We are no longer prisoners of geography.
This means you now can have attendees from Palo Alto to Perth joining, participating, and collaborating at your virtual event. That’s incredible.
But once you’ve (virtually) high-fived everyone in the marketing team, and start thinking about the logistics of it all, there’s one big challenge that you’ll notice immediately: how can you create an engaging and exciting virtual event experience for all your attendees if they’ll all be tuning in from different places and different times? After all, when your attendees are all set to go at 10:00 AM in Palo Alto, other attendees will be snoring away in their beds at 2:00 AM in Perth. Hardly ideal.
And even if your attendees were all located within your timezone, it’s still improbable that every single one of them will be able to stay throughout your event. Thanks to busy workday schedules as well as the blurring of home-work life, we are all working more nowadays which means that your attendees may have to miss out on parts of your event.
So, how do you ensure that all your attendees are able to attend your event and derive value from it?
Asynchronous content delivery.
Wait, what does asynchronous mean?
‘Asynchronous’ simply means not existing or occurring at the same time; it’s the opposite of something ‘synchronous’ which is used to describe something happening in real-time. For instance, if you send someone an email and they reply hours later, that’s asynchronous while a video call, a phone call, a face-to-face meeting is synchronous.
How do I use asynchronous content at my virtual event? And why should I?
In the context of virtual events, this means that you can plan in some asynchronous content that everyone can consume and engage with regardless of different time zones i.e. instead of specific times for a live session or conversation, attendees can watch pre-recorded content or consume pre-made materials like PDFs or presentations and answer questions or prompts on their own time (think Netflix vs. TV).
The advantages are undeniable:
- Offers flexibility and convenience for organizers and attendees
Organizers no longer have to deal with the headache of finding times that work across multiple time zones. And attendees don’t have to deal with having to join an event at strange times; there’s no need for anyone to tune in at 3:00 AM. Everyone can enjoy the convenience of joining when they can, engaging and contributing on their own time.
- Gives people the ability to learn at their own pace
Asynchronous content gives your attendees more time to digest information and formulate ideas, and as your event content can be produced in multiple formats— such as blogs, research reports, and video presentations — your attendees have more freedom in the way they want to learn about a topic. This is “very learner-centric. It’s for me to consume when I can consume it and how I want to consume it,” says Derrick Johnson, director of event strategy and development and chief diversity officer at Talley Management Group.”
- Enables diverse input
By giving attendees from different geographies and disciplines access to your event content, you can receive broader and deeper responses and insights. Additionally, because there’s no pressure to immediately respond, more attendees and especially introverted participants can feel more emboldened to share their opinions.
It’s very clear that ‘anytime, anywhere’ content is integral to ensuring that no attendees miss out on important parts of your event, and in this way, it helps to build a shared experience for all your attendees.
But this is not to say that your entire virtual event has to consist only of asynchronous content. When speaker and attendee dialogue, or real-time attendee connection and collaboration are essential to the goals of your event, planning in synchronous content is needed too.
Striking the balance between asynchronous and synchronous content
The appeal for blending learning and engagement is that your attendees will benefit from the advantages of both: content they can access at any time and real-time meetings that are focused and productive.
Derrick Johnson, director of event strategy and development and chief diversity officer at Talley Management Group, sums this up succinctly, commenting: “For me, in this event space, the best model is a collaboration between synchronous and asynchronous learning, where you have the opportunities for the learners to [learn] at their own pace, at their own leisure, engage with the pre-recorded content that exists in the space,” he says. “But you’re providing opportunities of adapting this synchronous learning together so that people can connect at a later point and build upon the learning and on the concepts that they’ve gathered during that independent time.”
Here are some simple ways to incorporate both at your event:
- Simulated live sessions
With a simulated live session, a speaker or panel’s presentation is pre-recorded and played on a specific date and time during the event. But it has a live component as well. While the presentation is played, a speaker/speakers will be available to talk in real-time with a virtual audience and answer their questions. Simulated live sessions can accommodate different regions and time zones - with local presenters available for the real-time chat - to generate the same excitement and immediacy for all your attendees.
- Pre-recorded stage presentation + live workshops/group discussions
Playing recorded content on Stages or creating a content hub using a virtual Expo Booth is an easy way to get all your attendees to consume the material as per their convenience. Then organize workshops in each time zone for attendees to discuss the pre-recorded content and share their opinions with each other.
Pro-tip: Zuddl’s virtual Rooms enable you to host and moderate small group conversations. This feature is particularly useful as it has an option to view the content playing on a Stage, so attendees can refer directly to it during their discussions.
- Training sessions
You can turn the last suggestion on its head. Hosting live instructor-led training sessions for attendees in each of your timezones is a great way to drive value, especially since it gives attendees the ability to ask questions and get real-time feedback. You can record these sessions and make them available to attendees in other timezones as well, so everyone can learn from each other.
Real-life examples of asynchronous and synchronous content at virtual events
Example 1: The University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland’s Kongress zur Begabungs- und Begabtenförderung (IBBF)
FHNW, one of Switzerland's leading universities of applied sciences and arts, hosts an international event every three years for all teachers and specialists interested and involved in the promotion of talent. Usually, talent centers in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland hold sessions with world-leading experts to enable an exchange beyond regional and national borders; international speakers present current school developments and findings for discussion.
With the pivot to virtual, the organization had to rethink routine practices. With experts from the US as well as teachers with busy school schedules joining the event, organizers needed to bring in some flexibility within the fixed schedule. So live presentations, as well as pre-recorded workshops, were on the agenda and organizers made the program available as a recording for several days afterwards. Attendees could also download the presentation slides from the virtual event platform.
Example 2: German Society of Periodontology DG PARO’s hybrid 2020 Annual Meeting
DG PARO is a leading German dental organization that hosts a meeting for professionals every year. Responding to the challenge of the pandemic, the organization decided to host a "hybrid congress" instead, combining in-person and online events. This meant that up to 100 attendees could attend the event from the physical venue in Stuttgart while virtual attendees could join via a virtual event platform.
Organizers were careful to ensure that all attendees were able to derive plenty of value from the event; networking and chat rooms were set up throughout to encourage attendees to get to know each other and make professional connections as per their convenience; furthermore, in-person attendees were able to attend live presentations that were streamed to the virtual venue so attendees joining in from home could also access and engage with the content. The sessions were recorded and made for subsequent on-demand viewing for those tuning in from other time zones.
To sum up …
With asynchronous content, you can spread your event over longer periods of time, hold repeated sessions for attendees in different time zones, and keep that content available for consumption and lead generation after the official event ends. This gives your attendees more flexibility in selecting and consuming content and can help you drive more registrations, participation, and member value.
But it’s not a be-all.
It’s important for organizers to consider both synchronous and asynchronous content delivery in planning, and be purposeful in creating opportunities for both to complement each other. Without asynchronous content, attendees in multiple time zones can feel like second-class citizens, but with synchronous content you can add more energy, excitement, and real-time feedback.
Providing both options offers attendees a balance between content and community and gives them the ability to choose how to consume and interact.