Virtual or physical? During the coronavirus lockdown, I stopped asking myself this question. “Seeing as physical events and workshops became off limits, we had to be imaginative,” says Isabelle Mäder from PostFinance’s Live Communication Team. All of a sudden, events that were previously only held physically were taking place virtually.
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Events: welcome to the virtual world
When you are no longer allowed to meet up all of a sudden, a touch of creativity is needed. And so, in light of this, PostFinance has come up with (and continues to come up with) ideas for internal and external events.
Have you taken part in any virtual events such as workshops, webinars or trade fairs over the past six months?
What to bear in mind with a virtual event
However, a physical event still can’t fully make the shift to a virtual setting. “You have to carefully consider what programme items make sense, and which don’t,” says Manuela Neuhaus, also on the team. In addition, it is vital you try to establish some sort of intimacy despite the distance. And this is something that can be achieved very successfully with the latest technology: presentations and interviews are streamed live, and participants can ask their questions in the chat or contact the speakers directly. It is also possible to provide virtual workspaces where participants can access any relevant documents, or people can have low-key meetings over coffee. “As the event organizers, we decide who can use which virtual space, and when,” explains Manuela. “If a participant enters the room, they will automatically be added to the relevant Skype meeting.” “By and large, the platform is very user-friendly,” adds Isabelle. But to ensure everyone has a positive experience, it is important that, before the event starts, everyone has enough time to sort out any technical issues, such as sound and image, and to familiarize themselves with the platform.
Online and offline: PostFinance does it both ways
“The feedback we have received on our virtual events has been very positive both internally and externally,” says Isabelle. In the end, though, everyone has very different preferences. So, in future, PostFinance will always be sure to consider whether a live event or a meeting in a virtual space would be the best option for a given target audience and objective. And as long as social events have to take place virtually, the need for creativity remains. “We’ve actually already sent out an aperitif package complete with all the necessary documents for a physical event we were planning on running, which was going to have networking afterwards,” explains Manuela. “This meant people could stick around at the end to enjoy a drink and some nibbles if they fancied.” It’s admittedly not quite the same, but it was a very pleasant surprise.
Physical vs virtual
Of course, it stands to reason that live events like seminars, conferences or trade events will continue to play an important role because of the unique atmosphere they provide, as will networking events and one-on-one meetings,” says Manuela. Networking and icebreaker events like “Welcome to PostFinance” thrive on face-to-face meetings. For trade events and information events, on the other hand, virtual environments have proven to be a handy, practical alternative. “Especially given the fact we have employees all over the country who have a much easier time taking part in these workshops.” Online events do tend to require more self-discipline seeing as it is very easy to get distracted at home or in the office, but at the same time, you do end up saving time, and in some instances, you may even be helping the environment. And Isabelle adds another benefit to the mix: “Seeing as the majority of content is recorded, you can review it at a later date. This way, you do not miss a thing, even if you potentially can’t attend.”
A summary of the pros and cons for participants
Travel time (possibly including an overnight stay)
Not bound to a specific location
Shorter attention span
No face-to-face interaction