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How to define your event format and maximise its effectiveness

“Online is not a simple replacement for the real thing,” says JTB Communication Design’s (JCD) Kazuto Yoshii. ” Think about the added value of a new event fusing both.”

Yoshii, an event producer in the Meeting & Convention Division at Japan-based JCD, a full-service corporate event agency, told M&IT that the demand for online events in addition to live events has increased sharply. Yoshii shares with M&IT the kind of events the agency is striving to create and how it intends to achieve it, given the difficulty of holding large-scale, on-site events during the current Covid-19 climate. 

Kazuto Yoshii

Currently, many physical events have been cancelled due to the influence of Covid-19, and the demand for online events is increasing. Fortunately, JCD has been involved in online events for a long time. It is common practice to distribute video recordings to people who cannot participate in lectures and other events. In addition, live video distribution is done in real-time for events like award ceremonies where the newest information is important.

Nowadays, it is not uncommon for not only the audience, but the performers to be online as well. Companies are also making more complex demands, such as inviting presenters from overseas to hold discussions in real-time and then inserting audio from the interpreters.

In addition, it is important to take the ways in which people participate in online events into account, meaning the freedom of place and space while using devices such as PCs and smartphones. As work styles are diversifying, using a smartphone while on the move as if reading a book, has become another way to participate in events.

Online events can be broadly divided into four formats

The first one, ‘on-demand distribution event‘, means editing a lecture or seminar that was held, and distributing the video and audio at a later date. Since it can be viewed at any time for a certain period, it has the advantage that busy people can watch it repeatedly at the time and place most convenient for them, and it can also reach more people.

The second is ‘live distribution event‘. This means distributing the video at the same time as the actual event, such as an entrance ceremony or the presentation of a new product. The unedited video is delivered in real-time, making it possible for people in remote locations who have difficulty physically attending to share the moment and atmosphere with those in the venue.

The third type is the ‘virtual event‘, in which a virtual space is built for events such as exhibitions and trade fairs, where exhibits and company booths can be set up online. By accessing this virtual space you can see the exhibit as if you had participated in the event. You can experience the event regardless of the venue or location, but the disadvantage is that it takes time and money to build the system. Also, at the current business level, it may be difficult to hold large-scale business negotiations and conclude contracts in a virtual space.

Lastly, the fourth, ‘hybrid event‘. This style of event uses live distribution and virtual rooms that are available online, in addition to a physical event. Multiplying real-world events and online solutions will make offline and online feel the same. In addition, it is possible to maximize the effect of marketing measures, such as being able to grasp the behaviour history of participants online.

The benefits of online

One of the advantages of online events over on-site events is that you can accumulate all participants’ behaviour as data, which can be used for marketing. But on the other hand, corporate salespeople find their job harder to do. If you are at a physical event, you can start sales immediately, but online you can only contact through e-mail, so it takes more time to achieve results. However, by combining online with the real thing, the possibilities widen, and it will be possible to respond to any situation quickly.

Digital events will be the mainstream for a while, but after the Covid-19 situation is over, people will definitely return to face-to-face events.

Utilising advanced digital technology

Today’s hybrid events are simply a mix of live and virtual events. However, I think that when physical events can be held again, we will be required to go one step further than conventional hybrid events. Therefore, what we should pursue are more advanced digital hybrid events.

Up until now, most of the general events take questionnaires after it’s over and use that for the next event. However, in the case of a digital event, you can receive feedback in real-time and implement improvements immediately for the event being held.

This is especially effective for entertainment events and corporate events with an audience. Now, using sensing technology, we can collect data such as the temperature of the venue and facial expressions. By processing this with AI technology (augmented reality), we can estimate the excitement and emotions of the audience and visualise it.

If you find that specific content is seen as interesting, or that people get excited when you say certain words, it would be possible to reorganise the content and change the production on the spot, in tune with what the audience wants.

Anticipate delegates’ desires

Companies will also need more sophisticated digital hybrid events when hosting promotional events for their clients. For example, if a participant can visit a virtual venue on the web before the event, the participant’s needs can be analysed in advance. On the day of the event, if you use a physical event and an online event in tandem, you can choose whether to participate in the actual venue or online depending on convenience and in doing this the company can increase the number of acquisition leads.

Also, if the number of people at the start and afterwards, and the timing at which they left, can be measured in detail, the company side will be able to provide targeted information after the event.

Online events are not just a substitute for face-to-face events. Instead of considering them separately, and by combining the merits of each, it is possible to attain better results for both the organiser and the participant.

In the future, it will be vital to combine offline and online to create new event value, and this future is just around the corner.