The Pivot to Technology

The Pivot to Technology

As we face this new environment of stay at home orders and social distancing, the events industry has been hit hard. Events across the world have been canceled, and event professionals everywhere are losing their jobs. The day that we can come back together for in-person events is unknown. What is known is that to keep our industry from completely collapsing, we need to find a way to move forward, keep connecting, and provide value to our clients and their customers. Our challenge now is to successfully make the pivot to producing engaging virtual meetings and conferences. We need to innovate, originate, and step outside our comfort zones and take some risks to discover a new kind of events industry.

Creating a successful, engaging virtual experience that has the same impact as an in-person event is an ambitious undertaking and requires thought, creativity, the right technology, and a skilled team. This is not about reducing the overall event expense or cost-cutting. People mistakenly think that going virtual automatically means the budget for the event will be half or even a quarter of the cost of in-person, but this is not always the case. Sure, if your event turns into a series of simple webinars or speakers speaking to a presentation deck using basic video conferencing software, then yes, your budget will probably be significantly less than an in-person meeting. However, you risk keeping your audience’s focus and getting them back in the future. If you are trying to recreate a fully interactive conference experience, with exciting staging, interactive sessions, exhibitors, networking, and social functions, then the cost savings will not be as much as you would think.

When going virtual, you need to think of your technology platforms as your venues. Instead of spending money on a hotel, food and beverage, offsite venues, and live in-person entertainment, you will use that budget to create your virtual world. Every program is different, and the technology you choose is key to its success. Understand your program and select the technologies that meet the requirements of each event.

You need to create a binge-worthy show that your attendees don’t want to leave. In a virtual environment, your audience has all the usual distractions as they do when in the office, you don’t have the luxury of the captive audience. At any point in your show, you could lose them to an email, a phone call, or another virtual meeting that seems more appealing. Boring or okay won’t cut it in this new world. To keep your audience engaged, you need to create an immersive experience. You will not only need the technology to deliver the experience, but you will need the eye-catching content, interesting performances, and social interactivity to excite your attendees.

So, we need the technology to deliver the world we are creating, and we need the engaging content to keep people interested, then we need to add a little “pow!” to the show. Just because you are not in a huge ballroom or venue doesn’t mean you can’t create a dynamic, exciting show. As we discussed before, a speaker reading off a dull set of slides is not going to keep your audience watching. You need to add music, video, graphics, and audience participation elements to keep your audience’s attention.

Next, you need to provide the networking component. Do you have a tradeshow as part of your conference? Bring in virtual tradeshow tools to allow your exhibitors to connect with your attendees. Allow your exhibitors and sponsors to buy ad space throughout your show with banners or short ads during breaks or between content. Provide the ability for attendees to join small group demo sessions or 1 to 1 meetings with the exhibitors. Provide peer to peer networking opportunities and appointment scheduling.

Don’t forget the social aspects of your conference. The happy hour receptions, and parties, bring in a live DJ or other group activities. Add team-building opportunities. How about adding optional activities like facilitated exercise classes or give-back opportunities. A comment feed or letting users “like” interactively can also be a simple way to hold attention, but make sure to keep a moderator on-hand (you’ll thank me later). Be creative, be engaging, deliver with excitement and passion.

Finally, you need the team to pull it all together. Don’t think your nephew who is “good at Facebook” is qualified to run this essential element. The experts you put together are crucial to the success of your event. You need your technology experts that understand how to integrate all the technology components of your program from your event registration solution to your virtual meeting platform and all the add-on technologies you choose. You need your creative team creating the buzz and your production team pulling it all together to deliver that all-encompassing experience. In a live broadcast, dead air is a killer. Make sure you have the expertise in place to deliver your vision fully, make the right calls if something doesn’t go as planned, and to execute. Your team and your contingency plans can be the difference between failure and success.

Our world is going to be effectively disrupted for a while, but meetings and conferences are still going to happen, just differently. If we use the current environment to hone our skills and innovations, think of all the possibilities we will have to combine these exciting technologies in the future with our in-person events to create even more amazing experiences.

Noël Williams | Managing Partner at Event Analytics & Design
Noël is a leading expert in event technology. She has been at the forefront of researching the shift to digital event technologies and virtual meetings.

The Best Event Planner Podcasts

The Best Event Planner Podcasts

Behind our Introduction Video

Behind our Introduction Video

     Creating the Event Analytics & Design intro video was a challenge. I wanted to create an upbeat and fun way to introduce and show off how amazing EAD is in the Event Planning business. I used camera work, a “hand-drawn” aesthetic and multiple tools to create a video with the EAD core values in mind. Chanae Pickett, part-time-voice-actress and EAD’s Social Media Guru, was the voice behind the dialogue for the video. Her voice was calm and easily communicated what EAD was all about. However, I also needed to keep in mind the spark that EAD brings to the events they oversee. To do this, I added rock music to keep the composition flowing and moving through the services that EAD has to offer.

