This past weekend I worked two galas — one was a 2-screen solution for a school, and the other was a Zoom meeting-style gala for a conservation nonprofit.
The nonprofit had some star power. Two of the attendees are legitimate Hollywood celebrities whom many would recognize if not by name, then by face.
They and some of their celebrity friends donated virtual activities to the auction. These items raised several thousand dollars for the nonprofit.
But I have to admit – it was a little weird seeing their name and face pop up on my computer monitor. Though I’ve watched them on screens before (i.e. TV and movies), seeing them in my Zoom room was new. It felt personal.
After the gala, I put some thought into what made a virtual, Zoom-style experience with a celebrity feel so different to me than even an in-person experience does.
Here’s what I surmised …
Instead of me watching them in their space, they were also seeing me in my space (i.e. my office). We had two-way visibility into our homes.
Now that 2020 has made us all become comfortable on video-style meeting programs like Zoom, Teams, and Google Meet, don’t expect the virtual experiential packages to end once COVID-19 is over.
Yes, in-person celebrity experiences will return — but virtual celebrity experiences won’t leave. They will exist side-by-side.
Zoom and similar technology makes it easy for us to interact, regardless of location. Another advantage is that no one gets a better seat than someone else — we’re all in the front row seat to chat with the star.
From the celebrity’s viewpoint, virtual experiences are time saver.
It allows her to lend star power to more causes she loves, because it doesn’t require her to physically travel to a location. Logging into a Zoom room for an hour to enjoy cocktails, play board games, or chat is a nominal commitment when compared to getting dressed up, driving across town, and meeting someone face-to-face for lunch.
And at the end of the appointment, logging off is an easy goodbye.
The winning bidder also benefits.
I already mentioned that everyone gets a front-row seat.
But it also allows more people to participate in the package. For instance, an in-person meet-n-greet with a celebrity might be limited to 2 or 4 people. Most of the virtual experiences I’ve seen accommodate 8 to 10 logins.
And because more logins are allowed, some bidders organize with friends, allowing their final bid price to edge higher. That helps the nonprofit.
In short, I don’t expect these celebrity-style virtual experience donations to go away. I think we’ll be selling them in gala auctions long after coronavirus is gone.