As many companies rapidly shift to a work from home model in response to recent events, it’s important to keep in mind the impact this has on their communications and events. After all, shifting live events to an online model is not straightforward. Cocktail hours don’t have the same feel in a virtual lobby and theatrical performances and major keynote presentations certainly don’t land the same on a small, flat screen.

It’s easy to see the difficulties companies are facing when running virtual events: home offices don’t have the same environmental controls as large venues. But, what some companies forget is that the massive shift in the day-to-day lives of people is a critical consideration when designing virtual experiences. Now, event attendees have become viewers who are left to their own devices to set up their audio and video, troubleshoot technical issues, and find an effective space to consume content.

We need to have a realistic expectation of event viewers so we can design content that fits into the viewers’ busy lives. Further, we need to get viewers the suggestions and tools they need to turn their suboptimal home offices into effective viewing environments.

  1. Suggest viewers wear headphones
    1. A recent Stanford policy brief found that only 49 percent of American responders can work privately in a room other than their bedroom (Bloom, June 2020). Not all viewers can find an appropriate place to view content, so headphones help reduce audible distractions.
  2. Suggest that viewers declutter
    1. Because of rapid changes due to the pandemic, many viewers have been forced to adapt too quickly leading to poor at-home office environments. The resulting stress can quickly lead to cluttered home work spaces that can cause emotional exhaustion and drag down viewers’ online event experience.
  3. Spread content out across days and weeks and forget about live-only content
    1. The reality is that better work-life balance has become a possibility but setting the right boundaries has never been more difficult. Live, condensed content that has been common for events in the past does not fit the lifestyle of today’s viewers. On-demand content and separate episodes of live content provide the flexibility that today’s viewers crave and need.