Virtual events can pack an emotional punch (and it’s not just from the needy cats exploring your webcam).

Virtual events started out as just a way to keep things going, see other people, get work done, and keep everyone on the right track… All important stuff. But lately, we’ve noticed that the virtual world is also connecting us in new and original ways — and creating plenty of lasting relationships and emotions along the way. To explore this further, we took a look at a few recent events, and made some notes on the moments that really made us feel connected.

Webcams keep it real.

Virtual competitions, montages, family style chats..

3 men competing on a virtual cycling race with a VR display of characters riding outdoors being displayed

Virtual competition is still competition

This year’s Ronde Van Vlaanderen cycling event, which is usually around 150 miles over cobblestones in Belgium, took place entirely virtually this year. And predictably, the cyclists, on stationary bikes, competed all-out against each other like it was the real thing. Athletic competition is one of the best ways for people to push their limits and improve. It’s also where people can make real bonds with teammates and fellow competitors. In a not too distant future, we can imagine worldwide, virtual athletic events that anyone can organize at the push of a button. Apps like Zwift and Bkool (picture above) already make it easy for cyclists and runners. But we can also imagine endless swimming pools and moving rock walls getting into the virtual event mix. Bottom line, we’re into anything that helps people all around the world stay fit, compete, and connect.

GIF montage of men and women talking on virtual platforms

The lo-fi montage…

Apple’s event for their new M1 chips included a lo-fi yet surprisingly engaging montage. It was basically a compilation of developers giving their honest reactions to the new chips. And it was filmed on webcams (or iphones) and intercut with various screenshots. We also noticed that this montage was a little looser and more off the cuff than Apple’s usual event production (which often includes complex backgrounds and scripted presentations). And we found that the casual style of the montage made the whole presentation a little more relatable, and more like how we work now. Organizers should take note that the webcam can be a goldmine for real and honest footage. Or at least a fun montage

3 people chatting virtually at AFI Fest

Talk like friends and family…

The AFI virtual film festival brought together journalist Katy Tur, her mother Marika Gerrard, and filmmaker Matt Yoka, to talk about Yoka’s new film Whirlybird. The film explores the rise and fall of the Tur family’s helicopter news business in LA (which was responsible for capturing countless breaknews moments and winning three Emmys). While these kinds of conversations happen at film festivals all the time, there was something about the at-home setting that really complemented the more personal and emotional nature of the film. Almost like it felt more natural to talk about friends, family, and work from webcams at home. But what else is Zoom for?

Just add music

Musicians join-in, and music lessons

Woman singing on a stage while a man plays the piano at TED's Countdown event

TED’s Countdown event — “a global initiative to accelerate solutions to the climate crisis” — also included a handful of inspiring TED talk/music performances. Basically each artist gave a  mini-TED talk about their thoughts on the climate crises, or how people can get involved, before their performance. In a way, the artists were able to contribute as both performers and presenters. We think this is really the best way to bring in music into events. Organizers should reach out to artists that don’t just want to be involved, but want to collaborate, and help get the event’s message across. Because that’s what artists do best. Pictured above is Cynthia Erivo and Gary Motley performing “What a Wonderful World,” a good song to inspire hope when times are tough. And good choice for the event.

Music lessons for everyone

Man playing the saxophone for a virtual audience on his computer

Virtu Academy helps music students of all skill levels take lessons with professional musicians from conservatories around the world, including Juilliard and the Metropolitan Orchestra. As live performances get put on hold, musicians have been teaching more music lessons, and unsurprisingly, people have been interested in taking more lessons. For organizers looking to do something different with their event, consider adding an introductory music lesson. It could be a fantastic creative outlet for everyone. And it also might be the inspiration they need to finally pick up that guitar that’s been gathering dust in the corner. At least for a few days.

Focus on what’s important

The future, and friendly competition

3 men sitting in front of a baseball field talking interview-style

Honest talks about the future.

Inbound 2020 brought together HubSpot co-founders, Brian Halligan & Dharmesh Shah, and Chief Product Officer, Christopher O’Donnell to talk about how businesses can thrive in this new normal. But one of the most interesting things that came up right away, was the idea that nothing is really normal about everything that’s going on right now. And unfortunately it may not be normal for a while. For us, this kind of honesty is what makes virtual events so important. They are literally the only way for people to get together and have real conversations about what’s going on, and how to move forward. And that’s what we need most right now. 

Let people be people.

When it comes to getting more of an emotional punch out of virtual events, it’s really about letting people be people… Like creating a comfortable setting for them to talk, or giving them a place to compete, or even working with musicians to help amplify the event’s message. Basically, just make them feel at home, and good connections will happen.

December 9, 2020

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December 9, 2020

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