We attended an Airbnb Online Experience. It gave us hope for virtual engagement
Among the building blocks of experiential are trial, connection and creation—aspects of the live event essential to memory-making that aren’t as easily replicated in a digital setting. As event marketers shift their focus to digital and to virtual events, the challenge lies in fostering engagement and interactivity.
Airbnb recently announced a pivot for its live Experiences program. The now virtual Airbnb Online Experiences platform allows attendees from all over the world to register for various classes and tours all conducted by hosts live via Zoom.
We signed up for two highly-rated experiences on the platform, “Guided Sheep Meditation,” and “Coffee Masterclass,” and we were pleasantly surprised by the visceral nature of the virtual activities. From warm, personal greetings by the hosts, to the learning opportunities, to the connections to people from different countries, each offered that familiar rush of excitement in getting to experience something out of the ordinary.
For Airbnb, the purpose is travel, education and escapism, and the brand and its hosts are getting it right. Following are tips for event marketers gleaned from the tours.
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The pre-experience matters.
Never have event communications been as important as they are in the virtual world, especially for attendees engaged in social distancing. The pre-event messaging should set the expectations for the attendees, offer instructions on what to bring to the virtual event, and how to prepare their personal settings. The two experiences we attended all asked participants to bring something to the group—ingredients, a factoid or question to spark interactions. This is where a branded care package shipped in advance could come in handy.
Virtual attendees need to feel “seen.”
In the Airbnb Online Experiences we attended, there were no silent, virtual bystanders, and the hosts (or moderators) play a key role in that. They are the glue holding the experience together, and they are the voice that will welcome and guide the engagement. Each host went around the “Zoom” for introductions (typically, asking for a name and where you’re from), encouraged questions throughout, and infused some clever ice breakers into the activity.
Storytelling is paramount.
There needs to be a transition moment for attendees, where they are immersed in their new setting to fully prepare the mind for virtual “travel.” Each host had their own style in setting the tone and introducing attendees to their homes and the subject matter. Almost as if storyboarded, there were virtual exercises in the Zoom waiting room, an opening view, movement, and multiple camera angles attendees could choose from.
Think: ASMR qualities.
The sheep meditation experience was a feast for the ears. And in some ways, the sound quality was better than it would be in-person. Without physical distractions, and with headphones in, you could focus so deeply on what you were hearing—birds chirping, the wind blowing, chickens clucking and sheep bleating. We were teleported to the hills of Scotland. This is where transition music or ambient sound could come into play for your next virtual event. Bahhhhhhh.
Featured photo courtesy: Airbnb/”Guided Sheep Meditation”