM I would love to see an increased awareness of how useful the tag could and should be. So please feel free to forward on the Blog.
So first up and most importantly: how attendees should make the most of an event #tag
1.Use it to keep up to date. As we build up to the event the hashtag is a great way to find out more about the event in an easy, hassle free way. At a large event there is a lot going on. If you want to stay on top of what’s happening simply FOLLOW THE HASHTAG. Following the #tag is easy. Just type it into the search function in Twitter and save the search.
2. Use it to help you network. Most of the people and organisations using the hashtag in the run up to the event will be attending. You can use the #tag to help make the most of your time at the conference.
– Is there anyone who is ‘talking your language?’
– Is someone they tweeting about the areas that you want to know about?
If so why not contact them and ask to meet up? The hashtag is a great way to open up communication with people outside of your network who have similar interests.
3. Use it to help you decide what to do at the show. You have a whole host of choices at a show the size of EIBTM. It is impossible to go to every stand or to see every speaker. So use the hashtag to help you make those decisions. If you aren’t sure about a session why not see if that speaker has tweeted using the hashtag? (in the speaker section below I will cover what they should be tweeting about) If they have tweeted I would say he/she is more likely to have put more effort into their engagement and involvement with the show. The same goes for exhibitors. As an attendee I will be using the hashtag as a pointer to the sessions I should attend and the stands I should visit.
How speakers should make the most of an event #tag
1. Use it to provide more learning. It is unlikely that any speaker is really able to get everything over to those gathered to listen to her during their short session. So use the hashtag as a way to point to extra content. It’s a great way to get people to do a bit of prep before they attend your session – perhaps a blog on the issue you are covering or other content related to the session.
2. Use the hashtag to engage with your audience. Jump on the hashtag and use it to check and tailor the content you are covering. Ask your potential audience. After your session use it to see if you missed anything out of your session as well as highlighting more content related to your session.
3. Use it to promote your session. You want the right people at your session so use the hashtag to tell people who that is and why they should attend your session.
How exhibitors should make the most of an event #tag
1. Generate leads. Follow people who use the hashtag. Retweet their great content. Start engaging with attendees before the event. Try to make sure that the people who arrive on your stand already know who you are and more importantly that you have taken the time to know who they are.
2. Shorten your sales pipeline. Use the hashtag to see who is attending the event. You won’t have a complete list from the organisers so use the hashtag to find out. Find out a bit more about their business via their Twitter profile. Contact them if they are relevant, if you think you can really help them. With this proactive approach you could have them arrive on your stand to discuss the proposal you’ve already worked on.
3. Don’t just highlight that you are taking a stand but highlight why people should seek you out. Upload links to content using the hashtag. Demonstrate that you understand your clients business by commenting and retweeting.
Use it to prove that you are committed to your customers and serious about doing business at the show.
How organisers should make the most of an event #tag
This is the simple part. As organisers we can add so much value to our events if we lead on use of the hashtag. This link explains how organisers can best use the hashtag in detail.
But in general all we have to do is promote the benefits (like I’ve listed above) to our stakeholders. When people use our hashtag there is so much in it for us so we have to put that bit more into it. We have to educate and inform. And most importantly we have to lead and demonstrate that we really know what not only we are talking about but what our attendees, exhibitors and speakers want to talk about.