Over the past few months, many event organizers, just like IMEX, have been forced to work out who they are, what they do, and how they can remain engaged while delivering value to their audience in the absence of their traditional area of expertise — live, face-to-face events. Add to that the challenge of remote working, restricted budgets, probably reduced staff, almost certainly reduced agency or creative support, plus the immediate demand for reliable, affordable technology, and you have disruption with a capital D!
Here are some lessons we learned after launching PlanetIMEX, a free virtual experience providing business, learning, and networking opportunities for the business events industry.
1. Featuring principles borrowed from the world of online gaming can make access more engaging
PlanetIMEX offers a beach-themed Community Island; a forest-inspired Education Island; and, a Networking Island featuring canyons, mountains, and valleys. They are all designed for organic exploration, with the user navigating their way through palm trees, tipi huts, and cacti in order to tap into content. We also added sound effects so visitors are fully immersed in the island experience.
2. Bring in partners
The island concept of PlanetIMEX was built with a local tech company in Brighton in the United Kingdom where the IMEX Group is based, The Platform Group. Together with Platform we used their proprietary technology to create the 3D island concept. Separately, we worked with Cvent and Streamlined Communications to support the virtual education element, EduMonday Live. This delivered 40-plus speakers, 4 concurrent tracks, and 32 sessions in 1 day. We also worked closely with our industry partners who delivered a dedicated day of content and learning, aptly named Community Day.
3. Find ways to let people connect
PlanetIMEX was not designed to be a static experience. We wanted to try to initiate some of the connections and interaction that would have taken place at our live show, so we worked with Brella, for example, to launch ”Conversations with Brella,” a peer-to-peer networking platform based on self-selected discussion topics.
4. It’s a learning curve, so be ready to work hard and adapt your standard working practices
It’s been a massive learning curve for us. Our team is structured and focused around delivery of live tradeshows. In the digital world, however, everything was new. We’ve had to learn to work in a new way as we adopted an agile project management approach — an approach that’s new to the team but worked well.
However, I’m confident we’ve created a virtual offering that’s true to our values. At IMEX, we have a history of creating content for the benefit of the entire industry, free of charge. We didn’t want to move away from those values just because we’d transitioned to an online world. I’m confident we’ve achieved our initial mission as well as offering, importantly, a dose of light-heartedness and warmth to the community we love and serve!