Imagine sitting in the middle of a conference room with about 100 other people surrounding you. The speaker is talking, and everyone is listening intently, you could hear a pin drop. Your phone gives a little chirp; it’s an incoming tweet. A few minutes later, email dings, and just a few minutes after that, you feel the vibration of someone leaving a voicemail. You jump up, push past the folks sitting in your row, and head for the door. As you step outside, the heavy metal door slams behind you. What is the likelihood of this happening? Not too likely, we sit politely and wait until the session is done and leave with the crowd. The switching cost of leaving most in-person conference sessions is very high. It is awkward and embarrassing for us, we know we are interrupting fellow attendees, and we sympathize with the distraction we are creating for the speaker.
However, this scenario is different online, where the switching cost is next to zero. Moving away from a virtual conference to email, or social, or any other task is just a guilt-free click away. Should we be trying to find ways to hold virtual participants hostage? I don’t think so. But we can find ways to engage them far more.
New Session Formats
Consider playing with the formats of your sessions online. Not all sessions need to be webinar-like. Perhaps mix in some full group co-creation events. With a Matchbox, a panel of kicks off the conversation, and the participant chat adds excitement and reveals new dimensions to the compelling question at hand. Or try an on the spot crowdsourced set of breakout conversations designed for learning and networking by Haute Dokimazo. Online facilitation is an option too, and there is some exciting stuff going on over at FACILIT8me.
New Connection Opportunities
Months ago, on Collaborate, Thom Singer responded with the idea that he saw in action at a conference. It is called the Genius Lounge [link may work for ASAE members only]. Get your most successful industry leaders and speakers to be available for 15-minute one-on-one meetings that attendees schedule in advance. This idea could easily be adapted to online.
Do you think networking is dead now that we can’t meet in person? There are a bunch of platforms sprouting up to help us build community in a fun way. Consider Icebreaker.
New Speaker Skills
Many speakers know how to be engaging and interactive in-person, but online takes new skills. We need them to employ new skills when they plan their content, record, and when their session airs. Virtual speaker training helps speakers feel prepared and gives them ideas for more creative presentations.
Reduce switching by keeping attendees so engaged they can’t get their email done.