Thoughts — 26 Jan 2021
By Cara Van Rhyn

How do you create desire in this Covid world of online events?

by Cara Van Rhyn

Before the world had ever heard of Covid-19, online events were largely seen as a last resort only to be used for global events that don’t warrant an international flight. Nowadays, online events are all we have to stay connected to those not in our household or bubble.

For many people, their first experience of an online event came this past year in the form of a Zoom quiz or a FaceTime birthday party with a dodgy Wi-Fi connection. But for businesses who typically rely on events, how can they continue to meaningfully build their brand if they can’t offer guests a physical seat, a glass of champagne or even a handshake?

The main obstacle standing in the way of creating exciting virtual events is screen fatigue. After a whole day spent on video calls, it’s hard to persuade someone to spend an extra hour or two online and expect them to be engaged with the content. Creating a hook that your audience finds valuable is essential to making an online event work.

Online events can be a great way for audiences to connect with interesting guest speakers with whom they wouldn’t normally be able to interact with. A lot of brands are using Twitch to provide this service as questions and comments from viewers can be seen by event hosts in real time and answered live. For example, Burberry’s S/S 2021 fashion show was streamed live on Twitch, opening up a once exclusive event to live discussion.

Education is another beneficial way to persuade your audience to spend a bit longer in front of a screen. Learning a new skill makes an online event feel much more interactive, but these skills don’t necessarily need to be linked to your particular industry. John Lewis & Partners are hosting 100 virtual experiences to keep audiences entertained during lockdown. Ranging from styling advice, cooking ideas and even tips on how to get the most out of your daily walk, they are creating content that might not be directly linked to selling a product, but these events will create a valuable customer experience and lasting brand loyalty.

Overall, there are four main points that should be considered if you want to create desire around an online event:

  • Make sure to drum-up excitement beforehand on digital and social channels
  • Where possible include interesting, coveted guest speakers and provide exclusive content
  • Use the tech at our disposal and consider live polls and Q&As as a way to make the audience feel more involved
  • Don’t be afraid to host events on topics outside your industry, people are looking to brands for entertainment during lockdown

The shift to a virtual event space might seem daunting, but you can’t simply host the same style of event you would have in 2019 and expect audiences to be as engaged as they would be in person. Online events need to be worth those extra hours of screen time and create meaningful value for those attending.