Many of our clients run a mixture of events every year. Often, there is one flagship event and multiple smaller regional events. For many years, the differentiators between the flagship event and the regional events were clear, but that has all changed. With all events over the past year being hosted on a chosen platform, the differentiators have become blurred and sometimes disappeared completely.
If you choose one platform to run all of your events, the result is often a standard visual style and format across all, which is great for consistency and user familiarity but not so great for differentiating between the two types of events. So, what now is the point of the difference?
Let’s just take a moment to think about those differentiators in the pre-pandemic world of events.
Flagship events normally rely on a sense of occasion. Participants are excited about visiting a particular venue or city. There is the sense of scale and the shared experience of being with potentially hundreds or thousands of other people in the same profession or with similar interests. Themes are varied with a lot of choice – sometimes too much! People are seen rushing to get to the next big thing on their agenda. Sessions can be large-scale where the visitor has that tangible sense of being part of something big, which makes them feel special.
In contrast, regional events are often much more specifically themed and often have a greater sense of intimacy. You get up close to the speaker, which makes you feel valued. The opportunities for informal networking and discussion are different on a smaller scale. Often there is less ice to break, a sense of informality and greater accessibility.
When offering both types of events via one platform, we need to re-evaluate the experience differentiators.
The standardisation as a result of these brilliant platforms can create the risk of either devaluing your flagship event or upscaling the regionals, resulting in a blurring of boundaries.
How do you make the events feel different to each other? The traditional differentiators need to be questioned with the visitors or users in mind.
We have thought a lot about the techniques that could potentially be strong differentiators. For example, on the flagship events, why not embrace the regional TV studio approach? This type of event usually has a lot of choice, so regularly broadcasting highlights, updates and themes/topics of the next day would be helpful to users and visitors alike. Signposting your audience like this and simplifying navigation of the event helps reinforce that sense of scale that could otherwise be lost. It also adds a human touch, making a large-scale event more personable.
On the smaller, more regional level, the opportunity to get up close to speakers and network in a more intimate and informal setting is key. We know that achieving this intimacy has been a big challenge over the past year, but this issue can be resolved. The key lies in facilitation, which requires substantial work and preparation. In the blended world, you don’t have the same spontaneous magic that occurs in the purely in-person environment. The event needs to be helped much more for it to be successful.
So, when planning your events in a virtual, hybrid or blended setting, take time to think about the point of difference for each type of event. We believe it can’t just be the same as before. Not if you want your events to be the best.
One last thing to watch out for. This new world has a way of removing historical barriers to audiences. Some regional events traditionally designed for smaller numbers have seen a massive increase in numbers in the virtual world. Is this always a good thing? Sometimes not! If you don’t want to lose that sense of intimacy and closeness, perhaps think who your audience needs to be, before opening the floodgates.
Perhaps consider a way of inviting only specific people or groups? It could give a special sense of exclusivity to particular events. Exclusivity sounds like a rather good differentiator for the right event!
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