In such a heavily digitised world, why are digital events still not delivering to their full potential?
Following Cooltsalon’s own practice in the field of hybrid and multiplatform events, this autumn we teamed up with Life Design Circle to deliver a one-day session further investigating the value and impact of online events today, to develop group ideas on how these could be more aligned with our wellbeing. Specifically, we were focusing on cultural-creative events.
We wanted to engage with cultural events organisers and attendees alike, to find out why we “get lost in translation” when transferring offline experiences to online. In the “Not Another Online Event” workshop participants were given design thinking tools for collaborative innovation and brainstorming, to asses and identify issues surrounding online events.
The session delivered by LDC’s facilitator used multiple exercises stemming from design thinking methodology, but actually implementing life design rather than ‘traditional’ design sprint stages. We wanted it to be an active participation session (no “talking at” people), where the proposals come from the participants, and because we also related to LDC’s goal of tapping into feeling and empathy when it comes to idea generation.
Notably, participants in this session understood “online events” to be the webinars, web conferences and similar; and, although a few of the participants spoke about their experiences with other formats, e.g., art exhibitions incorporating an XR/VR element, nobody brought forward the idea of “online events” as relating to streaming (e.g., film festivals moved to streaming platforms, music gigs via YouTube Live, etc.) or web-designed spaces (e.g., museums and galleries introducing a “virtual tour” option).
Interestingly, very few touched on the hybrid models and the idea of preparing events with both mediums in mind.
Thus, in thinking about “online events” as of the webinar/web conference type, none of the participants identified moving content online as a challenge, but rather focused on the problems surrounding audience participation, communication and engagement.
Participants identified the value of such events in the attendees connections and exchanges they bring, hence the associated challenges lied in translating such connections in a digital context:
- how to show you’re actively there / being really present? – and is it on the attendee or on the organiser to nurture such presence?
- how to maintain a dialogue across all parties involved? – attendees-organiser-host-facilitator, etc. And making sure that everyone feels comfortable to speak out / share?
- how to maintain an attendee-to-attendee dialogue / relation? – voicing your collective experience, expressing shared feelings during the event, and all the little facets of being together in a space, be it offline or online.
The challenge that the participants then collectively formulated (following the ‘How might we’ exercise) read as
“How might we connect likeminded people / feel comfortable to collaborate after the event”,
followed closely (one vote less) by “How might we make audiences more engaged in the goal of the event”. Settling on the aforementioned challenge as the one to work on for the rest of the session, the group moved further into unpicking the issues of shared experiences, networking, and the role of the event organiser in facilitating connections between participants.
Where technology was discussed, the issue seemed to be with the kind of platforms used: the kinds that only cater for one-way communication, and don’t enable enough interactivity – not just in terms of interacting with the content, but also offering minimal interaction amongst audience members themselves.
Session participants noted on how VR and XR experiences are still rarely implemented at the core of most events that are branded as “online”, especially in cases where it is adapting an initially offline event to the digital realm (e.g., during national lockdowns); although all participants highlighted the immersive content formats (VR/XR/AR/360 video, etc.) as possible key to satisfactory “online events”, and an element that would make them more excited about ‘attending’ one.
Put it simply, building a website and calling it a “digital experience” would not suffice.
If you’d like to find out more about the work done by the Life Design Circle team (and ‘life design’ as applied in problem solving), make sure to check out their website and socials: