Why haven’t virtual events or online conferences replaced offline conferences? Because they can’t!
But… If we redesign the experience from a digital-first mindset, it’s possible to provide a complimentary digital experience that bridges offline conference experiences 365 days a year and can supplement the value we aren’t able to deliver during times like now with the Coronavirus.
What won’t work and hasn’t worked:
❌ Back to back webinars called digital events
These are impersonal and often time unengaging.
❌ Live video platform streaming offline keynotes
While these may be more personal, they’re still not super engaging if the speakers don’t engage with the audience comments like they would if it were any other live stream. The problem with that, is that this makes it less “conference like,” how do we find the happy medium?
❌ Speakers using the same slides, story, and presentation structure for digital talks
Virtual events are far more accessible for most, so how will we ensure that our audiences aren’t seeing the same thing over and over again? How can we create a unique experience without feeling the mood of the room?
❌ Events built with tech-first their your mindset still have to focus on format and audience experience
We can create all of the tech-first events we want, but the tech itself won’t be enough to create a great customer experience.
✅ Great creators such as YouTube stars don’t make great speakers.
Being able to speak at a live event and creating well-produced, audience-specific content require very different skillsets. Virtual summits, specifically ones that happen live, will require keynote level speakers.
✅ Just as many speakers won’t make great digital keynote speakers
Just like YouTubers don’t always make great in-person speakers, we can’t expect that many “traditional” keynote speakers will be great in a digital format.
? Sadly, just like offline, the host/emcee of digital events are key, yet seldom valued or included in strategy!
Cutting corners is not acceptable. Not even in the digital space. The host/emcee of your event is the only constant in the attendees’ experience and you’d be surprised how important that constant is. So don’t leave them out!
? Virtual Reality isn’t the answer either
However, understanding VR content, storytelling with creating 360 degrees of access, and how those interactions work is a mindset digital events must factor in.
The questions we must be asking for digital events are:
1. What experience and interaction will maintain attention with an audience that is easily distracted and has unlimited other options for content?
2. How do we connect the theme and hypothesis of the event throughout every aspect of the digital event without it being obvious?
3. What does success look like for our digital event and how does that differ from our traditional events? How do we manage those expectations for audience, sponsors and executives?
4. What is the emotional link to the content we want to create.. FOMO no recordings or JOMO exclusive access?
5. What are the measurable touchpoints that we can track for success & driveability to adapt and pivot?
6. With no venue but no doors to keep the audience in, how do we use that money from butts in seats to butts not clicking off?
We Must ReInvent
When designing a virtual event we must go beyond the platforms and even beyond the conference experience to build a truly digital-first experience! I’m working with multiple companies and associations on doing just that with what I’m calling a “Choose your own digital event experience” framework. Stay tuned for more insights and information on how we are doing this and if you want to learn more or believe your software platform would be a great fit send me an email at Brian@isocialfanz.com.
Every business is in the business of trust: building it among customers, scaling it to capture markets, and maintaining it to fuel growth. That’s a tremendous challenge in a digital world full of bad news and fake news. How do brands break through the noise?
Transparency is the answer. Transparency shrinks the distance between a brand and consumers and builds trust. Consumers gain an authentic window into who you are, what your brand is about, and the value you provide. Transparency also helps scale trust at a faster rate.
It’s All About Access
If someone asks me how to become more transparent, I give a one-word answer: Access.
Today’s consumers crave access to the brand and the people behind it, as well as the products themselves. Why do people wait in line for the latest iPhone? Because they want early access to Apple’s innovation in particular — not just a smartphone. They want that connection to the brand.
You can provide access to your customers by being transparent about what’s going on in your company, say, from an employee’s perspective. Consider peppering your social feed, company blog, or email newsletters with employee profiles that reveal their insights into customer needs and how they meet them or offer tips on how to get the most out of your product.
To be successful at transparency, you need to know the difference between transparency and over-sharing, which requires calculating the risk versus reward for each sharing opportunity. One caveat here is that the calculation depends on the context. It changes and evolves.
For example, the idea of talking about the mental health struggles of one of your executives in 2015 would not have met the criteria for transparency. But today, when movie stars and Olympic athletes talk about their mental health challenges, it might. We should re-ask an old question and put it through today’s risk-versus-reward calculation.
