Human Connection in the Digital World Keeps Businesses Growing
We all enjoy the company of others. Whether it’s unwinding with loved ones at a dinner party or networking with like-minded professionals at an industry event, we’re wired to connect with others. But with the Covid-19 pandemic bringing on the “new normal” of social-distancing and working-from-home, we face the prospect of losing these important social networks.
That’s bad news for everyone, personally and professionally.
Research has shown that social networks strongly shape our health and happiness, and even how we use our brains to make decisions. People with strong social networks have access to more diverse ideas, which may in turn facilitate innovation.
Globally, up to 83 million attendees have been affected by the disruption to events. With business travel shelved indefinitely, even major brands have been forced to scrap their in-person events, from Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference to Oracle’s Modern Business Experience.
C-suite executives and managers who opt to restart event activities only when the situation normalises will find the wait unbearable. The most optimistic estimate of an available novel coronavirus vaccine is early next year, which means a hazy end in sight for businesses affected by the pandemic.
“Businesses simply can’t afford to wait for the storm to pass. They have to be proactive in minimising disruptions,” says Kieran Kennedy, Director at Veritas Events, a leading global events agency, headquartered in Sydney and part of the BI Worldwide group. “It’s important to understand that the primary reason businesses invest in events is because they create avenues for human connections to take place.”
With more than two decades of experience delivering events experiences with leaders from all over the world, Kieran is well-positioned to say that there is an urgent need for businesses to invest in digital solutions or risk getting left behind by the competition.
Pivoting to digital events has now become a necessity. Digital events won’t replace in-person events, but businesses still need to be present and maintain connections with their customers and stakeholders. Through digital events, businesses can signal continuity and adaptability to their target audiences. Through team-building events that bring together employees who have been isolated through working-from-home for months now, internal events boost staff morale and facilitate connectivity.
Take Microsoft for example. The 10th edition of Build — Microsoft’s annual conference aimed at developers using its technologies — was moved online and made free for all attendees. Instead of a three-day event, the May conference comprised multiple sessions that streamed in parallel for 48 hours. The agenda also deviated from the usual stream of product announcements; instead, there was greater focus on developer-oriented content to better connect with attendees and their interests.
Adobe too was able to successfully pivot to digital events when it held its annual Summit conference in end-March. Originally a massive event with 23,000 expected attendees, it was fitting that the digital experience conference had itself gone fully digital. The seamless transition from offline to online also gave a boost to Adobe’s reputation as a market leader in decentralisation and cloud-based solutions. In Adobe’s Q2 FY ’20 Quarterly Earnings Call, Shantanu Narayen, the company’s Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer, said, “The Adobe Summit Live virtual experience enabled us to engage a far larger audience than an in-person event and set the bar for virtual events.”
Both companies’ positive experiences tell us that digital events should not be seen as a band-aid solution to circumvent disruption. Instead, companies should focus on how these new formats can help create and maintain relationships amidst the pandemic.
Here are the top 3 ways digital events can help your business create and maintain relationships:
1. Increased attendance
Digital events can lower or even eliminate logistical and financial barriers to attendance. There’s no worrying over flight and hotel arrangements as people all over the world can now attend your event in the comfort of their own homes. Digital events also help brands to grow their audience by getting a wider pool of attendees to participate, no matter their location.
2. Increased engagement
Digital events tend to move at a fast-pace due to the fact that attendees no longer have to physically move from session to session to connect with other attendees. Plus, important information such as people names, titles and company can be easily recorded down for future reference and follow-up.
3. Enhanced feedback and measurability
Surveys and polls can inform sessions in unexpected and productive ways as speakers can easily engage with attendees’ questions and concerns in real-time. And, with everything taking place online, key information such as time and duration of attendance, user location and method of payment can be easily logged and used for future optimisation.
As businesses seek alternatives to continue to connect with key stakeholders, customers and employees, they need to consider the value of well-organised digital events, big or small, to stay humanly connected.