I’M not being sarcastic when I say the past two years has been a joyride for me. Don’t get me wrong: going through an unprecedented tough business period is no thrill – but look at what we’ve learned from being agile, adaptable to change and ready for a new chapter.
Some say Covid has led to a paradigm shift, others say the pandemic has triggered the worst setback for business events in decades. What I see is that change is constant and we must adapt if we want to maintain our livelihoods.
Design thinking offers a way of achieving this when it comes to virtual events. Let’s see how it worked for us at Mills Creative…
It‘s about content, not technology
One of the more obvious changes in event marketing since the pandemic is the mass adoption of virtuality including communication platforms, VR technology and the new buzzword, metaverse.
As a creative agency, my team at Mills realises that designing for event marketing has gone from filling space with art to creating a multi-dimensional journey. This progression from space to journey is an exciting one.
Take our award-winning work for Amazon Web Services (AWS) as an example. Our designers spent more time researching and understanding the essence of the brand to create a virtual representation of the AWS Summit Online ASEAN 2021 rather than just focusing on the aesthetics.
The designers had to solve issues such as: How do we render a virtual stage and make it as lively as a physical show? How do we overcome the obstacle of screen fatigue, and how do we break the barriers of one-way communication between the brand and the online audience?
Neither technology nor simply choosing the right streaming platform are solutions to these challenges. Instead, the success of a virtual experience comes from applying design thinking at the content creation stage.
A virtual event is like a party. Don’t stop the music
Content is the soul of communication and it needs a relevant design language to engage people. A virtual keynote cannot just be a PowerPoint with a talking head delivering an on-screen monologue. It also doesn’t mean everything must be replicated from the physical world. The presentation of a brand and its values must be spot-on without any unnecessary distractions such as cluttered graphics, animation or avatars.
The AWS Summit Online ASEAN 2021 attracted over 12,000 unique visitors who logged-in to participate in the virtual event. Content was carefully designed to match audience interest. It was like a party. To keep participants active, we had to keep the music on. From designing the virtual stage that fitted the tonality of the brand to developing a series of interactions such as speedy chat and quiz tournaments, the key was to banish the monologue and reward the audience for their participation.
What did we learn?
My company designed two award-winning virtual events between 2020 and 2021. One for Google and another for Amazon. What we have learned from our journey is that the online space has more dimensions when visualising the essence of the brand. It is not just the presentation of aesthetics, but also the content and the interactions that resonate with audiences and gets them to focus.
When a designer creates a stage for a virtual event, he or she is not limited by height or width. They need to take care of depths and dimensions, which means different content, objectives, interactions, views and transitions that must be woven into one complete marketing journey.
We must constantly ask ourselves how we can keep audiences navigating our virtual event the whole day when the average online attention span is merely three minutes.
Event marketing during the pandemic is a tough job, but technology opens a multitude of possibilities for virtual events. Only by deploying design-thinking when creating content can we make a virtual event experience successful – even better than a physical version.
Eddie Choi is managing partner of Mills Creative, a creative agency in Singapore. Mills’ clients include Google, Amazon and Twitter