How to Scale Trust
Everyone in the world craves empathy, the feeling that someone else understands you. To scale trust, you must first scale empathy, and technology is the vehicle to do so. By using technology to understand and leverage information about customers and prospects, you can gain insight and create empathy. Of course, data can be misused, and we’re right to be concerned about that. But a dashboard that provides insights using quality data and the latest best practices in analytics can help overcome that challenge.
On the marketing side, you can scale trust using influencers that have already established trust among their followers. Influencers could be celebrities with massive followings and reach; thought leaders who have built trust and rapport with a focused audience over time; or a subject-matter expert — someone who is “in the weeds,” doing the work, within the company as an employee or outside, as a customer.
Subject-matter experts can be tremendously influential because most of today’s consumers don’t trust a brand or a logo. They trust the people who work for the company and represent the brand. They offer a peek behind the curtain — in a word, transparency. This can even work with celebrity influencers.
Let’s face it: Nobody really believes that LeBron James drives a Kia. When today’s consumers see LeBron in a commercial for Kia, they immediately know he is getting paid to endorse that product. The ad isn’t effective because you think, “Hey, LeBron James drives a Kia.” Instead, it comes down to, “LeBron James associates with Kia as a brand because they have principles that he believes in as a dad, as a leader.” He is lending Kia his authenticity.
The Future of Marketing Is Relatability
John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, has taken a very transparent approach to marketing. He shares his unfiltered thoughts across multiple channels. He replies to social media posts, he makes himself available at events, and he does ask-me-anythings (AMAs) online. He even takes transparency a step further by sharing his personal life and hobbies through a Facebook Live show where you can watch him cooking at home. That access into who he is at his core not only builds trust but also humanizes his brand. I couldn’t tell you if the CEO of my carrier is male or female, yet I can say with some certainty that the leader of T-Mobile cares about his customers. I understand his values, which allow me to connect with him at a deeper level.
Let’s face it: The Field of Dreams notion of marketing — if you build it, they will come — is broken, if it ever worked in the first place.
If you build a website, if you launch a new social channel, if you have a new email newsletter, no one is going to embrace it simply because it exists. Consumers are smarter than they’ve ever been.
Not only do they have more access to information, but they also have more channels to decide how they’ll consume content.
Transparency is a way to leverage this access — actually embrace it — to answer the question, “Why should I trust you?”
Transparency will play a huge role in the future of marketing and how you connect with consumers in the digital world. Targeting and segmentation will still be vastly important, though, and hyper-personalization is changing the game enormously.
In the world we’re living in today, we have never been more divided, especially here in the United States.
While at the same time, we’ve never been more connected, attached to our devices 24/7 having instant access to people around the world..
Yet for many of us, we’ve never felt more alone. Right?
The beauty of social media for many in the world today is that it’s leveled the playing field. It’s given everyone a voice. Yet the reason we have a problem with fake news, bad news, and people finding success by selling unicorns and rainbows is that social media has genuinely given everyone a voice to say whatever they want.
But let’s be honest social media wasn’t created to stop bad people from doing bad things or prevent stupid people from doing absurd things. Social media simply eliminated our ability to ignore and hide from these things and gave us access to people and actions that, for centuries, had never been exposed.
No social media isn’t to blame for this problem; we are!
I believe each of us owns a piece of the blame, and we each can fix it. Yes, the obvious reasons such as not caring enough to do our research and our preference to spend 10X more time discussing and highlight the bad/fake in the world opposed to the little attention we give to the good things happening around us each day.
One of my most popular keynotes in 2019 was titled “Digital Empathy,” with the focus of putting a spotlight on the idea that digital “should” empower us to have a deeper understanding of the world around us. Thanks to digital, we have direct access into people’s past, unfiltered access to the digital breadcrumbs influencing people’s actions in the present, and in most cases, plenty of insights into their plans for the future.
This digital access provides us a 360-degree view that at the very least should give us the framework we need to be empathetic towards those we are connected to.
Now let’s be clear this doesn’t guarantee trust just as authenticity or transparency don’t guarantee trust as they both provide a window into who someone is allowing us to determine faster and in most cases to a better degree how trustworthy someone is or isn’t.
