The Dilemma of Choice – avoiding choice paralysis in a virtual world

The rapid rise of virtual and hybrid events in 2020 created a plethora of platforms and technologies to choose from that could help your business needs in many different ways. So how do you avoid choice paralysis and create the best experiences for our organizations, audiences, and sponsors?

Ron Shaw

For many years Jake and Marcia had been going to the same grocery store every Sunday to get their favorite food, cereal. Each week as they strolled down to the cereal aisle, Jake pushing the cart and Marica walking beside him, they knew exactly where they were going and which cereal they were going to get. You see, there were only three types of cereal for them to choose from. They had their choice from cornflakes, toasted ohs, or bran flakes. Marcia would always choose the toasted ohs and Jake would go for his ole reliable bran flakes. They never thought to question the choice of what they were going to get. They knew what they liked and that is what they got. Then one day early in the year 2020 something changed. 

As Marica and Jake rounded the aisle to get their cereal they suddenly saw the cornflakes, toasted ohs, and bran flakes were no longer there. In their place there were now twenty new cereals on the shelves. There was new and improved toasted ohs, cornflakes with dried berries, and the bran flakes now had raisins in them. It didn’t end there; also, along side these the cereals there were even more exotic cereals that had more fruits, less cholesterol, more fiber and came in every shape and color one could imagine. Feeling frustrated and overwhelmed  Jake and Marica decided on the new and improved toasted ohs and the lower cholesterol bran flakes with more raisins in every bite. They did not feel happy with their choices and would have many questions left unanswered until they got home, opened the boxes, and tried out their new cereals. Even though they both found their respective cereals had an okay taste they were left feeling unsatisfied as they had settled for something they were not sure that they wanted.  

By now you may be asking yourself what in the world do Marcia, Jake, and cereal have to do with digital engagement and events. In short, almost everything, metaphorically speaking of course. Over the last year and half the amount of uncertainty and changes we have all experienced has been in an overabundance. No matter how good our plans were or how tight we had our timelines down, the onset of the COVID pandemic was not built into those plans. Since then, we have had to pivot, turn-around, hop, skip and jump through so many hoops our legs are now a sore mess of Jell-o. 

One of the biggest obstacles we have been forced to navigate is how do we move from our physical interactions and sharing of information to one that exists completely in the online world. While online interaction and events are not new we have had to learn how to use them in a myriad of different ways. Among us are those who may have never considered virtual delivery of their conferences or events, those who were early adopters and swear by virtual, and those who have found a nice mix of the physical and virtual delivery of content and experiences. As 2020 progressed and our ability to interact face-to-face decreased the demand for online or virtual platform forms increased exponentially.  This is where we get back to our new dear friends Marica and Jake. 

Much like Marica and Jake’s cereal dilemma we have gone from a few platforms that were used for virtual delivery to having an aisle filled with so many choices to meet the market demands that now many are left sitting in the aisle feeling overwhelmed and unsure of which platform or platforms to choose from. The truth of it is with virtual platforms it is not a one size fits all situation and while having options to choose from is good, not knowing where to start and what to look for can be a very frustrating and time-consuming process. So how do we avoid choice paralysis and create the best experiences for our organizations, audiences, and sponsors? 

While there is no one size fits all solutions here are a few suggestions on how to avoid choice paralysis. 

Knowing your needs before searching for technologies/platforms. 

One of the biggest mistakes I see made is when a technology or platform is chosen before the needs of the event or project is fully understood. At this point you end up trying to jam the square peg into a round hole. No matter how hard you try it is not going to fit.  

Instead of rushing to find a solution take the time up front and build out the strategy or game plan for your event. Think about the experience you are trying to deliver, are you just delivering content through presentations and documents, are you aiming to have your audience connect and feel a part of their community? Map it out and then begin building a list of the must haves and nice to haves for your event.  

I cannot stress this enough, be sure to engage the technical folks in your organization in these conversations. There are going to be things to consider such as integrations to CRMs, attendee access points, and access and content security. 

Flashy is not always the best. 

As you move from building out your requirements and begin searching for technologies and platforms keep your strategy and needs in mind. It can be very easy to slip down the rabbit hole of what looks new and exciting versus what functions the best and is able to reliably deliver the experience.  

As you explore the platforms ask to see examples of events that have recently been run by other clients. Go through your list of must haves and nice to haves with the platform people and see which boxes you can check off. Do your best as you go through the platform demos to look beyond the graphical interfaces. Not that these are not an important factor in the overall delivery and experience, however, shining a car up with no engine makes for a pretty looking car that doesn’t bring you anywhere.  

Understand the time and commitment needed for a proper delivery. 

As you speak to people from the different technologies or platforms work to get an understanding of how long it takes for them or you to build out and deliver your desired experience. Underestimating the time commitment and needs of delivering virtual is a trap I have seen far too many professionals fall into. 

Ask for sample timelines that they use for their planning and delivery. Ask about the level of involvement that is going to be needed from your team (thinking about things such as content creation, training speakers to deliver online, legal considerations that might not be needed for a physical event). The more you understand up front the better your will be able to set expectations for internal stakeholders and your audience.  

One platform or technology may not be enough. 

While there are providers who have come a long way in adding more and more features to their products to meet the needs of the market, finding one that has every single element you need for your desired experience can prove to be very challenging. Don’t be scared to look and incorporate multiple solutions into your strategy.  

As previously stated there are platforms of every shape and flavor. Many cater to very specific interactions or methods of delivery and that can be a very good thing for creating your ideal experience. You never have to be locked into a single platform to do everything, in fact, some of the most successful events I have seen delivered have combined anywhere from 2-3 different technologies or platforms. 

As you are creating your platform mix it always pays to understand how the technologies can work together, in some cases you may find some of them already have integrations with each other. As you go through these take into consideration how attendees will move from platform to platform. Are they going to have to have a running list of logins to remember? Are they able to access all the platforms from both a desktop and mobile setting? Think about the overall flow and make sure that there are not fall points where attendees can be come stuck and/or confused.  

We are all navigating these waters together learn from the knowledge of others.  

Reaching out to others in this and other industries that are and having been going through this experience can help save a lot of time and avoidance of choice paralysis. If you are not already part of LinkedIn groups for industry professionals, they are a great resource and a place to learn from others that are having to make these same types of decisions.  

And, a shameless plug, you can reach out to us here at beedance. We have built an agency filled with some of the most knowledgeable people. We have experience across a variety of industries with people who know how to help develop strategies, go through the process of finding the right platforms to use, and can help deliver the successful experiences that you and your audience deserve.  

At the end of the day, don’t be left to feel like Marica and Jake. There is no need to feel that you have settled for something less than what you are looking to deliver. Sometimes it pays to mix a few cereals together to get the flavor you are looking for.

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