An interactive, 3-D world that hosted 12,500 engagements in one day and a full curriculum of learning, sharing and a little bit of jogging doesn’t happen overnight. In the case of PlanetIMEX, which launched the third week of May, it took just over two months.

Community Island

The virtual space that was created resembled a cluster of colorful geometric islands that would not be out of place in a theme park.

Pine-studded Education Island offered live education and talking points (podcasts and videos) on how business events can protect, support and celebrate nature. Palm-fringed Community Island added context with news, a DJ mix, #IMEXstillrunning check-ins and links to nonprofits that were giving back to the community. Networking island was an oasis for introductions.

Read more about groups going virtual here.

A Virtual Shift

IMEX CEO Carina Bauer described the journey as a sprint. The conversation about creating such an online event started within days of the cancelation of IMEX Frankfurt, in March. “We felt there was a gaping hole in our lives and in the community. We needed to give back and deliver the connection that was lost,” she said, shortly after the resource went live.

Networking Island

The team also knew it didn’t want to replicate the hosted buyer and trade-show floor with a videoconference. “We looked at each aspect of the in-person event—the gala dinner, education, awards, a sustainability and wellness focus—and debated how to deliver the essence of that in an online world,” she said.

The goal was to create something to deliver value over the span of a week or longer, rather than the one-hit-wonder of an in-person event experience. “It had to be something way beyond Zoom,” she said, although the ubiquitous squares were part of the solution.

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It so happened that Bauer had already calendared an appointment with a local tech company that week, so she challenged them with her wish list.

  1. It had to be visually interesting.
  2. It needed to bring content to life.
  3. It had to put a smile on people’s faces.

In three weeks, The Platform Group built the design, using Storyscape 3DGraphic.

Strategic Goals

“It all happened so quickly, we didn’t even know our KPIs, to be honest,” Bauer laughed, “We really didn’t know what to expect.”

Education Island

She did have high-level strategic goals. “We hoped to reach 5,000-7,000 users and ended up with 12,500 engagements just over EduMonday, as more than 5,000 business-events industry colleagues [came together]”, she said. That was followed by Community Day, during which 19 partner organizations offered a mixture of live and pre-recorded sessions. Then, a full week of Conversations with Brella appointments began on Networking Island.

The team made strategic adjustments to the planned live program. They kept sessions short—20 minutes, with 10-minute breaks between—because attention spans are shorter online.

To keep people coming back, a steady drip of content and products continued throughout the week. Features included networking areas, pub quizzes, happy hours and breakouts in round tables to chat and come back.

Plans also included an app to allow people to interact on a second screen with questions and immediate responses.

Lessons Learned

“Planning complex, live, online events is more difficult than you might imagine,” Bauer proclaimed. Platform decisions, marketing, registration—it all must be planned and produced. IMEX built in proactive AV tech support, show callers and shortcuts for communicating remotely (because you couldn’t elbow someone during the show to update with a change).

Bauer is already looking at how the platform will grow and integrate with the live event when everyone is meeting again. Her plan is to include hybrid content before, after and during the gathering.