Alexander Cha’ban on Virtual Events

With the first anniversary of a two-week lockdown fast approaching, we’re assuming you’re probably sick of hearing about the setbacks caused by Covid-19. Quick recap: lockdowns follow each other more quickly than some Deliveroo orders, and the vaccines are somewhere in the back of a fridge no one can reach. Okay, we know you know the story. So, let’s talk about one of the positive effects of the pandemic for once. 

Bringing people together proved to be quite a challenge in 2020. Pretty soon, we turned to the virtual world for digital get-togethers. One of our clients dared to take things further and asked Springbok to help host two virtual events with over 3.000 attendees. 

We sat down with our creative director Alexander Cha’ban to learn more about how Springbok develops memorable and engaging virtual events. 

Where did the idea for the virtual event come from?

“This client had already done a few virtual events, and they went pretty okay. But not perfect. They noticed that their technology wasn’t creating the best experience for attendees. Our challenge was to bring the same energy and drive of an in-person event to a virtual space using technology and creativity.” 

How did you and the team approach organising a virtual event?

"The main thing for us was that it should be easy for everyone to participate. We didn't let ourselves get carried away with exciting opportunities like augmented or virtual reality. We knew people were joining from their home offices in France, Italy, Poland, Czech Republic — you name it. If we ran with the VR/AR ideas, we'd need to deliver extra equipment to all of them, hoping it would work out. That didn't make sense to us.

We quickly realised that we needed a solid foundation to build up our creative ideas. We went with a conference platform we could trust and be accessible for everyone. With that foundation in place, we could then build up the creative content ideas.” 

What kind of content did you share to enhance the virtual experience? 

“Our inspiration came from real-life events. We looked at what happened at in-person events and translated the best parts to our virtual world. So, we presented attendees with things they didn’t expect to keep them invested and interested. 

One of the ideas was to create a virtual bar where you could have a one-on-one chat after a seminar. Another was to make a picture frame where you and a few colleagues could take funny pictures together. So our creativity didn’t come from crazy technology but clever adaptations of content suited for virtual events.” 

What are the biggest challenges of organising a virtual event?

“Connecting people. People go to events to be inspired but, more importantly, to connect with other people. Getting to know new people and building stronger relationships within your network are all part of it. We used this insight to spark our creative ideas.  

Creating a virtual bar was one of the ideas we had to connect people. But we also came up with a virtual speed-dating segment. The participant would be placed face-to-face with anyone from the company with two minutes on the clock. So imagine, they could suddenly find themselves conversing with the CEO. Some ideas fell through because of timing and budget, but we have a great platform to execute them in the future. 

Our design lead Jeroen van Norren also saw another challenge: virtual fatigue. He read a scientific article, or maybe just a VICE article, that said people tend to feel tired from being glued to their screen all day long. 

To combat screen fatigue, we created content to break up large chunks of seminars. This content came up unannounced. Suddenly, a poll or quiz would pop up, which invited participants to test their company knowledge for fun. We also created short anti-stress clips that parodied meditation apps. Instead of showing scenic landscapes, we used our client’s content with peaceful music.

How do you see virtual events changing in the next few years?

"That's a difficult question because no one knows what's going to happen. I don't think virtual events will completely take over, but I think there will be room for a hybrid model. I think in-person and virtual meetings can live next to each other. 

I would love to do events where people on-site interact with people who attend virtually. But that doesn't change the approach. Every event still has the same goal: to inspire and connect people. Corona just added a new dimension." 

Got an event? We can help. 
Are you organising a virtual event for the first time or need some advice on how to get started? Share your plans with us, and we’ll share our ideas.