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Changing the world by making virtual events better

We’re all entering into the 8th month of our new pandemic-reality. It’s tedious, it’s different, it’s changed how everyone does business — and who knows when the world will get back to normal. Dan Brockway, MAK’s VP of Marketing and my colleague, recently wrote a LinkedIn article about how, since the pandemic started, our shift to all-virtual everything has created a sense of “virtual event fatigue”. I get it, and I feel it, and... well, I agree with Dan that we can do better. But what does doing better *actually* look like? 

As Dan and I sat around in our virtual “booth” at a recent industry event waiting for folks to click to chat with us, we got to talking about what virtual events and tradeshows are missing (besides the obvious in-person interactions). He mentioned a few of the things listed in his LinkedIn article — missed social cues, shortened attention spans, misunderstandings, fragile trust, no body language — and it made me wonder about what we need to rethink to get the virtual connection experience right. 

We came up with a quick outline of the elements needed for attendees at virtual events to have a positive experience. They are:

  • Connection: As an attendee, did you feel connected with the presenters and subject matter? Did anyone actually say your name and welcome you to the event? Were you able to show your face and have a face-to-face interaction with anyone?
  • Inclusion: Were there interactive elements of the event and did you feel like were you part of the event experience? Did you feel included or were you expected to sit behind a wall of anonymity and absorb content?
  • Education: Did you learn anything or did you multitask the whole time? Did your expectation of the content match with the content delivered?
  • Technology: Did the tech fail you in the event (audio, video, etc) or did it empower you to connect with others?

The last topic, technology, isn’t something many of us can “fix”, so that’s one area where we’ll all have to keep working creatively with the tools we have. But the other three topics of connection, inclusion, and education...we can all impact those elements in the events we create and attend. (Dan wrote another LinkedIn article recently about how MAK used Zoom breakout meetings for a company All Hands - a game-changer in how we connect as a team!)

We’re all navigating this new virtual world together. Collectively, we can turn the challenges we face into opportunities for continued connection. Join us at I/ITSEC and let’s try to get this right — together! 

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