Person-to-person video conferencing technology always seems lacking in ability to bring people together and give them a natural sense of togetherness. “Zoom fatigue” may well be the result of staring at heads in boxes. This discordant experience is weird because you’re seeing someone’s face at the distance to which a screen would normally be in front of you. That’s far too close to be comfortable – if zoom was real life, people would be wiping spit off their faces after each conversation!
In the events industry we need to get away from thinking of virtual events as simply being ‘video conferencing.’ More specifically, video conferencing as just a point-to-point or person-to-person technology is wrong. The ability to connect people using video over the Internet in real time is actually a boon but something that needs to be planned for to enjoy maximum benefit.
Consider this – you’re in a room with other people watching a movie – the experience of that movie gets heightened because you’re laughing with others and so on and the result is that you may feel more connected to characters or narrative on screen. The experience of being part of an audience is important at events where conversations and speeches and presentations are delivered.
The power of a ‘hybrid’ event is being better enabled to encourage a sense of togetherness, and that applies to all stakeholders involved. For multi-speaker events, the audience experience of seeing everyone on the same stage (instead of in boxes showing parts of their individual living or bedrooms) creates congruous narrative. Similarly, when speakers are physically in the same room together a sense of camaraderie develops which can translate into their individual and collective stage presence. Of course, for event organizers it’s often important for speakers, some of which may be sponsors, to share an experience and enjoy participating in the event together.
At StartWell we call this phenomenon “getting in the room.” For people delivering, receiving or working with content delivered through video-casted events, a feeling of ‘being there’ will translate into more comfort, better interaction and higher chance of positive outcomes. We’ve talked about the main stage experience but this carries into break-out sessions as well. To improve the virtual experience of a breakout, it’s important to lead it from a visually interesting room with a group of engaged participants together in person. Additionally, there are ways to use technology to not only collapse virtual space visually but also functionally – for example, using google docs to co-edit something amongst session participants in real-time.
The opportunity with hybrid experience is that we can create a whole new participatory culture through events by engaging audiences. We need to use video creatively by considering the depth of what is on camera – making it accessible and able to be interacted with.