Editor’s Note: As part of Back Light, a series of articles sharing insider observations, we asked Tracy Judge, founder & CEO of Soundings Connect, for strategies meeting professionals can use to remain employable in the coming years. virtual and hybrid
Virtual events have become a mainstay in the business events industry. The shift happened quickly and out of necessity, but a tech disruption in the industry was inevitable.
This year, Cvent made a significant investment in the Virtual Attendee Hub, creating a virtual event experience that integrates with their existing event marketing and event management platform. In November, Bizzabo, a platform for virtual and live event conferences, announced they closed a $138M investment round. These investments signal virtual events are here to stay and the industry is preparing for the growth of hybrid events.
What does this rapid technology shift mean for talent in our industry? In order to continue growing a career in business events, meeting professionals need to have experience with virtual and hybrid events.
A Dry Run for the Future
Earlier this year we launched Soundings Thrive, a platform providing tools for freelancers to stay relevant in the marketplace and accelerate their business. Since the launch, our primary focus has been to help freelancers embrace their potential in the virtual event world.
There’s currently a high demand and low supply of talent experienced in executing virtual and hybrid events. The Soundings Thrive Platform Playground was created to give people the opportunity to try different roles in a safe learning environment and the confidence to run mock events. When we give people the chance to get familiar with event technologies and develop new skills, we facilitate education and translation from live to virtual. Ultimately, we hope to create a smoother transition for stakeholders and continue to create jobs for our industry.
Here are the top five things we have learned from the Platform Playground mock events.
1. We have the talent.
We’ve been experimenting with virtual event roles and we’ve learned that they are similar to traditional event roles. The key difference is that virtual event roles require tech skills and a willingness to step into unfamiliar territory. By looking at live event experiences, soft skills and innate strengths paired with a high aptitude for technology, we are able to identify talent for the new roles that exist today.
2. Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.
As we see it, the meeting planning role itself hasn’t changed—the venue has. Think of the virtual event platform as the hotel. Virtual event planners are still project managers and logistics experts, but now they’ll treat the platform the way meeting planners would treat a venue.
Along the same lines, there are new types of vendors in the virtual event space, like Virtual Bartenders and Virtual Emcees that cater specifically to virtual event experiences.
3. A little empathy goes a long way.
As the demand for Webcast Producers continues to increase, we need to find talent to support this role. If you think about a live event experience, the Webcast Producer is the equivalent of an audiovisual technician in a meeting or breakout room. Instead of operating physical equipment in the room, webcast producers need to know how to use the virtual event platform and how to handhold speakers through tech checks and presentations.
The major difference between these roles is the increased need for empathy and customer service. Most presenters are not accustomed to presenting virtually. It can make them feel extremely vulnerable and lead to a stressful situation. We found meeting planners and on-site event staff have the soft skills to support these stakeholders.
4. Silence can be awkward. Improvise.
As we adapt to virtual event tech, unexpected delays or tech malfunctions are a reality. We’ve learned virtual event moderators mitigate the risk of producing an awkward event.
Recently, we encouraged one of our freelancers, who is a live event entertainer, to try the role of a virtual event moderator because of her adaptability, flexibility and ability to think fast. During her first event, there was a technical glitch and she kept the group engaged for 15 minutes until the problem was fixed. Instead of uncomfortable dead air, she quickly turned a negative into a positive and created a spontaneous and memorable experience for attendees.
5. Storytelling from start to finish.
Virtual event marketers are starting to align more with broader digital marketing specialist roles. This shift has been a long time coming. Through companies like Cvent, we’ve seen how event tech is an important part of the marketing stack.
The way we approach marketing is still about storytelling, but virtual event marketers need to be adept in digital mediums and understand the nuances of virtual events. People with graphic design, content management and messaging skills will help build anticipation and create a brand story that performs well in the virtual environment.
Shifting from live events to virtual or hybrid is a complex endeavor, and we haven’t had a lot of time to figure it all out. It’s clear that we have the talent resources and the soft skills to meet the challenge and evolve into the new era of meetings and events. It is time to cultivate our existing talent.
Tracy Judge is founder and CEO of Soundings Connect. She is kicking-off 2021 with a mock event series on Symphony, an all-in-one virtual event experience that fosters powerful conversations and deeper insights. Learn more and join the interest list here.