Digital Event Experiences That Go Places

After months of limited in-person social engagement, many in the business events industry are ready to experience real things, places, and spaces. Some organizations are doing just that, even through digital events.

Author: Michelle Russell       

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell

In March, an artist who goes by the name Beeple sold a piece of art for $69.3 million at an auction. It wasn’t an original painting that you can hang on your wall or a sculpture that would nicely set off your foyer. It exists as a non-fungible token-based (NFT) artwork, a one-of-a-kind digital piece that lives on a blockchain, which means that its ownership can be verified. Although there’s only one owner, the image can be downloaded by anyone on the web. (See? We did it, at left.) The art collector who purchased Beeple’s work received a 319-megabyte jpeg file and an NFT — “essentially a string of code that serves as a deed of authenticity,” according to a Quartz story. In this “burgeoning NFT market,” Quartz said, even tweets can sell for millions of dollars in just minutes.

Thanks, I think I’ll pass. After a year of living out most of my days via a screen, the last thing I’d be interested in acquiring, even if I were rich beyond my wildest dreams, is something that lives online. I want to be able to touch it, dust it off from time to time, and admire it as a real object in a physical setting.

Everydays — The First 5,000 Days

“Everydays — The First 5,000 Days,” an NFT by the artist known as Beeple, sold for $69.3 million at a Christie’s auction.

Following months and months of forced digitization of events, curtailed or nonexistent travel, and limited in-person social engagement, no doubt many of you and the audiences you serve share a similar desire to experience real things, places, and spaces.

Not to mention to have meaningful encounters with real people. So, in March/April cover and CMP Series stories, we offer examples of online events that are finding ways to provide some of that to their audiences — connecting them to real places via video field trips, engaging their senses through at-home culinary classes and floral arranging workshops, and creating emotional connections with authentic storytellers.

I was chatting with Bill Reed, FASAE, CMP, chief event strategy officer at American Society of Hematology (ASH), for another story when he shared an initiative that tied an-all virtual event — the 62nd ASH Annual Meeting and Exposition this past December — to a real place and real people. Recognizing how the loss of events has impacted ASH’s 2020 host destination, Bill’s team contracted with around 35 convention services staff who had been laid off or furloughed from San Diego hotels and the convention center. They were hired over a seven-day period “so that they could make a little bit of money but also they could stay engaged with ASH during the annual meeting,” Bill said. In their role as session monitors, they acted as “the eyes and ears for ASH” in case of any hiccups, he said.

“It struck us that when we return to hybrid meetings, it would be highly beneficial if those staff that we work with for the in-person had an under- standing of what is also going on in the virtual meeting environment simultaneously,” he said, giving them a window into reskilling possibilities. As for ASH, Bill said, “we saw an opportunity to help our larger ecosystem of people who are struggling.” Real times.

Responsible Behavior

As in-person events return before the COVID crisis ends, how do we ensure that attendees follow safety protocol? Whose responsibility is it? The host venue? The organizer? Both? It’s not just a philosophical question — it arises from a situation that occurred at an event in February. We spoke to several experts to help sort it out. Read Enforcing Mask-Wearing at Events.

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