In virtual events, there are staffers to “patrol” the event and assist attendees who have technical and logistical issues. Beyond the logistical matters, however, how much do event planners invest towards the end-to-end attendee experience?
And, how often do staffers provide tips and guidance on the more strategic elements of an event: which sessions to attend, what content to download, which exhibitors to visit and which attendees to meet with? The answer: probably not enough.
An Idea, Sparked by Metaverse Mod Squad
I was struck by this missing element while reading a New York Times article, “A Patrol for the Web’s Playgrounds.” The article profiles Metaverse Mod Squad, a company that provides clients with moderators to “patrol” their web sites and virtual worlds. Amy Pritchard (@AmyMMS), the company’s chief executive, had a great quote:
“We found if we greeted people, told them what they could do, gave them an event card and introduced them to other people, they had more fun.”
I think the same benefit can apply to B2B virtual events, where “fun” (in the sentence above) could be replaced with “getting more value out of the event”.
Benefit #1: Better Orientation of New Visitors
After logging in to a virtual event, attendees typically see a video greeting, either in an embedded video player, or via a host/hostess who was filmed against a “greenscreen” and overlaid on top of the environment. The “New Greenscreen” are real, live “greeters”, who welcome visitors to the virtual event and chat with them, either via text or audio/video.
The “New Greenscreen” is like a host or hostess at a cocktail party. They take your coat and point you to where the action is happening. To support large audiences, the greeters can hold group sessions. They can let the gathered audience know “what’s hot” (e.g. details on the session that is coming up next) and ask attendees what they’re looking to get out of the event.
As they learn more about the visitors, the greeters can suggest exhibitors to visit, sessions to attend and event content to download. Already, you’re providing attendees with a lot more usefulness than the typical video greeting, which is targeted to a broad audience and not an individual (who has unique needs and goals).
Benefit #2: Better Connect Attendees to One Another
A significant benefit of events (whether they’re physical or virtual) is the ability to network with like-minded (or perhaps different minded) attendees. In a virtual event, I may “seek and find” other attendees via social network integration, via group chat and perhaps via search. But the connections are somewhat random and serendipitous.
The event’s personalized guides could serve as “business-oriented matchmakers”, pairing attendees with one another. I once attended a physical networking event and told the host that I work in the Marketing function at a start-up. She immediately introduced me to a consultant who helps companies launch new products – and, asked if my company was looking to hire, since there were executive recruiters in attendance.
Without the proactive host, my introduction to the consultant may never have happened. In a similar way, the personalized guides, upon understanding attendees’ business goals (and challenges), could pair them with exhibitors whose products or services address those challenges.
The guides could have a special designation on their profile (analogous to wearing a “Staff” shirt at a physical event), so that attendees know to accept their chat requests – and, so that they can be proactively contacted by other attendees.
Benefit #3: Get Help from the Concierge(s) at The Information Desk
Personalized guides would all have their “presence indicators” (i.e. whether they’re online) appear at The Information Desk. This area becomes the one-stop shop for both technical support and “concierge” services. Need a recommendation between the two sessions airing simultaneously? Visit the Information Desk and get an informed opinion.
Looking for exhibitors who provide certain solutions? Ask your friendly guide at The Information Desk. Looking for that “kitchen design consultant” to map out the schedule and activities for your entire day? No worries, the concierge at the desk who assemble a “user journey” for you.
Virtual events do not employ this sort of service today, but I think that attendees will find it valuable. Of course, doing this will result in additional cost for the event producer, but it may pay off in the long run, based on attendee satisfaction. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below – will this work?
Dennis, very thought provoking post! Got lots of things going through my head as I read this. Here’s a few of those random thoughts.
1) Being a connector/b> – Whether in a virtual or face2face environment, attendee to attendee connections are huge. The concierge type service that can facilitate this, will be valued highly. It takes a really well connected person (or one heck of a good matchmaking tech) to do this well.
2) Matchmaking Tech Why not deploy Amazon.com-like recommendations? Since you downloaded this and went to that session and are friends with Sally, we recommend that you connect with Bob and Ralph and watch these videos. This isn’t rocket science stuff. There are several existing technologies that leverage LinkedIn or CRM profiles to make intelligent recommendations. A successful concierge is going to need to be armed with matchmaking technology to give good advice. Attendees will also want those to be available via self-serve, single click recommendations.
3) E-community is where it’s at Community Management is going to be a skill that makes the online engine hum. It’s about being a connector, making sure that good questions are asked and answered. The more these e-community traits are integrated into the virtual events, the greater the chance of having attendees show up more than once and engaging beyond the content.
Dave – thanks for the comments.
I agree that technology can be a great enabler to the matchmaker – and, that it can help attendees find each other.
It seems like we’re starting to identify necessary roles to be the glue that binds events together. First, we have the “virtual emcee” at a hybrid event, which brings together the virtual and on-site audiences.
And now, we have the guides/matchmakers, who are the glue that connects virtual attendees to virtual attendees. Of course, the matchmakers can and should work in conjunction with the hybrid event’s virtual emcee!
I think this could be a whole new career path! The Virtual Event Concierge. This goes beyond even having an emcee for the event. This is full-on, personalized engagement. I’m even envisioning video chatting capability.
I’d still suggest “staff” shirts for these people, especially if you are using video chatting capability, so that they can be identified as official reps of the event. Okay, you knew I had to get a promotional product reference in there somewhere. 😉
Anyway, great idea that does expand the definition of what is a virtual event!
Thanks for the comments, Heidi – and yes, we’ll work with you on the T-shirts 😉