Designing LIVE — Our Better Angels

There are inherent advantages to the self-policing nature of live events.

One benign outcome of the pandemic is that is that people have become more comfortable with the various technologies that let us connect virtually. Further, I suspect that as people spend more time connecting through social media, they are gaining both an appreciation of and a wariness regarding how it contributes to the larger conversation.

I am a huge advocate for integrating virtual connections into live events. But for me, the isolating nature of the pandemic has underscored the irreplaceable nature of face-to-face. In considering what we value most about “LIVE,” Bruce Mau finds it revealing to compare it to the most ubiquitous marketing channel, social media.

“Imagine social media in the light of day, without the sinister dimension of unbridled, anonymous nastiness,” Bruce says. “LIVE is governed by our better angels, by etiquette and conventions of social conduct.”

Certainly, the anonymity afforded by online platforms brings out the worst in some people. These are avoided in LIVE events, whether they are conducted virtually or face-to-face.

In LIVE, not only are there consequences for bad behavior, but there are ample rewards for those who contribute in meaningful ways. Events transform the experience from merely a place, at a moment in time, into a custom experience where people choose to gather with purpose. They attend conferences, expositions, and branded events because they hope to get something back. They seek new business solutions. They build their network of experts and influencers. They investigate best practices. They feed their curiosity about new innovations. They find inspiration. All of these things are more readily available to those who walk in the door with an empathetic mindset, eager to collaborate and open to the ideas being shared.

Some of this correlates to a sense of accountability that doesn’t always apply to virtual sessions. It’s easy to become distracted and lured away from a screen, but one positive outcome of the global crisis is that people have been forced to adopt habits that let them become better about focusing and contributing in live-but-virtual situations. We are learning to treat participation in live virtual engagements with the same respect we give face-to-face meetings, where we have invested time and money to attend. In reality, anytime we commit to being with people — in person, on the phone, or through a web platform — we have skin in the game. It’s called “building relationships,” and we can’t do without.

Ironically, the incursion of digital marketing into our personal and professional lives underscores the meaningful and uniquely sensory connection that is only possible through the human medium of LIVE events. And the beautiful thing about LIVE events is that they can easily embrace digital technology to expand through virtual connectivity — including audiences who are unable to attend in person.

By designing LIVE with our better angels in mind, and including enhanced virtual participation from the beginning, we can reach beyond our immediate audience to connect with more people than ever before. In this sense, LIVE becomes the platform for launching new, hybrid solutions that allow us to be more inclusive and diverse, while leveraging the benefits only LIVE can offer.

I miss the energy that I can only find on the floor of a LIVE event. And I can’t wait to get back to the important work of designing events to be even more inclusive, more broad reaching, and more personally relevant. That’s what’s possible in the new era of LIVE.

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