Driving value co-creation at virtual events: with the attendee, for the attendee

In 2014, the LEGO Group launched LEGO® Ideas.

The goal was to create a platform where passionate fans and creators could share ideas for LEGO products, give feedback and vote, with the most convincing ideas turned into official LEGO® kits. And as a result, it is why today we have the brilliant Vincent Van Gogh: Starry Night, the intimidating Earth Globe, and the iconic Beatles’ Yellow Submarine. These are direct results of co-creation.

What is co-creation and why is it worth reading about

Prahalad and Ramaswamy in their journal article ‘Co‐creating unique value with customers’, define co-creation as “the joint creation of value by the company and the customer; allowing the customer to co-construct the service experience to suit their context.” In simpler terms, it is when a company and a group of its customers, jointly produce something that is mutually valuable.  

The value, it’s important to note,  is in the experience. And as J. Pine and Gilmore put it in their piece ‘Welcome to the Experience Economy,  “An experience occurs when a company intentionally uses services as the stage, and goods as props, to engage individual customers in a way that creates a memorable event.”

Why is co-creation especially important at virtual events?

In today’s digital-first world, with attention-spans shrinking and Zoom fatigue so prevalent that it has its own page on Wikipedia, consumers need more than traditional audience engagement strategies in return for their attention, time, and energy. That’s where co-creation can make a difference at your virtual events.

Because co-creation involves the participation of stakeholders, they switch from being mere consumers to active contributors. It’s a shift in perspective, but an important one. Attendees are no longer passive bystanders at virtual Stages, listening to speakers present at sessions, and simply watching on.

They now become partners and constituents with the power to co-create content with their community.

This is why Twitch, the American video live streaming service, is incredibly popular - with 30 million daily active users and 2.5 million people watching Twitch streams. Co-creating entertainment is at the heart of its success. “For unfamiliar audiences, Twitch is certainly a platform that is heavy on interaction and different types of input, and that is part of its formula and beauty for dedicated users”,  writes Dr. Nicolle Lamerichs in a paper titled ‘Material Culture on Twitch’. “Each stream is perhaps best read as a community or experience, rather than a content or story. It is in the interaction that Twitch becomes interesting, and in the ways in which audiences actively tune in and out of different streams.

This is the approach to engagement that virtual event organizers now need to adopt.

Three ways to improve co-creation at virtual events

1. Tools to empower co-creation

[Consumers] want to engage, interact and influence brands, seeking to ‘exercise their influence in every part of the business system’ (Prahalad & Ramaswamy, 2004). Extrapolating this to virtual events means that every single attendee has influence,  so event organizers need to be proactively looking for ways to help them express themselves. To this end, engagement tools in-built on a virtual event platform like the following are invaluable.

  • A Chat function on your virtual event platform for instance enables multiple individuals to have a dialogue. Attendees can let speakers, each other and you as an organizer know what they really think about the content being shared. It also helps to create the effect of a shared experience regardless of how the attendee is joining the event, and in turn, a sense of community. For the individuals involved, the value of contributing to the group chat can be psychological, driving feelings of appreciation, and higher self-esteem.
Example of the Chat tool used at a virtual event
  • A Raise Hands feature (like Zuddl has) that lets an attendee join speakers on the virtual stage to ask them questions directly ‘face-to-face’ and join in conversations in  a way that makes the entire experience more immersive.
An example of the Raise Hand feature used at a virtual event
  • A Q&A tool emboldens attendees to ask questions as part of a group in a way that they might have felt uncomfortable doing so at a traditional in-person event.
Example of the Q&A used at a virtual event
  • Polls in particular actively promote an interactive viewing experience. They maintain that human connection by preserving the in-the-moment experience.
  1. Speakers, for instance, can use a Poll during a session to gauge opinions of attendees, and use the results to steer the direction of the remainder of the session so as to truly drive value and insights for attendees. 
  2. Organizers can leverage Polls as the beginning point of a back-and-forth exchange to collect feedback and market research from attendees and use the input and insights to improve your features, brand or business.
An example of the Polls tool used at a virtual event

2.  “What’s in it for them?” is the question you need to answer

Gamification used at a virtual event

Getting hundreds of attendees to do more than drop by your virtual event platform can be daunting. Not surprisingly, incentivization is one motivation. For virtual event organizers, gamification is the best way to achieve this. Simply put, just like with any point-based game or video game, gamification is the application of elements like the completion of tasks, earning badges, points, rankings, and the setting up of leaderboards with prizes for the toppers to visually encourage participants to achieve goals.

What this means is that you, as the organizer, can use gamification in virtual events to nudge attendees towards meaningful interactions that produces high-quality content and which can boost engagement among a wider audience. It’s a simple and fun way to drive value for all stakeholders - attendees, sponsors, partners, and your organization too. For instance, if the purpose of your event is to highlight a new product at a virtual conference or summit, you can incentivize actions to get feedback from attendees or suggestions on features to help improve it.

Keep in mind though that compensation is not necessarily the only motivator. McKinsey’s research on ten co-creation projects found that most participants  (28%) were  driven by curiosity and a desire to learn, followed by those who were driven by entertainment and social play (26 %), and a third motivated by building skills (26 %). Therefore, using gamification based on these motivations might result in a more valuable experience for attendees and in the long run, for your business.

3. Zero latency is mission critical

There is absolutely no room for live streaming lags or delays at your virtual event. Even a 30 second lag can make the difference between your attendees feeling like they’re watching a great looking Youtube video that gets stuck buffering, or  the intimacy and sense of community created by a speaker/presenter reacting to questions, suggestions and comments by attendees in real time.

The  immediacy provided by a zero lag platform is integral to generating more authentic interactions between co-creators.

To sum up…

Embracing co-creation isn’t easy, but the potential rewards can be significant. If virtual event organizers are able to provide modern consumers with the specialized viewing experience that they’re looking for, it can help build a culture of innovation and collaboration, strong relationships with invested constituents which in turn can result in business benefits down the road. Just ask LEGO.

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