Shouldn’t a 360-degree view enable Empathy?
Empathy isn’t just about having a 360-degree view, we must have the desire to feel, understand and share in the feelings that this view provides us. Or as I like to break it down on stage as:
It’s a desire to understand someone from all sides, being able to walk in their shoes and feel where those shoes have been without judgment or own bias.
In the world we’re living in right now, 2020, I believe social media has gone through a pretty fun evolution.
From it’s only a passing-fad period to a time not long ago.
To the days where both platforms and marketers were doing what they could to remove the “social” out of social media.
To a world-changing vehicle for movements and cultural transparency.
To become the preferred medium for the leaders of countries to share unfiltered thoughts and even engage with each other.
The idea that the preferred communication between world leaders over the last year has been Twitter is pretty mind-blowing if you sit back and think about it. Let’s take politics out of it and just think about the fact that President Roosevelt conveyed his thoughts to the US via fireside chats on the evening radio addresses that were scripted and weekly yet revolutionary. To today where we get instant access to the president’s real-time views and we can all agree his tweets aren’t scripted or consistent. Now some would argue that this access to a world leader can do more harm than good but let’s save that argument for another time.
Social media has given a voice and exposure to all the bad that has been happening in the world. And I believe we all feel that it was long overdue, but we had to get to a tipping point for us to get to a position where we move could level set and forward.
Role of Social Media Driving Forward Empathy
As we move forward, we must start fresh, not from the mindset of hiding the bad or the hate or putting technology first instead, each of us making it our mission to build a foundation of trust in this hyper-connected world.
We are living in an age where building trust must be a top business priority, which is requiring a drastic shift in mindset across company cultures. For years on stage, I’ve focused on helping audiences under the value of community, and how we as consumers don’t trust billboards or websites or marketers; we trust people we can relate to, which in many cases are our social media connections.
Interestingly enough in 2020, the micro-influencer and marketing education of today’s consumers might have pushed us to a point where a mass majority of consumers now question trusting their social media connections.
For many, our friendships and relationships will be put to the extreme test over the next 9 months in the US as our political divide injects itself into every aspect of our lives. Forcing us to realize our network isn’t as trusted as we think as most connections were built based on someone’s alliances and our assumed relatability with that person.
Sadly though, this lack of trust has been building for years, and marketers have always evolved or, in some cases, moved to the next shiny objects in hopes of the consumer never catching up. Social Media has given the consumer more information, access, and a louder voice than ever before, making it near impossible for today’s marketers to continue their old ways.
For those stuck in their ways or not willing to change, they look at this new lack of trust equation as a social media problem. That couldn’t be further from the truth and but we must acknowledge this type of thinking exists and impacts the world we are living in today. With the role, impact, and power of social media still being questioned today, it comes down to two different approaches:
We Blame social media and technology for the bad in this world and for forcing us to examine ourselves and others in ways that were uncomfortable and, in many cases, troubling.
We recognize and own the fact that we are all human, We are all vulnerable, we all make mistakes, and we have an opportunity to be better humans and leverage social media and technology to make the world a better place!
The answer is clear to me, as I do believe that we are living in the most significant time in history.
But as I said earlier to make the world a better place and disrupt the influx of bad news and fake news, we must all do our part.
We must do our part and that starts with us owning and telling our authentic stories while amplifying the good in the world, and lastly, removing judgment and leveraging our digital 360-view to better understand and feel for those around us.
In part 2 of this series, I will breakdown how we as leaders, can lead with vulnerability and authenticity while maintaining and, in many cases, increasing our authenticity.
The way we work is changing, and it’s changing fast. Communication, collaboration, reporting, teamwork, and even the nature of our jobs are evolving and we are on the brink of experiencing the office of the future.
I recently had the chance to talk with Brian Fanzo about the future of work. He’s an expert on leveraging digital technology to reach Millennials and Generation Z, and he has some excellent insight into how work is changing.
See our new State of Work report to find out how 2,001 enterprise workers think email, meetings, and automation are shaping the future of work.
The following are Brian’s responses to a few questions about what we can expect in the office of the future.
