Six steps to elevating your virtual experiences
Possibilities are endless in the digital world.
By Abhishek Vanamali, Zensar Chief Marketing Officer
If you’ve noticed that the world is starting to look different in some very real ways, you’re not alone.
Recently, I was speaking with the CIO of a prominent global industrial manufacturing company. While she talked a lot about the typical pandemic challenges (cost pressures, working from home, and so on), it wasn’t long before she touched upon something much more fundamental. “We’re afraid to send our service technicians to customer sites in the hard-hit areas of the world—like here in the U.S., India, and Brazil,” she said.
This is another stark reminder that no matter what you sell or where your clients are located, your business most likely depends on interacting with humans in physical environments. Board rooms, conference halls, amusement parks, refineries, movie theaters, airplanes—most of these physical environments and more are no longer viable in a pandemic, which has prompted vast sales of virtual meeting platforms.
My team avidly uses Microsoft Teams. Teams or similar platforms satisfy 90 percent of our requirements. I’m sure it’s the same within other organizations, including yours. In a testament to human adaptability, it’s incredible how quickly we’ve embraced virtual collaboration platforms without a significant drop in productivity. However, there’s still the 10 percent of interactions that are too important, critical, or competitive to be relegated to these mass-marketed solutions.
The reason why platforms like Zoom have become so popular is because they address a wide spectrum of requirements.
Talk with your grandma who is 1,000 miles away? Check.
Get the team together for a project meeting? Check.
Organize a customer demo of your software product? Check.
Host your annual influencer shindig with high-priority and high-impact clients? Hmmm…
Organize your annual sales meeting designed to wow and motivate a global sales team? Nope.
The thing is, every organization and department will—at some point—hit the limit of what can be achieved through a regular video conference call. Sure, you can invite your treasured rolodex to a Zoom meeting, but will you truly engage and impress them as you have previously in person?
Here’s a quick checklist of things to consider when elevating your virtual experience.
Educate yourself. You already know what isn’t possible with virtual experiences; it’s now time to educate yourself on what is possible. You can easily scour YouTube to see how companies such as Microsoft have created incredible online experiences and events. (Disclaimer: Zensar and Indigo Slate support Microsoft with some of their virtual events.) I also encourage you to check out examples of VR and AR experiences. Virtual technology has grown immensely, and the possibilities are nearly endless.
Change your expectations. Stop lamenting about the fact that you can’t book that seaside resort in Palm Beach for your next event. Start shifting your perspective of what an engaging experience means in the virtual world. Can I make my audience attend a virtual concert? Yes. Can I use a meal delivery service to ship party food to the addresses of all attendees? Sure. Can I organize a remote viewing party for my customers of our latest corporate film? You bet.
Change the format. Two-day conferences with glitzy networking parties are a thing of the past. Virtual experiences should be shorter and more focused. Remember, the audience isn’t captive. They’re free to get up from their seats and take the dog for a walk in the middle of your presentation. The trick is to give them a reason to stay. For a multi-session event, make sure that each session is no longer than 30 minutes. And don’t forget to mix session formats; intersperse lectures with panel discussions or product demos.
Create opportunities for purposeful interaction. This is a tough one, but not impossible. Make sure that your events are not monotonous. Provide ways and means to include the audience in the best—and least disruptive—way. There are many platforms out there that allow simultaneous sidebar conversations, or the ability to bring people from the audience onto the “main stage” with the click of a button. The other way to keep the audience engaged is through a “companion” app on a second screen. We recently did our own sales event for associates of Zensar and used the second screen to great effect.
Put the technology after the strategy. The plethora of technology options available makes it tempting for folks to get into a technology evaluation spin cycle, which is a counterproductive exercise. Recently, someone said to me, “Buying a technology platform for a virtual experience is like booking a party hall. You still need a party planner, guests, and food.” It’s also crucial to understand what your virtual experience strategy is, how you plan to keep folks engaged, and what content strategy you’ll employ to ensure a successful virtual event.
Embrace the data. An incredible benefit to virtual events is the “digital tracker” you have on each of your attendees. This is an acceptable practice. Think about it…on a virtual platform you know exactly what content was viewed by which attendee, who asked which question, and more—plus all this information is stored forever. Learn how to use this data to your advantage, not only during the event to ensure a great experience, but also afterward for continuing meaningful conversations.
The world of virtual experiences is a brave new one that’s here to stay. While at first this world may seem limited in scope and impact, it only requires us to relearn what we know about events and experiences. So, fasten your seatbelts and fearlessly captivate new customers, associates, and friends through amazing virtual experiences!