Why I think some virtual event platforms are doing engagement wrong

I guess that it’s maybe a controversial stance to take, and I’m confident that I will not be making any friends with other platforms but I really do think that 99% of the platforms are just plain wrong.

Firstly, virtual platforms are changing very fast, and there are more popping up almost daily. Some are dedicated startups and some are platforms built from AV companies themselves. So I think there is limited opportunity to innovate when so many are doing catchup. Even Bettercast is in that position now, trying to build features to just be on par with services that are 10 years old.

But, that is where I think the issue is stemming from. Catchup is just copying a feature set of competitors as quick as you can, and engagement features are part of that feature set. So you are seeing lots of platforms with the same functions over and over again. Polls, Quizzes, Gamification, Questions and answers and on and on.

I will, of course, say there is some value in some of these features, q&a especially but the rest are, in my opinion just gimmicks and all are hell-bent on trying to get the virtual guest to stay on-page.

And staying on-page is absolutely not what a regular content consumer will do. Think about your own viewing habits when it comes to web content. Would you ever sit and watch 4-5 hours of youtube content in one setting in the middle of a workday… No, I don’t belive you would.

So why do platforms think that event guests will do the same? they won’t, and there really is no amount of fancy gadgets and features that will ever make that happen. Even having super engaging content won’t do it, I mean how many movies can you sit through in one sitting.. 2 maybe? but 3.. 4?

Content consumption

We need to think about the time when content is going to be consumed, because now that an event can have a global audience and live streaming is of course time-sensitive, the thing about earth is that times are different all over the world.. I know right “NEWSFLASH”!

While live streaming is essential to the event when you are going hybrid, that content needs to be saved and accessible by guests as soon as possible after the event. I’m sure like me, you have seen an event and seen the schedule and thought, I’m not staying up till 3 am on a work night to watch a live stream, so you just don’t attend. If that event had playback of that talk for say.. a week after the event, then sure I don’t get to attend on the stream but at least I’m still going to be able to watch it.

If a guest is your content watching after the live stream there is a little more commitment to viewing the whole thing in full because it’s done on their time, but how to engage the viewers when they are watching in real-time?

Making the player far more dynamic in how it can serve the video. This one is pretty straight forward, enabling picture in picture and Chromecast functions on a player means that now, a viewer can stay engaged with the content from my stream, but not be forced to stay on a page when they have work to do.

Just by popping out the video and having it sit at the top of their screen while they send emails, chat to co-workers or enter data into a spreadsheet, means that they are still engaging with what the speakers are saying, but it’s not forcing them to decide to do one or the other. And with the number of people that are working from home from their kitchen or dining table, allowing them to just put your presentation on their TV and continue their day.. I think you can see my point.

No gimmick there, just allowing guests to consume the content in a way that they are used to, means that they can come in and out of your event, and they are still getting the value.

You’re not just an event manager now

I believe that event managers now need to realise that they are not just event managers, they are now content producers. So like a television producer, your production has a live studio audience, a dedicated start and finish for airtime, video on demand for catchup, advertising opportunities and more.

You need to start looking at your role like that now and think about how your content becomes evergreen, how your content can embed sponsor messages into the filming and of course, how you can monetise the content beyond the weekend event.

So at the end of the day, this is why I think that most platforms are doing it wrong, they are trying their hardest to keep people on the page, in the event and engaged on the day, and forgetting that the internet is all about on-demand and flexible in delivery. Watching an episode of the office on your phone while commuting, having something play in the background while doing the days emails or being able to catch up on some learning when you have a little downtime is the way forward.

And I believe no amount of word clouds, gamified points or emojis in a chat will change that.