Reinventing an event for the pandemic world
|Toronto Star 04 Jul 2020 at 05:24|
Zoom, Skype, Google Meet, BlueJeans. We’re all spending hours video conferencing in this time of physical distancing and for many of us it’s working pretty well.
Ordinary meetings are fine. But can an organization hold a spectacular big event online?
The Enterprise Blockchain Awards gala confronted this exact problem for our July 7 event. And from what I can see so far we’ve come up with a solution that should be a big hit.
Last year, our black tie event took place in a gorgeous Toronto warehouse, with great food, drinks and fantastic performers including Imogen Heap.
This year, we had to dig deep to come up with something comparable online. We partnered with MCI — one of the world’s largest event organizers — that out of necessity is reinvented its business, and has delivered 150 virtual events over the last year.
Juliano Lissoni, head of MCI Canada, said the key to a successful virtual event is creating a truly digital experience.
“Virtual and live events have lots of things in common, but the neuroscience behind the structure of each one is different,” he says.
People attend events because they want to see, learn, share and network with peers, he said. So ensuring that the virtual edition is an experience that delivers the intended expectations is key.
So how does MCI create a virtual experience to grab and hold an audience’s attention?
Well to start, Lissoni changed our awards ceremony from a gala dinner into a TV show experience. He mixed a combination of diverse technologies with our content and entertainment.
Nonetheless, this years event is shaping up to be innovative and maybe a lot of fun.
The stage looks like it cost a million dollars to create but it’s all digital. The presenters will appear from around the world in the same digital place.
The virtual work is being managed by Arht Media, a company specializing in delivering speakers to events as holograms. I discovered the company a couple of years ago, when I was “beamed” from a studio in Toronto to a conference stage in Singapore. It was so realistic that at first some of the attendees thought it was actually me on the stage.
With the disruption of the pandemic, Arht Media has created a “ virtual stage” product that enables multiple people to appear on the same cyberspace stage.
While this year’s gala is free to attend, we’re compensating for lost revenues with sponsorship, and we expect 10 times as many people to tune in.
Around the world, innovators are dreaming up other creative ideas to create extraordinary digital experiences.
Events I’ve virtually spoken at recently have private Q and A sessions for VIP guests that they call “backstage.” One event had a virtual VIP cocktail party, after the closing speech. It was held over Zoom shuffling the 60 guests to various 10 person private zoom salons where to meet each other in a small group setting. In an hour I felt like I had met everyone at the event, tough to do at a traditional convention cocktail party.
When clients redesign and re-create meetings and conferences in the digital world, the numbers of participants grow exponentially, MCI has discovered.
The company recently designed a virtual experience for the European Hematology Association that had to cancel a physical event where they expected 12,000 people. Its digital event had more than 25,000 delegates.
Other organizations are holding online “hackathons ” where programmers around the world collaborate, but this time online.
One of the biggest of these is Campus Party. Pre-COVID-19, these were massive physical events where 15,000 programmers lived in tents inside a building like the abandoned Berlin Airport or massive warehouse.
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inviting its 700,000 “Campuseiros” to attend and I can’t wait to address the crowd. The organization is co-ordinating Campus Party in 30 other countries including Canada and there will be 2,000 speakers with 150 simultaneous transmissions going out to attendees engaged in multiple interactive experiences. Other keynote speakers include Alex Tapscott, Al Gore, Radia Perlman, Eduard Snowden and young, globally known Canadian innovators and social change activists Isabella Grandic, Nina Khera and Alishba Imran. Campus Party is expecting an audience of three million people.
The world of virtual and hybrid events is here to stay. Re-creating conferences in the virtual world, or complementing the offer by turning them hybrid, only brings benefits: enlarging audiences, increasing revenues, and expanding brand reach.
Don Tapscott is co-founder of the Blockchain Research Institute, an Adjunct Professor at INSEAD, Chancellor Emeritus of Trent University in Canada. Readers can register for the .