Computer with video call

For over 35 years, the world renown TED Events (Technology, Entertainment, Design) have inspired tens of millions of people in over 100 languages with powerful short talks, covering everything from science to global political and cultural issues.

So what is different about this year’s annual TED event, usually packed to the brim with artists, inventors, celebrities and world changers? For the first time ever, the event went 100% virtual. In the midst of the pandemic, TED producers face the same challenge of every other event organizer: how to keep content and the conference experience relevant without face to face connections.

TED worked overtime to pull together a conference that would maintain the prestige and sparkle of the traditional event – going so far as to create a virtual playbook so presenters and attendees alike would know what to expect when going virtual.

“Sharing powerful ideas does not need to be limited to in-person events,” the organization stated, “Virtual gatherings can engage your community in exciting new ways.” This is exactly what the TED community created. Everything from the featured attendee chat, a live host, and cuts to virtual attendees silently applauding in between talks to give the virtual format energy and momentum, TED has truly thought of it all — and the thoughtfulness has paid off.

While small businesses scramble to understand how an event held virtually can possibly be applicable and beneficial, TED Events has shown us what we all hoped and prayed was true: executed correctly, virtual events hold a tremendous upside.

1. Create a Networking Plan

Research suggests that 85% of jobs are filled through networking, which comes as a disappointing shock to extroverts stuck at home during this time. But while many of us are glued to our couches, and forgoing cocktail parties for takeout – the world of virtual networking is proving increasingly beneficial. If you are considering writing off virtual conferences this year because you will miss out on the networking aspect, think again.

Many conferences are incorporating virtual networking sessions into the event itself, and these sessions often provide introductions that may have proved elusive if you had attended the event in person. Take TechCrunch Disrupt’s CrunchMatch Platform. This platform facilitates introductions and meetings via a questionnaire asking who you want to meet, or what industry you wish to connect with, prior to the event itself. Then, the CrunchMatch Platform allows you to request a virtual meeting with that person, before or after the conference, providing introductions you may have been too nervous or busy to facilitate otherwise.

While you may be able to network from the comfort of your own home, and without awkwardly scheduling a meeting with someone you barely know, it is still up to you to commit to the networking activity at hand. When you are in your own space, it is easy to zone out, or decide to shut it down early, forgoing the benefits the conference provides. The key? Create a networking itinerary and stick to it.  Schedule items on your calendar, and take advantage of services that conferences offer – this will make it more difficult to “flake out” when the time comes to pursue professional connections.

2. Use Ideas from the Event for Your Own Media Goals

Sure, you may not have resources like Salesforce – with the budget to bring a world renown DJ to play in between sessions or building out 18 virtual rooms to mimic the expo hall that was featured on the in person event. However, attending a business conference can give you some fresh, new ideas on how to create a meaningful or interactive experience for your own event, webinar or any other project where it is important to facilitate engagement.

The world of virtual events has contemplated some very creative ways to keep the material fresh and engaging: from virtual workouts, to incentives to engage online, to real time illustrations to help attendees retain focus during a virtual session. Many of these engagement techniques are hard to even imagine unless you attend the event first hand and see for yourself.

“What we did was born out of necessity, but what has come out has the potential to change the game in what we do,” says Renata Bertram, Vice President of Salesforce, Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) Marketing. “There is an appetite out there to engage this way.” 

The business world is in a very unique position where everyone is struggling to successfully take their offerings virtual. This allows even small start ups to get inspiration from the most innovative companies on the block, and create virtual content that they are proud to share.

3. Take Advantage of Post Production Material

A huge benefit of taking an event online is the fact that sessions are usually recorded, and material presented has already been created in a shareable format. What does this mean for you as a virtual event goer? That you are able to re-watch the important parts of a session, or share the best material with colleagues, even after the event has come to a close.

The Outreach Marketing Summit provides their presentations after the conference concludes.  This is crucial when you want to go back and refresh your mind on what the marketing summit entailed, share critical insights with your team, or even use a post production talk to hone in your own presentation skills.

Many other conferences and events are willing to share their materials (i.e. slide deck, contact information, pump up song played at the beginning of the session) if you simply ask. One of the advantages of hitting the virtual event circuit this year is that event organizers are experimenting with how to best keep their audience engaged, and will likely be excited to share most requested content.

A Paradigm Shift in Business Conferences

We are at the precipice of change not only for the events and conference industry, but for how we conduct business as a whole. While our world is getting more and more technically advanced, and globally connected, we still crave connection that is almost exclusively found through engaging with others with similar goals.

While no one anticipated a catapult into the virtual world so suddenly (or so completely!) it provides us with the chance to bring our businesses, and our professional goals to the forefront of this change and jump in feet first. If you are wondering how your business can equip itself for the shifts in our world in the midst of pandemic, we would love to talk with you, and turn that lemon into an inspiring (and engaging) virtual lemonade. Let’s talk.