     By using fun graphics and smooth animations, I wanted to create a world that the viewer could immerse themselves into, and really feel the energy EAD brings to the event planning sector. The cogwheel graphic was one of my favorites to create and animate because I wanted to also highlight each of the services that EAD has in their toolbox. Coming from Video Illusions, Inc. (a parent company including Event Analytics & Design), I also wanted to showcase what Video Illusions could do. Together we created a professional, interesting and upbeat graphic video that showed viewers exactly what we are made of.

– Sarah Gunn, Lead Artist of Video Illusions, Inc.

Going Solo to Negril

Going Solo to Negril

Traveling alone is intoxicating. One minute I was flying high “Chanae, look at you! You’re unstoppable!” but then I locked myself in my room a full 24 hours surviving on protein bars. “What made me pick Jamaica? Why am I completely shocked by how many couples there are!?”

This year’s birthday landed at a tough time for everyone, except me. I had to be on a flight leaving the country for my 33rd, even if that meant going alone. So, overnight I booked a ticket to Jamaica and a room in Negril without any research.

Every time I announced I was going alone I received what I call the fear package “Oh no! You’re going to go alone? Wow, be careful!”. Then here’s the pity approach “You don’t have anyone who can go with you? I wish I could go. You shouldn’t spend your birthday alone.”

I ignored everyone and I’m glad. Now I have a new badge of honor, a solo traveler!

The Nitty Gritty

You can do this too!

Use social media to your advantage and plan around an event. My trip to Negril was impulsive but happened to land on Jamaica’s Independence weekend. I joined the Facebook groups, participated in posts and made friends. Yes, it was my birthday, but the event gave my trip a sense of purpose. It cradled my birthday for me.

Follow your destination’s hashtags on Instagram for inspiration and must-see attractions.

Use Google Maps to bookmark and save places. “Want to go” is a pre-programmed label. The saved places offered a sense of direction. Upon landing, I had attractions both near and far to choose from.

It’s common to negotiate prices when you’re in a foreign country, but I hate to negotiate. If you feel a lack of confidence in your ability to negotiate on the spot, book your excursions online before you arrive. I liked having something to look forward to every day.

Honorable Mentions

Catcha Falling Star  is a picturesquely rustic hotel on the cliff side of Negril. The uniquely themed Pisces bungalow made me feel as if I were in a tree house.

Catcha is home to Ivan’s Bar offering breakfast and lunch to guests, open for dinner to the public. I had dinner with the sound of waves crashing against the rocks, Happy Birthday to Me!

Rick’s Café, a Negril staple is walking distance from Catcha. The live band is within earshot nightly beginning at 5 PM.

  

Island Turf Tours – Norris is very hospitable and encouraged me to relax and enjoy Jamaica. He exudes integrity and has upfront pricing. I’m all about cutting the fuss and keeping the party going. He was heaven sent.

Blue Mineral Hole – The most pleasant surprise. Mineral pool and a dungeon drop 30 ft into blue bliss, I took the ladder though.

Rico gave a tour of the majestic Negril country estate and even climbed to get some footage I would not have otherwise. The blue hole is about a 30-40 minute rural uphill drive from Negril.

One Love Bus Tour – What a unique experience! Lenny picked me up in a yellow school bus and took us off the main road to Negril’s neighborhood bars. Some of the bars had splendid views and others with tons of charm.

One Love bus regulars bring items for area children who gather around the bus during one of the stops. If you’re a generous soul this is an opportunity to donate some of the things we take for granted.

One traveler came prepared with a suitcase full of school supplies, another with bags of hotel lotions and shampoos from her travels.

At the end of the bar crawl, you determine the cost by donating any amount you want to Lenny.

Bella Donna’s Restaurant – was the most memorable stop on the One Love Bus Tour. Donna’s smile and energy are unmatched. Pair that with a pizza heaping in fresh vegetables and Jamaican spices and now I have something to return for!

Route Taxis

The easiest way to explain this is that they drive along the route, back and forth like buses. The taxi looks like a small well used sedan with a red plate, and checkers along the side.

Many resorts will have a security guard that can help you catch a Route Taxi. Getting around was the biggest downside to my trip, I underestimated the costs.

The security guard is there for tourist safety. They are not there to save you money. They may even talk you into a more expensive option. Once I requested a route taxi and the security guard flagged down one of his friends “Oh, it’ll be the same price.” It wasn’t. He wanted more than 2.00 to ride in his fancy van. Two miles may cost 20.00. Even more when you’re not alone. They charge per person.

I took the same trip in a route taxi the next day, handed the driver 2.00 and got out. Research the route taxi practices and fake it until you make it. Say very little. Questions like “How much is this going to be?” create an opportunity to be overcharged.

In my experience, every nicety in Negril was done with the intent of leveraging it into income, be prepared.

The Wrap Up

I’ve had many pivotal moments of independence. Times when I knew I was about to change my entire outlook. Jamaica was one.

Circumstances prompted me to go solo but I was not alone. I made substantial connections in Jamaica.

The trip was perfectly timed. My pre-planned excursions left me with no choice but to emerge from my hut. Once I did, I remembered why I came, an unshared adventure.