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Event Horizon: Episode 4 - Online Excellence

By Parul Shah


Hello and Welcome to Event Horizon. I’m Parul Shah.

On today’s episode, I want to talk about ways to optimize the design and delivery of online events. The online medium is how a majority of you, the event professionals, will stay linked to your audiences over the next six months. So let’s take the next five minutes to talk about what you need to know now.

Our strategy team has been leveraging the insights generated from the data to drive home three macro-level strategies for our clients. So what are they?

1. Start with a strong and sustainable story line

2. Create clarity throughout — from expectations to experience

3. Don’t underestimate the value of community

Let’s talk about number one, starting with a strong and sustainable story line. The story line is the bridge between the high-level agenda and the experience framework. It’s fluid, it stretches along the full experience journey to engage the participants, and it allows you to thread in your value proposition. The reason why we need a strong story or narrative is because for the most part, the online experience is a one-way energy stream, like what we’re doing here.

There’s a screen and likely lots of miles between you and your viewing population. So, to help them get connected and invested, you need to engage their emotional side first, and a rich story allows us to do that.

Another thing I always tell my clients is, think of in-person events as more theatrical and dramatic in nature, whereas online requires a more cinematic approach. Think in episodes, or a playlist, that have very distinct series of experiences, each with a beginning, middle, and end. And within each episode, there should be fluidity from one presenter to another, not choppy or awkward transitions.

Our second macro strategy is establishing clarity. This one I can’t emphasize enough. We know digital fatigue is real. Our audiences are highly distracted, and high stress environments reduce our ability to process information by 80%.

Yeah, that’s a lot.

Knowing that, don’t shy away from giving them clear expectations of what they will see and gain. Participants should have a solid understanding of where they are within the experience itself, which means user experience, user interactivity, and intuitive navigation are all going to be hypercritical.

Time is a very precious commodity right now and you have the opportunity to demonstrate how much you value their time by providing clarity. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is we want as few clicks as possible. So from registration to setting their agenda to networking, make is simple and clear.

Our last macro strategy tells us that if we’ve learned anything from this situation, it’s that community building doesn’t require walls. While content is a huge driver for online participation, to some extent it’s gone a little too far. Our attendee survey tells us that content overload is a huge challenge. They also noted that online lacks the necessary networking and community building that is core to creating a meaningful experience.

So what can you do about that?

Well, take the lead in creating networking groups, conversation threads, and feedback forums. Be diligent and ensure that your community and networking are getting just as much attention as the more formal content programming. Allow for smaller, more intimate sessions with Q&A that are limited to 50 people so they have a chance to participate and feel connected. Most importantly, let your community contribute to content curation so it’s not just one-sided.

Well, that brings us to the end of our episode. Let me quickly recap our three macro strategies:

1. Start with a strong and sustainable story line

2. Create clarity throughout — from expectations to experience

3. Don’t underestimate the value of community

As always, thank you for tuning in and be sure to visit to subscribe to these episodes and see all our latest research.

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