1. Looking five years into the future, how do you see the way we communicate about work changing? How will this affect existing tools and practices like email and meetings?
Work is no longer about a place we go or something we do. Rather, it’s an important aspect of our lives and our lives are changing at a speed we’ve never experienced before.
Communication at work, about work, and with those we work with is drastically shifting from a “message” driven communication to a relationship-driven conversation.
What does this mean for existing tools and practices like email and meetings? It means tools must factor in contextual insights as well as existing social data to move messaging formats into conversation structures.
2. How should teams be changing how they communicate at work (e.g., technology, processes, culture) to be competitive in the future?
The change required to embrace this shift in communication starts and ends with creating a culture of three-way trust:
Trust in leaders/managers by employees.
Trust in employees by leaders/managers.
Trust in company tools/technology/data by leaders/managers and employees.
To truly thrive in this rapid change culture built on trust, you must embrace what I call the “three T’s” and the order of the three T’s is essential:
Culture change driven by digital transformation and innovation requires fluid and open communication made possible only in a culture that is built on the foundation of trust.
Once this foundation is established, leadership must create an “always be learning” atmosphere that includes company driven education on how, why, and who the company is linked to, and employee-owned and company rewarded self-education on what tools and technology to use and how best to utilize them.
3. Among knowledge workers, we’re seeing a growing appetite for flexibility in how and when work gets done. Why (or why not) might this be a good thing? How should businesses be reacting to this trend?
The idea that every person in a company is most productive between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. makes sense only for a company made up of robots that all think, work, eat, and interact the same.
The ideation of “thinking outside the box” is ultimately the driver that has exposed the massive disconnect between a company’s desire for innovation and change.
If you want to hire people that work differently and think differently, then you must empower them to do so with the tools and processes open to trusting them to work how they do best.
Hiring someone that thinks outside the box and forcing them to work where you want them to and during the hours you require simply puts a box around the potential of that employee and ultimately eliminates all of the characteristics that led you to hire them in the first place.
This does require trust between all parties involved and that trust isn’t given because of one’s title or years at the company. Rather, it’s earned based on the data shared and results achieved. Here is an example from my past:
As a young manager 10 years ago, I was on a mission to not only earn the trust of my new employees but also demonstrate the importance of trust being a two-way street.
As my team and I all worked from home I gave every employee access to my Find your iPhone and Foursquare data, allowing them to see where I was at any time of the day. Why would I do this?
The company policy—previously—for those that worked from home was that the Microsoft Communicator status must be green for the eight hours an employee was clocking on their timecard.
When I saw this policy I quickly coded a program on my computer to wake my mouse every eight minutes, giving the illusion I was “green” no matter where I was or what I was doing.
As a manager, I understood the root of this policy was that we didn’t trust that those who worked from home were putting in the eight hours the same way those who worked in the office were and this worried leadership.
I knew that I didn’t care how many hours someone was working or from where they were working. Rather, I only cared about the results of that work.
By shifting the policy from sharing that you were “green,” or at your desk, to sharing your location data so everyone on the team knew where you were at allowed for us to hold each other accountable while also shifting the focus from how many hours you worked to the results of the work you did.
Now this was 10 years ago and a lot has changed in that time, including policies and procedures that might not make it OK for a manager to share all of this data so transparently.
But, the results are what mattered the most and my team was able to triple our training program in four years and during that time we scaled from a team of three to a team of over 20.
4. Our research shows that knowledge workers feel a great deal of optimism toward automation, while many workers in other job types are wary of it. How do you see automation and artificial intelligence improving knowledge work in the near future?
Companies with a culture built on trust, training, and technology ultimately empower employee-wide optimism around innovations like automation and artificial intelligences, as they trust that technologies that will help the company succeed will be implemented so that they can be properly trained on how to leverage them while also being rewarded for seeking new skillsets that are the results of this innovation.
Companies that lack the trust and training aspects within their culture have inspired an employee mentality of holding onto the knowledge they have and pushing back on change.
They don’t trust that they won’t be replaced by this new technology and believe the company would rather replace them with younger/cheaper talent than train them.
