I’ll start with a thought shared by a friend, Dorie Clark, a very successful speaker who shared this on Nick Morgan’s Public Words blog.
Dorie said she believes there is going to be a bifurcation in the way people think about events post-COVID. On the one hand, they will be hungrier than ever for interpersonal connections and live events. But on the other hand, they will be much more discriminating. They won’t want to do routine, run-of-the-mill meetings and gatherings — the assumption now will be that all of that routine stuff can be handled virtually. So if you’re going to lure people to an event, it will have to be, in Dorie’s words, “high-touch, high-intensity, a bespoke interpersonal experience.”
Another trend, which everyone is already aware of, is hybrid events, combining virtual and live in the same event. People are already doing this but I think the challenge will be to seamlessly weave together the virtual and live components of an event — which, if it’s done right, will make the events more interesting and able to reach a much larger audience.
I tend to think in questions, so I’ll share a few that I think are worth pondering if you’re in the events business:
- What have we learned from doing virtual events that can now be applied to live or hybrid events? And what are the biggest weaknesses of virtual (e.g., lack of audience engagement) that must be addressed as we go to a hybrid format?
- As we start fresh with events, post-COVID, how might we bring a “beginner’s mind” to this challenge? Instead of reverting back to old ways, how can we get ourselves to approach this as if we’d never done an event before?
- How might we begin to erase the barrier between the virtual parts of a conference and the live parts? How can we make it feel like a similar experience for people, whether they are actually “there” or are logging in?
- And if we do make the experience feel similar, then how can we still incentivize people to actually come?
- How do we maximize and promote the benefits of “being there?” (While still making it worthwhile for the virtual attendees?)
- If it’s true that post-COVID, people will be both hungry for live events but also more choosy about the events they’re willing to go to, what do we imagine will be the key differentiators — the special qualities that will cause someone to say, “That event is worth going to!” And how can we bring those qualities to life in our events?
- If we didn’t go back to doing live conferences and events, what would be lost?
- Based on the answer to the previous question, can we create a master list citing the most important reasons “why events still matter” (or perhaps, “why they matter more than ever”)?
- Using that list as a starting point, how might we construct a beautiful question (perhaps beginning with the words “How might we”) that could guide and inspire us as we begin to “reinvent events” for a new world?
Warren Berger, author of A More Beautiful Question and The Book of Beautiful Questions, teaches questioning skills to the U.S. Army, NASA, Starbucks, and Pfizer, warrenberger.com.