10 reasons virtual events will fail …

I speak a lot at conferences, but not since Coronavirus. Recently I was invited to Adobe’s new virtual summit and asked to MC part of the upcoming Mobile Growth Summit, which is a worldwide virtual or digital conference.

So I’ve been thinking about what might work or not.

Every conference is trying to reinvent itself as a digital event right now, and most will fail. Most of those that fail, will fail because they try to do on a digital platform what already wasn’t working all that well in a physical space.

Here are a few cautions:

  1. VIRTUAL EVENTS WILL FAIL IF …
    you just put talking heads on a screen. People can go to YouTube. They can read faster than you can talk. They will not sit and watch your conference on a screen for 4-8 hours.
  2. VIRTUAL EVENTS WILL FAIL IF …
    you require some freaky plugin or tech to try to recreate a physical experience of space. People won’t. Or they’ll try and fail. Or there will be some weird compatibility error. Or the bandwidth will fail.
  3. VIRTUAL EVENTS WILL FAIL IF …
    there’s no social component. Events work because you are forced to meet people. Forced into serendipity. Absent that, you have a webinar. And everyone knows how exciting webinars are …
  4. VIRTUAL EVENTS WILL FAIL IF …
    there’s a celeb or all-star in your competition’s event on the same day. Digital follows the 80-20 rule viciously, and midsized events will get driven out of existence in the void between big & badass and small & hyper-relevant.
  5. VIRTUAL EVENTS WILL FAIL IF …
    they don’t mix synchronous and asynchronous. At a physical event in a physical location, I’m a physical captive. In my home office, the phone rings. Slack dings. Everything pings. You can get me for a while, but I’m going to go in and out.
  6. VIRTUAL EVENTS WILL FAIL IF …
    they don’t offer class-A value. The world is available at my fingertips. Mediocre content, speakers, insights are meh, and will be turned off.
  7. VIRTUAL EVENTS WILL FAIL IF …
    attendees don’t pay or otherwise have skin in the game. Free means leaving has no perceived cost. Free means take it or leave it. Free means unvalued, or at least undervalued.
  8. VIRTUAL EVENTS WILL FAIL IF …
    they don’t get the tech perfect. Tech failures at a physical event suck. Tech failures at a virtual or digital event will be fatal.
  9. VIRTUAL EVENTS WILL FAIL IF …
    you don’t have loot bags of some kind for participants. When you go to a real conference, part of the fun is to see what’s in the conference bag. What are they giving you? Virtual conferences need a virtual (or real?) loot bag.
  10. VIRTUAL EVENTS WILL FAIL IF …
    they are a lame-ass reproduction of the conference stage only. Some of the least interesting things at a conference happen on-stage. Reinvent the off-stage experience while you reinvent the on-stage experience.

What will work? Hit me up on Twitter!

 


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