Contributing Author: Chris Mycek, President at WORLEY
Pivoting to virtual….Google it, you’ll find it’s a common current theme that will have enduring repercussions on how things get done. Zoom is a new household word, and now a verb as well. Amazon Prime, Netflix, FedEx, are all booming. Nesting at home, with new entertainment centers, pools, and other home luxuries are also a trend. For businesses, is there a way to distill the complexity of the task at hand? Through experience with our client the 2020 FRAXA Biotech Games, we recommend these five steps:
1. Plan the Experience. If you’re migrating an event that previously existed as live in-person, what are your objectives for the new virtual experience? You may find that they have shifted due to circumstances or what technology can enable. Consider
- What is the purpose of the event?
- What experience and content would participants value?
- Infusing engagement and interactivity
- Keeping it as simple as possible.
- Planning contingencies.
For our pro bono client, the FRAXA Research Organization Biotech Games, all of the above surfaced early on in the past few weeks as we undertook the task of migrating an in-person, local, corporate fundraising challenge to a Nationwide virtual event with the same objectives….Creating fun team building experiences for biotech executives and raising money for Fragile X research. But how do you replicate CanJam and Cornhole on the Cambridge Green on a sunny September Boston Day (I hear the chuckles, Boston weather)? We decided that above and beyond all we wanted to create a world class experience, which means no technical hurdles or frustrations. The games would have to be simple…Trivia, Video Contests, Costume Contests. Keeping it simple meant no virtual or in-depth gaming experiences that might overwhelm participants, bandwidth, and processors. This year’s games will have live, moderator hosted Trivia challenges pitting team against team. And the contingency Plan B is to have on-demand timed trivia challenges in case technical issues arise.
2. Platform Assessment. Steve Jobs said it best, “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology.” What experience are you working to create?
- Start with Requirements, both User and Business. What do you need to empower the User Experience, are there integrations necessary, and are there business implications downstream?
- Platforms are commodities. A sometimes more important consideration than feature set in your evaluation is responsive customer service. Will help be there when you need it?
- Talk to experts. Identify subject matter experts in your network that can help determine an initial list of candidate platforms to empower your experience.
- Be willing to compromise
When we set out to migrate the 2020 Biotech Games online, as well as expand them from a regional event to a Nationwide audience, we were shocked that there wasn’t an off the shelf platform that mapped back our User and Business requirements. The experience we are designing will require customization and integration of multiple platforms. This added a level of complexity we did not anticipate, which forced us to simplify our Experience Design parameters. To lower risks and meet timelines, we decided to keep the games as simple as possible and leverage the off the shelf quiz platform Kahoot! for the head-to-head competition experience. Instead of building a custom site to be the ‘Hub’ for the Biotech Games, we landed on leveraging the FRAXA Biotech Games Facebook Page. Integrations and interoperability risks were lowered by avoiding custom design/build scenarios and leveraging tried and true platforms that meet *most* of our requirements. Be flexible and open to compromise, as there usually is no perfect mousetrap.
3. Pilot: Test & Learn in successive internal & external pilots
- Establish small internal and external test teams
- Design for a Minimally Viable Product, and then evolve the experience
- Pressure test
When trying anything for the first time, it makes sense to test and learn. As we’ve progressed with our design approach for taking the games online, we have focused on a Minimally Viable Product that will meet most of the requirements developed. We have maintained a tight focus on our objectives of making it easy to have fun competing as a team. More advanced virtual and gaming environments were discussed early on, but then abandoned after demoing successive complex online environments. In the end, our solution is not too dependent on user online aptitude, bandwidth, or processor speed.
4. Program: Keeping it on the rails
- Think about People, Plan, Process, and Platform
- Leverage Collaboration Tools
- Build in a cushion.
Like many of your own initiatives, we did not start out 2020 planning to migrate the Biotech Games online nor take them Nationwide. Had we, we would’ve had a more comprehensive approach to planning and mapping out workflows. But with COVID-19, now many of us are under the gun to quickly pivot and try to sustain customer facing programs. Working remotely, decentralized, and in some instances with people we’ve never met in person requires adoption of new tools. Zoom is a household word now. Many clients are talking about Microsoft teams. When it comes to Project Management, there aren’t a lot of flexible tools available that allow for easy collaboration. We’ve found Trello (https://trello.com) to be an outstanding tool that can be configured many ways to meet your needs. And, it may not need to be said, but build in a solid ‘cushion’ to allow for when things go sideways….because they will. Target 30 days earlier than your launch date for everything to be completed and in place.
5. Promote: Automated Omnichannel
- Start with Data
- Execute Omnichannel
- Nurture to engage & convert
You’ve built it, the Field of Dreams….now will they come? No. When designing experiences over the year the rule of thumb we offer clients is to budget three times what you spend on developing content experiences to promote them. In the case of the FRAXA Research Foundation, we have set out to promote the games aggressively through paid, earned, and owned platforms to be as cost efficient as possible. We started with what was owned, the email addresses of the past year’s event participants, and then augmented that list with a precise purchase of Human Resource executives contacts in pharma and biotech. We knew anecdotally that HR folks have been looking for ways to keep employees engaged and conduct team building in the quarantine. We also realize that we need to educate folks on the Biotech Games and nurture their interest. To this end, FRAXA licensed ActiveCampaign, to build robust profiles of participants and execute automated email invitation campaigns.
Migrating from in person to online while under the gun pressure tests all aspects of an event initiative. When planning, keep repeating the mantra “Keep it Simple”, as the attraction to add in bells and whistles will be strong while the focus really needs to be on flawless execution. The Biotech Games, Round One, begin on September 10th. Register a team, come along for the ride, and learn how you can apply a similar approach to your own initiatives.
Learn more at https://www.fraxa.org/biotech-games/