COVID-19 has totally changed the landscape of conferences and conventions. But there is a silver lining: the reality of less physical contact and more remote communication allows us to have new kinds of conversations. We just might have to change things up a bit in order to be successful. To accomplish this transition, we need to create something really unique. The solution isn’t a webinar or online course! We want personal experiences that create memorable moments.
If we’re starting from a clean slate, what kind of format would we use? Why not turn the entire idea of a conference into a huge game? With the level of effort being put toward physical amenities and in-person services you could create a complete virtual world, ready to explore. It could be grand or something simple as long as it was engaging and fun. You could make a World of Warcraft or Sims knock off, but what if it was more like a murder mystery or adventure quest? Encourage all of your participants to engage with other people to figure out what to do next. You could use live video, costumes and create spaces for photo ops, teams, mini games, or social events.
The idea of taking someone out of their environment has a novel appeal that’s universal. Take for instance this new wave of video conferencing that’s replacing in person meetings. They are great tools, but people still can’t help but inject custom backgrounds and visual effects to make you look like a potato or pretend you’re there when you aren’t. Some companies have gone so far as to ditch the video side all together and instead meet inside a popular video game around a campfire. I mean what fun is a meeting if you don’t have the constant threat of being attacked by bandits or wild animals?
Sometimes the premise is even simpler than that. Ten years ago Real Art created a giant claw game where all a participant had to do was sit in front of their computer and wait to play. Once it was their turn, they got a chance to control the machine and snag awesome prizes left over from Santa’s toy bag. While the idea was simple what it created was an enormous virtual line of people gawking and rooting on the current player. People chatted with one another for hours and made friends. There’s a lengthy thread of fanatics shared tips, tricks and photos of their hard earned gains.
The real to life concept is no different than waiting for a ride at an amusement park, just on a bigger stage. Physical waiting is part of the game and the fun. Time is a great motivator. It could be as simple as having someone virtually place their hand on a car and the last person standing gets the prize. Better yet, link participants together and have the success of the group rely on them working together. Reward them physical prizes that truly mean something.
From full on conceptual to the downright virtual, it really isn’t hard to picture a new way to collaborate and connect in an online environment. It may not be exactly the same, but these moments and lessons can still resonate. Digital gatherings represent an exciting opportunity to create unique and memorable experiences.