5 Tips for Creating an Engaging Immersive Event

September 8, 2021

Vanessa Lovatt

Vanessa Lovatt is Chief Evangelist at Glisser, an award-winning tech platform powering unique company event experiences, anywhere. An experienced virtual event professional, she ensures that customers maximize their ROI from the Glisser platform.

When was the last time you attended a great company event? For many people, it was at least a year and a half ago, before the global pandemic and resulting lockdowns took hold. In part, this is because we instinctively think about an “event” as something that happens in person. But more pertinently, it’s because most events held in the digital realm have yet to be as immersive as their in-person equivalents, and hence, they’re destined to be more quickly forgotten. 

Virtual event organizers have struggled to deliver a positive audience experience, whether due to tech and connectivity issues, problems with event formats or difficulties encouraging participation and preventing distraction and Zoom fatigue.

We don’t fully know what the post-COVID world will look like or how it will affect business practices. But with the future likely to involve a blend of in-person and virtual events, it’s time for companies to focus on making them more immersive.

Here are five top tips for doing just that:

1.      Understand the event objectives

Well-produced and well-executed events build brands, reinforce culture, educate, create affinity and much more. However, they’re rarely designed to achieve all these things at once. Without first understanding what an event is supposed to achieve, it’s impossible to create a format and approach that will deliver this goal. As business professionals, we’ve probably all experienced events that have fallen short of expectations, or events that we’ve enjoyed but haven’t really taken away anything of value from them.

In this sense, it doesn’t matter whether an event is in-person, online or in-between. What’s important is that the format supports the objective.

2.      Make use of available technology

When it comes to formats, technology now exists that can replicate in-person experiences in the virtual world and seamlessly blend both together—offering everything from panel debates to breakout rooms and audience polling to social media integration. And yet, too often, events are being built around the technology, rather than the technology being deployed to suit the organizer’s goals and the audience’s wants and needs.

3.      Set metrics that matter

Now more than ever, event organizers need to think about “purpose” from the outset, build their event from the ground up and, crucially, set clearly defined, relevant metrics for how event success will be measured. It’s time to move beyond attendance—who showed up—and consider elements such as: Who learned what? Who was convinced? Who left a happier customer or employee than when they arrived?

4.      Make participation possible for everyone

 While event technology has been around for several years, companies have often used it as an add-on for those unable to attend in-person rather than deployed it to engage the entire audience equally. Historically, virtual exclusion has been commonplace. While in-person attendees are networking between sessions, those online are stuck staring at a blank screen, or worse, at a silent video feed of the auditorium, so they can observe the socialization they’re missing. 

The risk of falling short around audience participation is that in-person attendees enjoy the full value of the event, but those who attend online are left wondering why they bothered showing up. Indeed, sometimes even the in-person experience is wholly underwhelming, with audiences stuck in their seats for hours of presentations, without ever feeling involved in proceedings. 

Fortunately, new technologies are emerging that improve participation and audience immersion while also creating a consistent experience for everyone, irrespective of how they’ve chosen to attend. It allows everyone to see the same speaker presentation in the intended format, to answer the same questions, access the same supportive content, even to wander around the lobby (a virtual lobby to coexist with the in-person lobby) and navigate the event in the same way.

The result is a more immersive experience that audiences will love—and stick around for, wherever they are.

5.      Wield the power to wow, regardless of event format

For every commentator predicting that the future of events is virtual-first, there is another point that, in the post-COVID world, people will be desperate to get out and meet in person again. For event planners, the priority is to avoid such distractions and adopt technology that supports and enhances the audience experience in both contexts, with the goal of making all events more immersive. 

Immersive events are about involvement and participation, making audiences feel connected to one another and their hosts. Following a lengthy pandemic, that sounds like the perfect tonic for everyone.

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.