Designing the Virtual Experience: How to Do It

In the 80s and 90s, breakdance competitions, wrestling, and beauty contests were the most-watched events on TV.

They delivered entertaining experiences, that kept audiences thoroughly engaged for ages.

Today, media has evolved and anyone can produce an event and take it online.

For instance, you’ve seen DJs, artistes, influencers and a ton of professionals do this. Specifically, via live streams and webinars to stay connected to their audiences.

However, there’s the persistent headache of how to transfer the live event experience to the online space –for a captivating virtual experience.

The reality though, is that you can’t have a purely virtual event. Live and virtual experiences will equally borrow from each other to deliver a hybrid. This is most likely what future events will be like.

#eventprofs who’ve conducted virtual events continue to share their insights.

Therefore, we’d like to share our learnings and altogether ease you into designing the virtual experience of your dreams.

Designing the live experience

Designing the virtual experience in Kenya Lucidity Africa
Photo by Mark Angelo from Pexels

Event design is the flair in which certain sourced elements, are presented within a setting in answer to a specific goal.

The presentation must consider how people will perceive and interact with the human-created space. Practical event design underpins everything that will be at the event.

  1. The welcome desk
  2. Catering/edibles displays
  3. Décor 
  4. Staging
  5. Audio-visual
  6. Scents and tastes
  7. Entertainment 
  8. Amenities
  9. Environmental sensitivities 
  10. Security

But often what passes for event design is just themed décor. An after-thought or add-on to the big idea similar to the frills added to a dress to make it spectacular. 

Good design understands that people are the heart of any event.

Regardless of whether it’s a meeting between two people or a football tournament. The nature of their interaction is what informs how the entire experience is structured and delivered. 

Designing the virtual experience

The constant in all events is that, people are the heart of the experience.

Before you settle on a design, describe vividly the kind of experience you want to deliver.

Don’t waste resources on an experience environment that no-one will relate to or that doesn’t tell your story.

People crave experiences that give life meaning. In essence, this simple fact should be your core focus when planning and designing every virtual experience.

#1. Develop a design process that leads to the desired outcome

The thing about a virtual event is that you can’t afford to be shoddy.

Your event is solely dependent on time, timing, and people coordination. Every second counts.

By all means, have a tight and clear plan. Particularly, of what happens from start to end of the event.

Another key point is that: A significant part of the virtual experience is based on the type of application you choose and how content is structured. 

#2. Optimize the app experience

Don’t settle on an app or platform just because everyone’s using it.

Research it and figure out whether it suits your needs. In a virtual event, the app is your venue. Apply the same tactics as you would when scoping out a live event venue.

Get an app or platform that can be customized, has a digital guide, enables easy networking and boosts engagement. It’s got to do deliver multi-layered experiences.

#3. Keep it simple and easy

Don’t complicate the platform or slides. Specifically, adapt the program to the virtual audience attention span.

Imagine a boat sailing peacefully in the clear blue ocean, pure bliss. Aim for that.

Make it easy to get in, access information, and share feedback. 

Above all, keep weaving your audience back to the main screen with push notifications, clear instructions, how-to tips and any detail that’s going to keep them in the zone and engaged.

Managing the experience

#4. Focus on emotions

People crave experiences that give life meaning.  

  • Make it fun – for example, wherever they are get them to take a selfie and post it on the app’s social wall with funny comments or emojis.
  • Weave surprise and intrigue into the experience –give out virtual gifts or food vouchers.
  • Transform your content –don’t ‘kill’ them with info-heavy slides. In addition, use music, videos or tell stories. 

#5. Manage attention from start to end

  • Be salient –add a statement backdrop or have a striking presentation. Anything that makes the main screen the center of attraction.
  • Use breaks intentionally –tie each break to an incentive or well planned Q&A (you can even run it via Twitter not to jam the platform).   
  • Avoid content fatigue –don’t overwhelm them with information. Weave fun activities like stretch exercises and games between speakers.

#6. Have a detailed checklist

As a matter of fact, once you’ve designed the experience, check on the details.

Your audio-visual partner is one of your MVPs –a good number of #eventprofs have flagged audio as their weakest link.

Equally important, be aware of copyright laws.

Rehearse like it’s the actual event. Review the plan –what are the value touch points, where are the branding opportunities, has the Q&A been crafted and who’ll follow up on unanswered questions.

Has the virtual MC been trained? Vendor contracts? Recording materials? Check on the details throughout the planning process.

Final word

It’s important to realize that you’ll not get the best results by designing the virtual experience on your own.

Get an A-grade team of at least a digital strategist, AV technicians, a technical producer, an event professional, and a virtual MC (moderator).

Roles are evolving by the day, so stay updated and keep reading, learning, and staying close to information hubs.

Must to remember: The virtual experience design guide includes –a structured planning process with a clear outcome, an intuitive app or platform that can be optimized to achieve the desired outcome, simplicity, focus on emotions, attention management and a keen eye for details.

Be confident as you step foot into this bold new world, because you’re not clueless.

Follow your intuition and don’t be afraid to create your own rules. No-one has the monopoly on what’s right or wrong –as long as it sits well with your desired outcome, pursue it.

We’re event planners and decorators, so contact us for all your event needs.