September 21, 2021 | By Malcolm Auld
I teach university classes online, so I understand the lack of engagement by students and the problems of ‘Zoom fatigue’. It’s now part of our vernacular, as executives and students are spending so much time on conference calls. I’m also involved in the events industry, both as an organiser and a speaker, and know that the last thing executives want to do is attend an event for a few hours on conference call technology.
Sadly, it appears many organisations are not investing in the delegate experience. I believe the industry needs to totally rethink what an online event looks like and how it is delivered, particularly from the delegate’s point of view. The risk for business events is that now we’re in the second year of the pandemic, if the event experience doesn’t move away from talking heads and pictures in boxes, then the events themselves won’t survive as there will be a lack of interest to attend.
I was sharing my thoughts with an industry stalwart and awards judge recently who suggested I check out Sydney event management company Synergy Effect. He said, “their e:volve event service is unique, there’s nothing like it in online events in Australia”.
So I met (online) with the Directors, Ruth Hirst and Michael Fleck about e:volve.
Hirst explained, “As we all know, the pandemic took a terrible toll on the business events and related industries, and will continue to do so. And while most event managers rushed to move events to a version of online delivery, the experience for delegates has been at best, unsatisfactory.
“Like all event managers we had to quickly rethink how to migrate events to online or hybrid delivery, or immediately lose business. But while most in the industry jammed existing content into conference call technology or static platforms, we took a different approach.”
Fleck added, “We researched the growing number of online event platforms and other community management technology, and interviewed clients for their input and requirements in the ‘new normal’. Then we designed what we call the ‘Axis of Online Engagement’, as a visual guide to help us develop a service that sits in the prime top right of the high-tech/high-engagement quadrant.”
Fleck continued, “The Synergy Effect team has decades of experience producing and streaming content via satellite. It’s given us a solid understanding of how people like to view content on screens. We know that audiences prefer to lean back and absorb content, choosing to engage as it suits them. It is how the human brain works and how people behave when seated in conference rooms.
“And that’s one of the major points of difference with e:volve – events are designed and delivered like a television show or movie. Delegates don’t want to be forced to constantly lean into a screen to try and catch what talking heads in boxes are saying or showing. The delegates decide when to engage, and with e:volve they can do so via chat sessions, Q&A panels, live polls and other interactive activities.”
They showed me some of their case studies including an awards function with live crosses from the MC to winners, an investment services presentation, a medical procedure demonstration and others – all using branded virtual stages, with live sessions as well as recorded, delegates attending from around the country, and speakers located both locally and offshore. The events felt much more like a show than they did an online presentation.
I then spoke with Zeila Marino, Product Manager at Galderma, who used e:volve for a recent national product demonstration.
“The engagement level by the 120 participating doctors was unlike anything we’ve experienced. The recorded demonstration streamed for 15 minutes, but the live Q&A session could have easily gone for more than an hour. We received 130+ questions, more than one per doctor – the MC had to work hard to keep up.
“The resulting requests for samples and more information meant the event was a huge success. We reached more doctors than we would with a local city-based presentation in a function room, so the event easily paid for itself and it’s still available to watch for those who missed out.”
I also interviewed Dr Lim, the doctor who presented at the Galderma launch.
“I’ve delivered dozens of events on different platforms. But e:volve allows you to scale the delivery by a factor of ten or more, as you can reach so many time-poor doctors in a location that suits them. By recording the presentation and streaming it, you eliminate bandwidth issues and have none of the logistical concerns involved with a physical function room. It also means you can edit the presentation as you record, so it is delivered extremely professionally.
“I was available on video for a live Q&A hosted by an MC located in another city. As far as the participating doctors were concerned, I was talking directly to them on their screen – my physical location was irrelevant. This is a much more efficient way to run the training for a large audience located all across the country.”
Fleck has quite an interesting approach to event design.
“We don’t deliver virtual events, we create real events that are delivered in virtual spaces – and we can use different channels for different business events. We design fully-branded virtual stages, so you can own your sense of place, and project the imagery you desire to your audience,” he says.
“Speakers don’t have to congregate in a single studio for recording or broadcasting. Their presentations are captured and streamed from anywhere in the world using a variety of delivery services. Presentations can be pre-recorded and streamed with the presenter available for live Q&A, or they can just be delivered live if that’s preferable. There is complete flexibility.”
Hirst and Fleck are also letting micenet in on an exclusive.
“Originally we designed e:volve as a service only available to Synergy Effect clients. But given the positive response, we’re offering it to all event managers in the industry, even competitors. It’s not a subscription service, we simply work with the event manager to plan and cost each event on its merits. We know that if the industry doesn’t collaborate and move ahead of basic online delivery tools, it will suffer permanent losses. We have to be innovative and work together to survive.”