November 30, 2020
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The Secular Ritual of Events

COVID has robbed us all of so many of life’s most cherished rituals. Weddings, funerals, religious services, visiting family and friends confined to nursing homes, and yes... attending professional events.

While it may seem out of place to include a professional gathering in the company of so many deeply personal and cherished life experiences, stay with me for a minute.

As social beings, we use rituals, ceremonies, customs, traditions and symbols to celebrate, mourn, rejoice, express our beliefs, pass on traditions and understand what it means to be part of something bigger.

So why not think of a business conference, a large industry gathering, or even a trade show as serving the same role in our professional lives that other ritualistic ceremonies and events play in our non-work lives?

The ritualistic similarities are striking. Business events aggregate large groups of people in a general session and deliver business sermons to the congregation of attendees; they host small group communities to discuss topics of mutual self-interest; and they provide environments for attendees to pursue meaning and seek answers with other like-minded professionals.

So if a professional event can be a ritualistic experience, a shared community of fellow travelers and open to all who want to express their faith in themselves and others with whom they commune, how do we accomplish professional rituals in the absence of in-person events?

Here are a few thought starters for the virtual expression of the secular rituals that might help elevate spirits and engage your audience.

  1. I’m a big fan of the national anthem and patriotic music. We are, after all a nation united by culture, currency, language, laws and 100 other common denominators. Unify your virtual audience with familiar and galvanizing shared experiences. And of course, include other cultural expressions representing other communities and interest groups that are part of your event.
  2. Recite the mission, core purpose and ethos of what unites your organization. Tell everyone what you stand for and why it matters to your audience. We all need reminders of why we belong to a group, an association or a community. Write a mission statement for your virtual event and use it to guide the design and implementation.
  3. Provide cues throughout your event that reinforce what matters to your audience. Verbal scaffolding through scripting, visual icons and music go a long way to remind an audience what they care about. Make the new rituals of your virtual event front and center.

We’re about to enter a season where many of our cultural and religious rituals will be on display in our homes, our houses of worship, where we shop, and just about everywhere we look.

Your virtual events should embrace the rituals that we all found so important at in-person events.

“Rituals are the formulas by which harmony is restored.”--Terry Tempest Williams

Don Neal

Founder & CEO

360 Live Media

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