Over the last 10 years many companies have forced new technologies on a culture without proper training and without communicating why this change was being made, which too often led to either a failed implementation of the technology or failed company-wide adoption of the technology.
Automation and artificial intelligence require strategic training, implementation, and execution by the employees leveraging these tools as no technology will fix stupid or eliminate the need for trust and training within a culture.
5. In five years, what will the balance between automated work and work that requires a “human touch” look like? What are the limits of automation and artificial intelligence technologies in the workspace?
Automation and artificial intelligence will transform what we work on and how we do our work, transforming our workflow from results driven to a workflow focused driven to discover new insights and transform existing experiences.
Over the next five years, we will see the implementation of automation and AI to distance ourselves or eliminate the need for many human touch points.
But just as is the case today with mobility and digital media, we will quickly learn that the need and desire for human interaction, relatability, and trust between companies and customers only grows in importance with new innovation and change in human behaviors.
I believe the workforce of the future will come down to strategically empowering leaders and employees to focus on what they do best while leveraging innovation to scale and increase productivity, ultimately creating new jobs.
It’s not about automation and AI replacing humans. Rather, it’s about humans leveraging automation and learning from AI to become better humans and achieve new innovations that have yet to be dreamed of.
The future of work is just around the corner, and Brian believes that with the rise of knowledge workers, an increased use of AI, and changing methods of communication, trust will be essential. Businesses that prepare now, with this insight in mind, will have an edge in the workplace of the future.
In the last two years, I’ve worked with travel agencies, healthcare companies, software companies and all sorts of other businesses. And because of the diversity in the businesses I’ve worked with, I’ve been able to see technology from all angles.
Even though technology has disrupted each of my clients differently, there are some common variables that seem to have the same impact no matter the industry. As I study trends and help both leaders and businesses approach the digital future with an open mindset it’s important to study the past. Here are 5 disruptive variables that all industries must embrace and change towards to prepare for the future. I go into more detail and share some interesting examples in the podcast episode highlighted below.
1. Be human first
For me, being a digital futurist does not mean that technology is the end all be all. Instead, I see technology as a way to become more human.
With technology, businesses are able to shrink the distance between themselves and the big players in their industry. Even more so, technology has allowed businesses to shrink the distance between themselves and their customers.
Not only can technology allow businesses to reach their customers all over the world, but it can also help free up time to allow them to focus on their personal interactions with customers.
2. Start with success
If you don’t have a finish line, how are you going to know where you are headed? The answer is, you’re not.
You always have to start with the end in the mind. So, ask yourself, “what does success look like?”
It may seem like a no-brainer, but too many people will get through half of their strategy before considering their objectives and key performance indicators. At that point, the technology is driving the strategy (which is completely backward).
3. Know where you are
After you’ve defined success, it’s time to take tabs on where you are.
Before you add or remove anything else to your stack, you have to have a clear overview of where exactly you stand.
Take some time and map out every piece of tech, every platform and every subscription you currently have.
Then, to take this exercise a step further, make a list of your 5 biggest wins and losses over the last 5 years.
Once you put this all together, you’ll have a clear idea of your strengths/weaknesses.
4. Innovate, don’t ideate
If you want your creative team to be more creative, don’t wait until next week to roll out a new initiative, do it TODAY!
You know my tagline is Press The Damn Button and you can bet your ass it applies here.
If you really want to create an innovative and evolving workplace, you have to E X E C U T E. It’s that simple.
You just have to Press The Damn Button and see if it works or fails or if you have to pivot or abandon ship. Sitting around and ideating will not take you to that point.
5. Get ready to be empathetic
Change can take a toll on people and I think that’s why we are seeing so many people demand authenticity, transparency and human connection. All of the innovation around us has made us lose trust in marketers and big business and I think that had to happen.
These things had to happen to slow us down and remember to be human and that all of this change and distance from the human condition makes us tired.
Invest in yourself and your employee’s mental and physical well being. If people’s minds and bodies aren’t ready for the changes ahead, it will be apparent in your culture and your end product.
Get Future Ready with Fanzo!
Now, go on and start your future-readiness regimen! Let’s make 2020 our year!
Still want more? Listen to episode 124 of the FOMOFanz podcast as I go in more detail and share some additional Future-Ready use cases!