In Chapter Two of the Field Guide to Virtual Event Platforms, we start with a quote from J. Damany Daniel, Chief Imaginator at The EventNerd. Speaking at Socio’s EventHack Hybrid Games in November, Daniel said, “Zoom fatigue is a real thing. We are on Zoom calls all day, every day. Zoom fatigue is a diagnosed conditioned. But you know what is not a diagnosed condition. ESPN fatigue or Netflix fatigue… You know why? They tell better stories.” It’s a prescient quote that sets the stage for this post on Virtual Experience Platforms in the B2B event space.
As we noted in Chapter One, we are defining a Virtual Experience Platform as video-based hub delivered in a website format with a Zoom-like streaming experience (live, simulive, pre-recorded), breakouts, chat, tradeshow booths, and networking centers.
Looking out across the B2B event landscape, this definition will evolve as what we are able to produce evolves due to the pandemic normalizing remote work. Even with the hope of vaccines on the horizon (I’m writing this post on December 8, 2020, the day the first person in the U.K. received the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine), most of the events we are planning for 2021 are virtual, with the hope that, best case scenario, they go hybrid if happening in Q3-Q4 2021.
Reflecting on Daniel’s quote, we here at AJ think that breaking out of the Zoom fatigue syndrome and creating impactful and engaging events comes down to three things: Astonishment, Engagement and Personalization. By putting purpose at the center of what we create, and anchoring ourselves in the shoes of the audience, we start from a place where we can build dynamic experiences that engage and propel them to action. The selection of the Virtual Experience Platform plays a key role in enabling this. That said, the platforms are not all created equal and tend to excel in one or two areas across the cycle of pre-event, event and post-event.
In the pre-event stage, companies that excelled at in-person event registration like Cvent have evolved into a top player in the virtual world. Companies like Meeting Play and Brella have introduced algorithms to help registrants personalize their event through networking and content suggestions. Finally, Attendease offers super-flexible registration capabilities that provide a well-designed and easy-to-use interface. This is where the analog back to Netflix comes into play; bundling a recommendation engine into a compelling interface reduces the friction of finding relevant connections and content, we believe this will be the key to making the B2B event space more reflective of modern consumer experiences.
In the day-of event stage, creating a state of astonishment in the audience through amazing and relevant content and experience is critical to keep them engaged. As I mentioned above, starting from a place of empathy for the audience and applying classic storytelling and theatrical elements can organically draw them into the event. This is where it is important to consider platforms that can provide a perfect video feed with all of the broadcast embellishments (intros, outros, transitions, lower thirds, bumpers, interstitials, etc.) will draw in the audience and help them see the story. Adding gamification elements to compel authentic engagement and build the community, helps keep their attention. This is where we see platforms like BigMarker, Bizaboo and BrightCove as great options to bring together the broadcast experience with a natural and delightful form of engagement through clean interfaces and mobile apps.
Finally, in the post-event stage, understanding where engagement worked and learning from areas where it didn’t is critical to prove out the success of the content and areas where it can be better. While surveys were a tried-and-true way to gauge audience satisfaction pre-virtual, new tools and techniques are available to precisely measure and understand the audience journey. Platforms that stand out in this stage provide the ability to apply machine learning to help read and interpret audience signals along with the ability to integrate into sales automation tools to close the loop. Companies like RainFocus provide the ability to track the audience journey from the very click to the last-second they leave the platform and can package this information in highly configurable dashboards that allow for transparent reporting.
Another area to consider post event is that the content can live infinitely in the digital universe and reach audiences that were not able to attend when the event was live. Socio shines here, the event that I mentioned at the top of the post is a good example of being able to go back and attend after the fact. The combination of analytics and content longevity will arguably the area where we need focused innovation as events transform from virtual to hybrid.
As we move into 2021, we believe we will start to see platforms offering premier functionality across the entire cycle of an event, due to the amount of capital that is flowing into the market (see Zoom, Hopin & Bizaboo). Indeed, the very notion of what an event is will evolve as these new experience platforms grow in form and functionality. Going back to the beginning, the only way to battle virtual event fatigue is through extraordinary, relevant content delivered through a seamless and intuitive interface. In The Hybrid Era, we expect that this market will mature so that buyers in the B2B event space have solid, singular options that effortlessly address all event phases.
VIRTUAL EVENTS & EXPERIENCES
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