Digital experience

A Masterclass in Digital Experience for Events

Posted on 5 August 2022

Tags: Future-proof

Lauren Hall Founder and CEO of iVvy

Buying into the virtual economy through the hybrid hosting and broadcasting of events can create a profitable revenue stream.

To stay ahead of your competition you need to master the digital experience and buy into the virtual experience economy. The most important thing to keep in mind when thinking about the virtual experience economy is that the way we interact with technology and the world at large has fundamentally changed. Attendance is far more flexible and people are more used to operating in a hybrid online format. They expect to be engaged regardless of how they attend events. They want things to be personalised and accessible, so that they’re getting an optimal experience no matter where they’re attending from. Experiences should leave their mark on attendees and create buzz, which they then communicate to their friends and colleagues. 

What Makes a Seamless Digital Experience?

We spend each day of our lives in hybrid experiences. We flit between real life and digital experiences with little to no thought. Will I go to a brick and mortar store or will I shop online? Maybe I'll go into a store, find something I like and see if I can get a better deal online. Will I see my friends in person or will I video call them? Those who are within travel radius of your event will be going through the same thought processes. Not to mention the audience you built in the last two years of those well outside your travel radius. They're still expecting to attend your events and it's unwise to refuse them. Your biggest challenge is to maintain pace with this demand while still delivering a memorable experience for both audiences. Don’t look at hybrid events as a complete rework of what you’re already doing, think of them as the next logical step to improve your guest experience.

The experience 

In order to create a seamless digital experience, there are a few key elements that you need to keep in mind. You have to remember that every time someone sees or engages with you online, it's a step in their journey. From seeing your posts on social media all the way until they receive their confirmation email after registering. 

When it comes to social media, your strategy needs to be absolutely on-point. You need to research where your potential customers are spending their time and engage with them there. There's no point in pushing budget into a platform that doesn't have a chance of success to begin with. It's one thing to be where your customer is, but you also need to provide them with valuable, engaging content.

Once they're engaging with your content you need to make sure they're being guided to where you want them to go. Your website has to be set up in a way that makes it immediately obvious. Alternatively, if they've put in their contact details and have agreed to be contacted with marketing material, you can develop email nurture campaigns to slowly move them towards becoming a customer. 

Keep these elements in mind, and you'll be well on your way to creating a seamless digital experience for your events and venues!

Website Design tips for Events and Venues

Your website is often a deciding point of contact between you and your potential guests. That's why you have to make sure that your website is designed in a way that's easy to navigate and informative. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

1. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly. More and more people are using their smartphones to browse the web, so it's important that your website is designed with this in mind.

2. Include clear calls to action. What do you want people to do when they visit your website? Make sure your call to action is clear and easy to find.

3. Use high-quality images. People are visual creatures, so make sure your website is full of beautiful images that will capture their attention.

4. Keep your content engaging. No one wants to read a wall of text. Breaking up your content into smaller chunks and using headlines and subheadings will help to keep people engaged.

Creating Compelling Content

If you want to create a seamless digital experience, you need to make sure that all of your content is high-quality and compelling. Your content leading up to events has to be just as compelling as the event itself. The more engaged people are before they come to your event or venue the more likely they'll be likely to enjoy their time there. 

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

1. Write for your audience. Who are you writing for? Make sure that all of your content is relevant and interesting to your target audience.

2. Keep it fresh. Don't just regurgitate the same old information over and over again. There is absolutely nothing wrong with repurposing content, but make sure it's not all your'e doing. Use a combination of written, visual and audio content. This content doesn't have to cost you mountains of money, people react to raw and personal content, so experiment with unedited content. 

The Hybrid Experience 

So you already know that you need to be prepared for guest expectations, but how can you prepare? 

Audio

First things first look into your audio. Audio is one of the two fundamentals of any event, especially corporate events. Both your in-person and remote guests are relying on that audio to stay engaged. If your audio isn’t seamless, you’ll start to lose people pretty quickly. 

