Applying the Lessons of Netflix to Make “Smarter” and More Personalized Virtual Events
Steve Vonder Haar
Oct 5, 2021 9:23:43 AM
Attending a virtual event can be a daunting experience if you’ve never experienced a virtual venue platform with easy navigation, unlimited capabilities, and other functionalities to make the process as seamless as possible.
The largest of online conferences can offer dozens of presentations across multiple thematic tracks spread over multiple days. Attendees can enter the “lobby” of a virtual event platform and face a paralysis induced by content overload. So much content is available, one can get flummoxed in prioritizing the presentations they want to watch.
The literal embarrassment of content riches can make attending a virtual event feel akin to opening up the Netflix app and making a viewing choice for Friday night. So much content, so little time! Little wonder, then, that many developers of virtual and hybrid event platforms are turning to technologies already widely used by streaming services to help attendees navigate online events and get the most out of the time they spend at an online gathering.
In the world of streaming, “recommendation engines” evaluate past viewership patterns and stated viewer preferences to suggest potentially relevant programming. More and more, virtual event solutions are embracing similar systems – powered by artificial intelligence – to suggest content that attendees may be interested in viewing while attending a virtual event.
End-user surveys conducted by Wainhouse Research suggest that individuals welcome this type of automated advice. In a survey of 2,001 individuals conducted in the fourth quarter of 2020, more than four-out-of-five respondents described the ability of virtual platforms to “automatically recommend videos that might be of interest to you based on past viewing habits” to be either “very useful” or “somewhat useful.” In many cases, it takes good machine intelligence or AI matchmaking solutions to make recommendations from large content libraries that are in line with a specific user’s interests.
Right now, we’re in the early stages of understanding how to best use machine intelligence to optimize the experience of attending a virtual or hybrid event. In most settings, systems implemented today will make recommendations based primarily on information that users share when registering to attend a virtual event.
Over time, growing piles of data should enable refined recommendations for more personalized virtual events, as virtual platform solutions cull the experiences and results from a series of virtual events to suggest content options for attendees. Sharing similar characteristics with those who have attended other shows will undoubtedly allow for a more personalized virtual event experience for future attendees.
Indeed, the integration of machine intelligence technologies – and the refinement of their application in managing virtual event venues – holds the potential for substantially enhancing the effectiveness of virtual venues as viable gathering spots that can rival in-person conferences. Recommendation engines that direct individuals to relevant presentations and content, leveraging information available only online, could guide attendees to better content than they might choose for themselves when attending in person.
One could argue Netflix’s recommendation engine was a key to their success – helping viewers find suitable content kept their users coming back for more. What virtual events can learn from Netflix is that helping attendees in a similar manner will only make virtual and hybrid event platforms a more vital marketing tool over time. Event organizers that make an effort to match attendees with content that is interesting to them will stand a better chance of encouraging those attendees to extend the time they spend at a virtual event venue. This activity will boost engagement metrics and – ideally – make it possible for marketers to leverage this time and mindshare in ways that boost the lead-generation and conversion process.
Recommendation engines that are powered by machine intelligence and AI matchmaking represent only one of the ways that technologies are being put to work to enhance the value of large-scale online gatherings, creating “smart” virtual events. To develop an understanding of other capabilities poised to transform the experience and encourage more personalized virtual events, download a free copy of the new Wainhouse white paper developed in conjunction with 6Connex, New Vistas for Virtual Events: Infusing Innovation into Online Venues. The report is available for free below.
Steve Vonder Haar is a Senior Analyst with Wainhouse Research and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.