6 Tips to Creating an Immersive Virtual Event Experience

July 20, 2022

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Immersive virtual event experiences keep your attendees engaged during your online event in new, innovative ways. Attendee drop-off and virtual fatigue are problems event planners need solutions for, and immersive event experiences for your virtual audience are one viable, and exciting, solution.

Picture yourself at a digital dance party. You’re learning salsa, line dancing, or whatever style you like. As you sway to the sounds, you see hundreds of other guests dancing on your computer screen. There’s a sense of community even though people aren’t in the same room. They’re sharing the moment and having fun. Your dance party captures the spirit of immersive virtual events.

It’s easy to see why these experiences are gaining traction. Ninety percent of event professionals say they will or expect to use an online event strategy even after in-person meetings return in full force. The fact is digital events deliver content fast to huge global audiences at reduced costs and environmental impact.

Virtual Villains and Vision

Despite these advantages, online gatherings still pose challenges. Sixty-three percent of global meeting professionals say audience engagement is their top concern. What’s more, without careful planning, registrants don’t log on. Attendees drop off. And on-demand viewing is low.

Why? Because audiences have grown more sophisticated in the past two-and-a-half years. They don’t want to watch one-way monologues from speakers to attendees. Virtual attendees want to be part of the action.

The good news: Immersive virtual experiences draw people in with an immediacy that mirrors an in-person gathering. These events push the envelope on engagement. They help you connect with your audience on an emotional level to deliver an uplifting, memorable experience.

How a Virtual SKO Captured Hearts & Minds

Take the Pure Storage sales kick-off 2021, for example.

The cutting-edge technology company wanted a unique way to introduce its newest products and turn employees into brand evangelists. Its 2021 SKO, featuring an “Islands of Innovation” theme, treated more than 2,200 global attendees to a three-day, all-virtual engagement experience.

For starters, Pure Storage and event design firm Blueprint Studios created a 360-degree, fantasy environment with the look and feel of a videogame.

A digital theme park showcased five lands, each representing a core Pure Storage value. Attendees explored Customer-First Cosmos, Ownership Island, Teamwork Territory, Persistence Playland, and the Creativity Kingdom.

Blueprint Studios brought the theme to life with an interactive illustration of the islands in a vibrant orange galaxy. Music and animated video overlays provided a 360 perspective. Each island was a landing point where attendees engaged, networked, and consumed conference programming.

The SKO was a tremendous win. The event raised information retention by creating an intuitive, immersive, and fun environment. Offering plenty of elements to surprise and delight, the SKO also ignited employee enthusiasm for the brand and its 2021 product lineup.

Bottom line: With fluency in the ways of immersive virtual events, you can create experiences that educate, entertain, inspire, and delight.

6 Tips for Immersive Virtual Events

Tip #1 – Have everyone at the starting line together.

Over the last two-and-a-half years, event professionals have received the equivalent of a Ph.D. in digital activation. Keep using what you’ve learned to lift events ever higher.

For example, planning teams, agencies, and tech providers have had to be all at the starting gate together. Continue including all stakeholders in the conversation from the beginning to take advantage of the solutions available for your virtual events.

This type of collaboration allows changes to happen in real-time as you gather data. You’ll boost speed to market. What’s more, you’ll see lower change-order fees, greater efficiency, and ultimately a more successful event.

Tip #2 – Seek solution-driven technology.

At Stova, we like to say:

“If they’ll come, we’ll build it.”

Meaning, you shouldn’t have to change your goals to fit what your software can do. Instead, find a provider who starts with a blank slate and customizes solutions for your event.

For example, a leading tech company wanted to enhance engagement at its annual innovation conference. To support the event theme, we created a Shark-Tank-like environment. Tech-enabled investing features put attendees in the center of the action and kept them engaged from start to finish.

As technology advances, providers can create bespoke, interactive environments like this in just six – 12 weeks.

Tip #3 – Personalize.

What’s the best way to immerse attendees in your virtual event?

Personalization, personalization, personalization!

Consider the attendee’s reasons for logging into your event before designing a user journey. Some people want to network virtually, while others join to consume content. These are two very different experiences. Give attendees what they want to optimize engagement and event ROI.

Tip #4 – Ratchet up Personalization with Machine Learning.

Attending an event powered by machine learning is like watching Netflix instead of going to Blockbuster.

Attendees don’t need to waste time, plowing through piles of options. Machine learning analyzes click patterns to determine where attendees are. Then it makes intelligent predictions about where they’ll want to go next.

Recommendations reflect people’s tastes as they evolve to keep them engaged on the platform.

Delight attendees with insightful suggestions for sessions, exhibitor booths, and networking opportunities they wouldn’t likely have found on their own. By adding machine learning, we see attendees stay longer in sessions. And exhibitors attract more targeted leads further down in the sales funnel.

Tip #5 – Mirror what people love about onsite events.

Make the most of traditional virtual engagement tools like live polls, chat boxes, photo booths, networking lounges, 1:1 videoconferencing, and more.

Then, lift engagement even higher with digital solutions that capture the best of in-person experiences. Here are examples from Stova.

  • Hallway Chatter: What’s a fun thing about gathering onsite? Serendipitous encounters, of course! Imagine walking down a venue corridor and bumping into an acquaintance. They tell you about a speaker who inspired them or an activation they can’t wait to see. Hallway Chatter captures these moments online.

How it works: Empower key attendees and influencers to produce user-generated video content related to your event. They’ll enjoy their moment in the limelight. And viewers can consume short-form content on topics they choose from people they know, like, and trust.

How it works: A data and AI company wanted to blend learning and fun during its five-day, virtual sales kickoff. They created an imaginative, Where’s Waldo-style scavenger hunt featuring pop-up caricatures – avatars – of the leadership team. Employees navigated the platform in search of the CEO, CFO, and CMO and took quick quizzes to win prizes.

No screen fatigue at this event! With loads of activations throughout the platform, attendees immersed themselves in friendly competition, while learning about the company.

Tip #6 – Remember the Basics.

While embracing what’s new and next is exciting, many essentials remain the same. When planning immersive virtual experiences, don’t lose sight of what has made you successful throughout your career.

  • Focus on the end goal. Make event design flow from your business goal and budget.
  • Know your audience. The beauty of virtual is analytics show what content sticks (or not). Leverage data to see what inspired and delighted attendees in the past.
  • Plan ahead. Get support from your tech partner before and during your event. Testing and walkthroughs are paramount. Resolve potential issues way in advance to ensure flawless virtual engagements.
  • Build excitement. Create pre-event experiences that give everyone a chance to practice navigating a unique immersive virtual environment.
  • Deliver TV-broadcast-quality content. People are used to stellar programming on Netflix and other streaming services. Don’t disappoint. Enlist a dynamic emcee. Produce short, “snackable” content, too, with quality video, animations, music, graphics, and behind-the-scenes views to keep eyes on the screen.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Immersive virtual events aren’t about just one thing. Many touchpoints and interactions combined will have people coming away from your event saying, “Now, that was an uplifting experience.”

Wrapping up

Try these tips and learn as much as you can about immersive virtual events.

As we said at the outset, these experiences have the power to educate, entertain, inspire, and keep attendees glued to your platform for the duration. This strategy works and produces digital events that are intuitive, compelling, and fun.

Now that you know about immersive virtual events, want to dazzle attendees with irresistible in-person experiences?

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