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  • Writer's pictureAvishay Greenfield Caspi

Virtual events, the next step

After most of the organizations with which we work cancelled, one after the other, the physical conferences and events that had been planned for the rest of 2020, as well as those planned for 2021, we understood that the new way in which we had begun, with some hesitation, to operate was now the new main way to go.

We had to do whatever was possible to learn, understand and specialize and then offer our clients the best of our insights and tools in order to enable them to create an interaction with their employees, management, clients, and communities on the digital platform.

In light of the dramatic changes happening to every organization, the substantive need arises to retell its story, to describe its ways of coping with the challenges – to nurture hope, to provide security and to demonstrate an ability to integrate into the present era. It is important for me to clarify that, from a professional point of view, we are entering a world of experimentation, of exploring a new language new tools and new skills.

We wanted to tell you about a virtual conference we held recently for the global management of the STRAUSS GROUP.

This event was put together and defined in partnership with a professional team from the company's headquarters. During the work process, we made a number of decisions that proved to be correct and led to the success of the event.

Selecting the appropriate platform. These days there are many platforms available to organizers, with each one having its advantages and disadvantages. The question is always: What is most important for the event? Rapid navigation between meeting rooms? The ability to present a variety of sponsors and suppliers? A feeling of community stemming from showing a gallery of participants who are listening and participating? An accessible and familiar platform that will enable all of the participants to use it easily? For this event, we chose to use the Zoom platform, which is in daily use in the organization and which makes a feeling of community possible, with everyone able to see everyone else.

A filming studio – yes or no? Should a central studio be created, with all of the investment that necessitates? Should an existing studio be used? A designed studio or a "green" studio, which enables filming on a virtual background? Is there any importance in locating the studio in a specific place – for example, the company headquarters building? Here we decided to create a studio at company headquarters – at home. A studio to which we had access a few days before the conference, which made it possible to hold rehearsals and preparations on a comfortable and accessible time table.

Pre-recorded or live? This is a question that we deal with at every virtual event that we plan. The advantage of a pre-recorded broadcast is that it is tight, free of malfunctions and "safe." The advantage of a live broadcast is the feeling of here and now, the ability to integrate reactions of participants or even to create interaction between them, and some of the speakers claim that they will be better in a live broadcast. In this event, we decided on a combination of the two: some of the presentations were pre-recorded, some of them took place in real time.

Interaction during the event. There is a desire to integrate those involved and to make them active partners in the event. How should we do that? Filmed statements from all over the world, sent in in advance, that are edited into a short film to be shown at the event; live statements by some of the participants; an artistic item in which all take part, sending in pictures and visual examples? Sending out a "conference kit" in advance that everyone will make use of during the conference? At this event, we raised and drank a toast together, in which the participants joined in with the team at the studio.

Break out rooms at the event. The option for the participants, at a certain stage, to enter additional "rooms" by choice and be exposed to additional materials provides us with another content channel, making two important things possible: choice and involvement. This is an opportunity to give additional participants in the organization a stage from which to tell their stories and to present them as part of the event.

In this event, we created five meeting rooms that operated simultaneously. The Zoom platform does not provide the possibility of conference participants selecting rooms – but we solved this challenge in an alternative way, which necessitated logistical effort.

Should an artistic element be integrated into the event? At a time in which everyone has access to the best artists in the world at the tips of their fingers, there has to be a very good reason to sit and watch an artistic segment. It is important that the selection be relevant to the organization and to the event, and to cause the artistic performance to be specially made for the event. In this event, we brought in the "Shalva" Band, a unique group of musicians with special needs, which expressed the emphasis in the Strauss Company on corporate responsibility and support of the community. At the beginning of their song, members of the band spoke moving words that were addressed to the participants.

How long? In the world of virtual conferences, the sense of time is completely different, and the ability to concentrate on presentations, video clips in one continuous event is challenged by many factors – among them environmental stimuli, the size of the screen, digital fatigue and more. According to our brief experience – less is more. We time everything at half the time that would work successfully at a physical event, and we try to maintain a dynamic rhythm, a variety of visual experiences and a focus on specific and intriguing content.

In conclusion – on this virtual journey, with its many dimensions, we are learning the new rules of the game "on the road" through experience, and we may well be establishing the first building blocks of the world of future conferences.


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