Digital Occasion Planning Might Current New Alternatives for Software program Builders
November 6, 2020 6 min read
The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur’s contributors are their own.
When will you next go to a concert, trade fair or conference? For most of us, it looks realistic that at least we won’t get a vaccine that can be widely manufactured and distributed until the end of next year. While the shock of this pandemic caused many of us to work from home and hold Zoom meetings, the annual industry events we would all attend have been completely forgotten. Many were canceled or postponed, others tried to create some kind of lackluster virtual event.
But the show has to go on. Literally. We need to make virtual events feasible, scalable, impactful and engaging.
Since it can be more than a year before we can safely do these things in person, we need solutions and we need them yesterday. As software engulfed the world, I’m starting to see firsthand how software developers are now working together and becoming event planners in a way.
To make these virtual events more impactful, we need to go beyond current software solutions. Most of the successful virtual events we’ve seen succeeded because they developed their own software platforms for hosting those events.
Enter software developer as event planner.
The current status of virtual events
There have been some very successful virtual events since the pandemic, but there have also been a lot of really not-so-great virtual events. I would go so far as to say a lot more bad than good.
While most people quickly got used to Zoom for virtually meeting small groups of friends and work meetings, Zoom wasn’t designed with the idea of hosting large groups in mind. (How could it have been? Nobody would have thought this year would have looked like this.)
If everyone is speaking at the same time, or if there are minor delays due to faulty internet service, it is almost impossible to have meaningful conversations with groups of more than 6 people. If you attended a Zoom birthday party, this is your confirmation. (Especially if it was alcohol.)
In addition, there is no opportunity for casual side calls. I would argue that these random connections are sometimes the most insightful, engaging, and powerful.
While Zoom can fill in the gaps for meetings, it lacks the mark for virtual events, there are other platforms out there trying to simplify the aspects of engagement that make events so great.
Related topics: Zoom launches a marketplace for virtual events
We used Remo for a software development meeting. It was fun and allowed for a degree of engagement, but at the scale you could see it got stale. We also liked High Fidelity, a platform from the inventor of Second Life which has some really interesting early stage work with spatial audio that looks promising for mimicking the effect of staying in a function room.
But as with any new trend, everyone is rushing to be the next best platform and take over this newly created market. Lately, I’ve had a lot of conversations with companies looking to develop event-driven products in various forms. The problem is that everyone is looking for a one-size-fits-all solution that in reality only fits very few.
In addition, events are primarily about experience. Different interaction models must be available depending on the topic and the participants. Until now, this was the sole responsibility of the event planner.
What has to happen to make virtual events successful?
When we saw this surge in conversations with companies looking to develop event-driven products, we kept thinking about what makes great in-person events. This is the key to how we should conduct online events.
Great events feel unique, special, and even inspiring. They are usually well organized and cater to different personalities of the participants. People can proceed at their own pace, there are different things to discover and do based on their interests and the type of interactions they would like to have.
We recently had the pleasure of partnering with Northeastern University to kick off their virtual club show. So we designed this event specifically for this population group. We created a video game experience where students can control an avatar and move between different buildings and cubicles at their own pace.
The event was a great success. Over 10,000 unique users took part in the autumn festival, some even said it was better than the actual event.
In addition, we were able to bring in groups from the university who were never able to attend the event in person, and the students told us that they could discover more content because it wasn’t that lost.
Related: 7 Deadly Sins of Virtual Events
Opportunities lie ahead
There won’t be just one or two platforms that own the entire event space. We even expect and necessarily need events that are more unique in order to be convincing enough to attend.
Traditionally, companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on events. We will find these budgets go into custom online solutions and this is where there are tremendous opportunities for software developers to gain amazing experiences.
No matter what happens to the state of the world, online events are preserved. I believe we will see many events have a personal and virtual component to all events as online events have opened doors for more attendees and enabled different levels of engagement. In a year we’ll be much better at hosting these. People are going to have built some really amazing models of interaction, and it’s going to be difficult relying solely on personal events for the organizations that get it right.
In the next year we will see a lot of innovations in terms of online events. There is the ability to create customized experiences for concerts, trade shows, conferences, workshops and even dating – anything that is on hold due to the pandemic in general. While we are all in this purely distant work experiment, we should take this opportunity to create new models of digital events so we can stay connected.