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Mike Fletcher, Freelance Content Producer/Writer asks what will be the societal impact of the climate crisis and global pandemic caused by COVID 19?

Will people still want to meet face-to-face? Of course they will, but MICE planners also need to plan for a world where remote working has proven effective, senior leaders find it impossible to justify the environmental impact of long-haul travel and, if there’s a considered risk to people’s health, isolation measures and ‘clean’ spaces will be vital event requirements.

It’s one thing to be able to build a virtual event that’s as good as any physical event but the real challenge is being able to hybridise the two so that they complement each other and provide a higher value experience.

So how can planners achieve this?

By going beyond simply webcasting or live streaming the keynote and instead, planning a wholesale digital replica of different event elements, which can then be released alongside the physical event or dropped in to replace certain parts in times of need.

Features such as the physical welcome reception could be twinned with pre-event digital teasers or speaker welcome videos. If there’s no valid reason why all the information due to be delivered by the keynote has to go out live, why not give delegates access to certain highlights online beforehand so that they can prepare questions or discuss outcomes in virtual chatrooms?

Also, consider how virtual audiences can be better engaged during those periods when there’s coffee breaks taking place at the physical event. Digital twins could include gamification elements that reward online viewers for being more actively involved, or intelligent delegate profiling to allow virtual attendees to network or connect over LinkedIn.

When planning which elements of your physical event will be live-streamed, ensure an audience interaction platform is in place.

Speakers on-stage need to see questions coming through from virtual attendees. While speakers who are presenting to cameras from remote locations need to know there’s a physical audience engaged with what they’re saying.

Too often you hear speakers on-stage talk negatively about audience participation technology. This needs to change. Speakers need to communicate that the digital twin elements of a physical event are there to provide greater input, value and to improve the overall experience.

The long-term benefits of adding digital twin features include the ability to scale the event faster and grow a virtual audience, develop a library of content, which can then be reused, plus attract more sponsorship and grow alternative revenue streams.

Before coronavirus, audiences had no real frame of reference for what is a virtual event. This is our chance to reset their expectations. It is not a time to sit and wait to see what happens. It’s the ideal time to evolve the offer for the long-term.