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Putting value back in virtual

A recent LinkedIn post from Splash’s Sam Chambers caused quite a stir, so let’s take a closer look at the spectrum of virtual events and what we mean by the novelty of them having worn off.

Virtual events can be anywhere along the information/interaction spectrum with purely informational one-way webinars on one end and highly interactive participant-led workshops on the other. What we’re arguing is, after all this time, the value equation of webinars vs. workshops is starting to tilt significantly to the right.

If you’re in the informational one-way webinar game, no matter how sought-after or knowledgeable your speaker is, you’re likely seeing a decline in attendee rates because webinars are… so 2020.

As regular Splash contributor Kris Kosmala commented: "Organisers of brick-and-mortar conferences have not adjusted their ways either for the new media nor for the opportunities (we now have) … to create better engagement than that inside the darkened event rooms of the past."

The value equation of webinars is further diminished by the Forgetting Curve – lasting memories are rarely made from simply observing: "within one hour, people forget an average of 50%, within 24 hours 70%, and within a week, 90%."

If we don't solve for this in virtual events with some form of application of knowledge, discussion or interaction, the learning evaporates.

Opportunities to "chat", "poll" or "join the Q&A" are no longer good enough markers of interaction or engagement at virtual events.

What people are really missing is the ability to connect with others to problem-solve and drive change (however big or small) – in an effort to take back some kind of control over what feels like an otherwise powerless period. To call it 'Zoom fatigue' is unfair to the platform – it's the way we're using Zoom that's causing the fatigue.

Have your expert or panel talk at your participants for a spell if you must, but quickly follow up with small and interactive workshops where they get to connect and discuss with fellow participants about what they just heard; or run them through a few simple virtual exercises you planned ahead of time.

It’s also high time we respect the notion of a ‘live’ event and stress test the need for gathering people virtually at a specified time. Remember how we used to say “this meeting could have been an email”? Now it’s “this webinar could have been a link to a recording”. If your participants aren’t going to get to know each other or work together during your virtual event, is there really a need for them to all be there at the same time?

During this lonely and frustrating period, hosting a virtual gathering that ends with people logging off with a smile, having made a useful new connection and feeling a part of something bigger than their cramped home office - that's what we should be doing.

The novelty of listening to keynotes in PJs may have worn off, but the enduring need for human interaction and connection is here to stay, and that’s where the true value lies.


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