November 6th, 2020

Event Socialization 2.0

Written By: Margaret Launzel-Pennes, Chief Executive Officer, TBX: Total Brand Experience

As we navigate the third quarter of the event industry being turned upside down on behalf of our clients and ourselves, a premise we introduced back in July is more evident than ever.

When we made the necessary pivot from live events, we, like everyone else, thought (or hoped) that it was a temporary glitch in the way things were run and how people would convene. Now, as we head into 2020’s holiday season with no clear end in sight, we are seeing a digital event landscape that is quickly maturing and morphing right before our eyes.

When we began to investigate virtual and digital event platforms in the beginning of the year, we could count the real players on two hands. Fast forward to November 2020, and there are more than 200 solutions out there.  Everyone has a virtual event solution – most are not good.  Many are purely technology-based vs. experience-based without a true understanding of what attendees expect from events.  And a small handful really get it – the brains behind most of those are driven by people with a deep knowledge of events.

And people with a deep knowledge of events know that an event is not a Zoom meeting or webinar. Hey, we love Zoom…but we would never use it on its own to deliver a true holistic experience. Any attendee survey you’ve ever seen notes three critical benefits of attending an event: gain knowledge; see new products; and network.  And networking, which we call event socialization at TBX, is the crux of it all.

No matter what platform you choose, what agency you engage to help you provide a digital experience, or what you charge your internal team with, you simply have to make event socialization an inherent part of the experience you deliver. Otherwise, you’ll simply get lost in the shuffle of virtual talking heads and static exhibits that look more like websites than product information vehicles.

We recently did a remote team exercise using event socialization to share ideas and concepts around the challenges the meeting industry is facing. Using a terrific facilitator, Michael Glatts of 901 Innovation, we charged ourselves with coming up with a list of solutions we could share with peers to be better prepared as we all brace for a longer haul than we thought.

So here are our top theories, tips, and tricks for creating events that will bring your audience together in a truly engaged and socialized fashion:

  • A webinar is not an event
  • People want to exchange ideas; no one wants hours and hours of talking heads
  • Don't let fancy technology fool you. Your constituents are people; they like to connect in meaningful and authentic ways
  • Surprise your audience; they expect hours of content. Give them opportunities to engage with each other; offer networking lounges; create topic "tables"; organize industry trivia challenges; surprise guests; include fun activities
  • Inject ways to facilitate the exchange of thoughts and ideas. Make your constituents feel connected to their industry and their peers despite a strange and uncomfortable milieu: breakouts; 1:1 meetings; roundtables
  • Give your delegates breaks
  • Entertain
  • Gamify and reward
  • Use polling
  • Create opportunities to meet your industry "masters"
  • Make your venue beautiful. If someone's going to sit and watch your content, give them some eye candy
  • Think refreshingly different

We are incredibly optimistic that the live events industry will come back. It will be different to be sure but re-sets are not always a bad thing.  From this experience, we’ve all learned what really matters. 

There is no doubt people will be more discerning when we return to live events.  So use this time to decide how you can be better – and different – and more relevant. Challenge yourself to excel no matter what is going on around you.  And do your part in bringing people together in meaningful and memorable ways.