Event strategists are being called upon to quickly transform face-to-face experiences into digital events in response to travel restrictions and social distancing measures imposed worldwide due to COVID-19. But when an event was originally planned to be held in person, what steps can planners take to ensure their new, digital event is just as educational and engaging?
In a Digital Experience Institute (DEI) Office Hours webinar on March 26, Leslie Bailey, director of PCMA DEI, spoke with Debi Scholar, CMM, DES, global procurement category lead for Teva Pharmaceuticals, and Mary Beth Micucci, DES, president and owner of MBM Strategic Consulting Inc, about considerations when translating a face-to-face agenda into a digital program.
The element of time is paramount. “We can only go as long as our butts in seats and our attention allow on computers,” Scholar said, adding that if the Office Hours webinar had been scheduled to run for four hours, “I can’t imagine how many people would have agreed to attend.”
Since a digital event can’t include room for attendees to network the same way as a face-to-face event can, Scholar said sessions shouldn’t be a day — or even four hours — long. “But that doesn’t mean you have to [cut] short the actual content,” Scholar said. “All it means is that it might be [delivered] in smaller chunks of data.”
Scholar suggested planning for interaction with the digital audience every five to seven minutes, whether it’s a quick poll, calling on random attendees for feedback, or asking attendees to visit virtual breakout rooms for group work.
When adding interactive elements to a session, “we can do that probably for an hour or two,” Scholar said. “Maybe there’s even [another] afternoon session, if you need to have more [sessions] in one day, but I would be really cautious going beyond two hours.” Scholar recommended extending the event over the course of several days if feasible and making some sessions available on demand. “Just think about chunking it differently,” she said.
To learn more about education, engagement, sponsorship, and security for digital events, view the Digital Experience Institute (DEI) Office Hours webinar.
PCMA has created a COVID-19 resources page to help event professionals find reliable information about the outbreak and to share events industry-related resources to ensure they are prepared.