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FeaturesGoing Virtual? How to Organise an Online Event

Amongst the many changes brought about by the global pandemic COVID-19 is the cancellation or postponement of events worldwide. The Game Developer’s Conference (GDC) last month was one of the first to shake our industry, now rescheduled for an August ‘GDC Summer’ event, and many other events will now take place virtually, either via specialized software or indeed in VR. Large-scale events can find alternatives and while their numbers may dwindle, they’ll likely still maintain...
Kevin Joyce2 months ago

Amongst the many changes brought about by the global pandemic COVID-19 is the cancellation or postponement of events worldwide. The Game Developer’s Conference (GDC) last month was one of the first to shake our industry, now rescheduled for an August ‘GDC Summer’ event, and many other events will now take place virtually, either via specialized software or indeed in VR.

Large-scale events can find alternatives and while their numbers may dwindle, they’ll likely still maintain a high enough standard to have an impact. However, what about your event? Were you planning a meetup? A game jam? How about a roundtable discussion to discuss or problem solve a common issue? These kinds of small-scale events are much harder to co-ordinate online. A number of the problems you will likely face are simply compounded from that which you might find from traditional in-person events, such as:

 

Attendance Drop-of

How can you ensure that those who sign-up to attend actually do? When there are so many distractions in the home it’s easy to lose track of time. With free in-person events you can often expect the attendee rate to drop by around 30% or more of the sign-up rate, so when planning a free online event, you should be anticipating a much higher dropout rate.

 

Audience Engagement

Given the above statement regarding distractions, how do you ensure they your audience – once having connected – becoming engaged with the content you’re delivering? It’s not a simple case of talking with a few slides showing interesting graphs or funny GIFs any more; there has to be a greater offering of value to prevent audience members from simply picking up their phones and using your telepresence as background noise.

 

 

Networking Opportunities

An undeniably significant part of in-person events is the opportunity to network. Many people attend events to listen to speakers and for hands-on opportunities with the latest tech or software, but there are also many for whom this is a secondary consideration to meeting with like-minded people. How do you ensure that opportunity remains available?
So, with that out in the open how do you combat such issues? Simply hosting a live broadcast isn’t enough. Even using services such as Twitch, Mixer or YouTube, with their gamer-centric interaction features, may not be enough to hit your KPIs for your event. Instead, you need to innovate with the content itself. There are many different ways to combat these potential problems and I’m positive that many readers here will have already thought of some ideas of their own (which I’m more than happy to receive either directly or in the comment section below!), but here’s a few basics to get you started.

 

Value Proposition

What is it that makes your event important to attend? Why should people book time out of their schedules (or away from their favourite game and/or Netflix) to log-in to your channel? This isn’t the same assessment as an in-person event because of points 2. and 3., but instead, it needs to act as a source of either information relevant to the immediate situation or entertainment. There’s no room for hypothesising about the future of AR and VR right now – or gaming as a whole, for that matter – people will want to tackle wants right in front of them, not two years away.

 

Presentations Need a Presenter

If you want to engage your audience online you need to think carefully about who it is that hosts your event. People won’t stay engaged through a monitor with someone who has no presence. You’re not able to command a stage by simply dropping a few thoughts on current trends and introducing the next speaker; you must instead be able to make use of the medium at hand; there’s a reason why the 2010’s saw the rise of the ‘influencer’ and it wasn’t simply because millennials have short attention spans as some would suggest. It was because, having been raised on television, many of them know how to command attention within an individual’s proscenium arch. This is a shared experience, but one that needs to feel wholly personal at the same time.

 

Open to Shared Discussions

You can’t head to the café/pub after this event; that’s why you’re hosting it virtually instead. So, finding an alternative to face-to-face networking is important. Offering closed discussion rooms for randomised individuals (or if you’d like to go one further, based on their role at their company, their wants/needs etc. if you have collected that information during the sign-up
process) and setting a topic that is direct enough to encourage debate yet open enough to allow tangents is important.
You should be wary of simply piling people in a virtual room and asking ‘what’s the future of VR’, but selecting individuals to debate how COVID-19 has affected their development cycle might well be a way to get a conversation moving. These are just a small selection of potential answers to fundamental flaws with the principles of online events. If you yourself are planning a virtual presentation in the near future and intend on trying these solutions – or any similar ideas you may have come up with – please do get in touch. Our readers here at VR/AR Pioneers would undoubtedly be interested in your process and results!
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Kevin Joyce

Kevin Joyce has been working with immersive technology since 2013, establishing VRFocus.com as one of the leading AR and VR publications before joining Admix, a non-intrusive advertising platform designed specifically for immersive experiences, as Lead Evangelist.

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