So what do you need to consider when deciding on microphones? Firstly, the size of your event and what space it’s being held are key factors. If you’re in a large theatre-like space we’d recommend using wireless lapel microphones. Firstly, because they look the most professional, but they’ll also provide you with great audio quality. Furthermore, if your speaker doesn’t want to sit in place, these microphones will give them the ability to move around the stage and gesture as they please. This movement is also good for the visual aspect of presentations and will help hybrid audiences stay engaged. 

On top of audio equipment we also recommend hiring a sound engineer who is versed in both in-person and digital sound engineering. This way they’ll be able to ensure that all attendees have the best sound quality possible. We also recommend having permanent members of your team that are trained to manage hybrid events. You can train members of your current team to do this but you may also need to consider hiring extra staff who are already trained to handle it. Having the extra expertise on your team can take you to the next level and bring you to the forefront of the industry. These team members will also drastically reduce the chances of glitches and mishaps in streams. 

Production

Production value is important for all attendees. You’ll want to heavily consider what the design for your stage and break out rooms will be. Your attendees will be spending a lot of time in these areas so you don’t want them to be boring but you also don’t want them to be distracting. When presentations are done your guests will go to communal areas so think of how you can specialise areas for different types of interaction.

Your in-person guests may be able to get up and interact with each other during breaks in the schedule, but your hybrid guests will have a different experience. Designing the hybrid aspect of your events website is extremely important for these periods. They should know what the schedule is as well as ways they can interact with other event attendees. Some good examples of how this is done are the Hubspot Inbound conference as well as any Esport event held by ESL. Esports are a great example to take tips from as they’ve been at the forefront of hybrid events for a long time. Many of these events keep people in their chairs for hours at a time and they’ve mastered the ability to keep eyes focused on screens. Even taking an hour or two to watch one of these streams can provide you with many valuable insights. 

When planning larger corporate events you should absolutely have a full-fledged broadcast quality set up. Anything less than this will do you, your speakers, and your attendees an injustice. This means multiple cameras all covering different angles with different lenses. Your lighting needs to be on-point to ensure speakers and panellists are looking their best. This may seem like a lot but there are benefits beyond giving your attendees the best experience. A high quality set up will also give you HD marketing content to share through your various channels. It will also provide your speakers and guests with content to share through their channels giving you greater reach. 

Network 

Your internet connection has to be fast and stable, there are no two ways about it. High quality streams require a lot of bandwidth and without it your virtual guests will have a tough time engaging with your event. 

We will discuss this a little later on in regards to your overall tech stack, but the rollout of 5G technology means that you have to update or get left behind. People are expecting a clear and clean connection to your event. If you’re a venue owner, upgrading to 5G technology can provide you with a great opportunity to upgrade all your systems and become a tech powerhouse.

Budget and planning

All of these things are incredibly important to implement but it can end up being quite expensive. If you’re a larger event or venue and you can afford it, that’s great, go ahead and start planning. If you’re a smaller event or venue it simply may not be in your budget to become a broadcasting powerhouse and that’s fine. What you need to do is take stock of what you already have and where you consider your shortcomings to be. When making these decisions we would recommend approaching them in this order:

  1. Audio 
  2. Network 
  3. Production 

Why this order? Audio is the most important as it’s the primary way that all guests will interact with the event. Secondly, no matter how impressive your production value is, that won’t matter if your virtual guests can barely see it. Thirdly, production value can be done pretty affordably once you’ve got everything else in place, you should just be focusing most of your money into the first two areas. If you’re interested in the different ways you can tackle hybrid events, the team at Endless Events have a great summary of what they consider the four hybrid event models to be.

So that’s it regarding hybrid events, through every step of the process you should be asking yourself “what’s best for my guests?” In fact this question should be at the heart of every venue, driving your business to become more people focused can do wonders for the guest experience.

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