Posted by: Dennis Shiao | February 1, 2011

How Your Virtual Event Can Be More Like Super Sunday


Introduction

Super Bowl 45 will be played this Sunday in Dallas, Texas.  As we prepare to watch the big game, I want to consider ways in which your virtual events can be more like Super Sunday.

Halftime as a Scheduled Break

Virtual events commonly have a jam-packed session schedule, with virtually no room to catch your breath.  In a football game, there’s a scheduled halftime, which allows coaches to re-group with their teams – and, allows spectators (both on-site and “virtual”) to grab a bite, or get up and stretch.  (Note: at halftime of the Big Game, turn up your television volume, so that you can hear the Black Eyed Peas perform while you venture into the kitchen.)

In a virtual event, a scheduled halftime can be beneficial.  First, it’s an explicit “half way mark”, which helps everyone understand where they are in the “event day”.  Next, like the coaching staff, it allows the event producers some time to take a breath and assess the “first half performance”.  Like a coach in the locker room, the production staff can hold a team meeting to figure out how to adjust their game in the second half.  Finally, it gives attendees a chance to line up their “second half” sessions, do some attendee networking or visit exhibitor booths.  Event producers could even sell a “halftime sponsorship” and direct attendees to a particular sponsor’s booth.

Building up to The Event

While fans of the two teams don’t like it, the NFL has a 2 week period between the Championship Games and The Big Game.  This gives both teams extra time to watch film and plan strategy.  And, it gives the media time to cover, promote and generally hype up the event.  The NFL even has a “media day”, during which coaches and players are made available for media interviews.

For a virtual event, make sure you plan for a similar “2 week period” in which producers, speakers and exhibitors have the time to prepare, learn the technology and get ready for game action.  Use that time to promote the event, both to generate registrations and to sustain a higher attendance rate.  Use media placements, live video interviews, Twitter, Facebook and other tools to engage the community and get them excited for your big show.

Make the Event Bigger than the Event

Super Sunday is no longer just a sporting event – it’s now a global cultural experience.  How can you make your virtual event bigger than “the event”?  Consider a 365 community that’s open year round, which is then “lit up” throughout the year for your scheduled, live events.

The NFL doesn’t simply have “The Super Bowl”.  There’s the pre-season, the regular season and the playoffs.  Then, you have NFL scouting combines, which lead up to the NFL Draft, a major event in its own right [for some].  Training camp then kicks off, covered by programs such as HBO’s “Hard Knocks”.  For some fans, the NFL Experience spans all 12 calendar months.

Give your “fans” reasons to come back to your environment throughout the year.  Complement your big “events” with half-day or even 1-hour live events.  Give your fans access to your executives, industry experts and each other.  If done well, your event, while important, is one step along a continuum of activity throughout the entire year.

Conclusion

Whether you’re interested in the game action or the commercials, enjoy the “experience” on Sunday. For us, we’re not fortunate enough to experience the on-site event, so we’ll enjoy the virtual experience, both on television and online.


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