Last year the events industry was blindsided by COVID-19. Coronavirus brought the majority of the industry to its knees and only now is it slowly beginning to pick itself back up. What was meant to be a 2-week shut down became a yearlong fight for survival, but arguably virtual events have emerged victorious.
Faced with a somewhat intimidating opponent, the events industry has displayed its resilience, innovation and creativity. Organisations have adapted the way events are executed, and created meaningful, immersive and downright excellent experiences for delegates via virtual event platforms.
However, let’s remember that virtual events aren’t anything new. Zoom quizzes, coffees and classes may have only recently entered our lives, but the platform itself has been around long before Coronavirus. The situation has probably hastened development in the sector, as the market is now flooded with an overwhelming number of options for virtual events from 2D and 3D, to 360° immersive experience and the possibility to pick and mix formats. So, there really is no need to think small when it comes to virtual events, the internet is your oyster.
With this in mind, don’t think of a virtual event as a second option, a plan B or a substitute. Yes, there’s always the fear that your online event could become webinar white noise. However, if you don’t believe your event is an attraction not to be missed, then how do you expect to get the buy-in from internal/external stakeholders? VE platforms have the power to create incredible immersive experiences, which are a far cry from passive watching, with the added beauty that delegates can attend from the comfort of their own homes or offices. Ultimately it comes down to content, if your content is engaging and well presented, your event will hold its own on the virtual stage.
The key is to embrace the experience and enjoy creating something only possible in the virtual world. Check out Event Farm’s Echo for example, which employs gamification and personalised avatars to recreate an in-person experience as delegates navigate around different event spaces, join meeting rooms to network and enjoy online concerts in the event space. It is arguably the networking and interaction aspects which are missed the most in an online event. However, solutions such as those by Virtway Events include 3D team building games and escape rooms, bringing people together in compelling and innovative ways. Suddenly your online event doesn’t seem like a boring prospect. Take the recent Baftas for example, TV stars who were unable to attend due to Covid restrictions were able to make an appearance on the red carpet in hologram form. And fans who would usually line the red carpet were able to apply for the hologram treatment and virtually chat with the stars. Pretty futuristic right?
A word of warning however, you may need to make a shift in mindset when it comes to costing a virtual event. Just because the event is taking place online doesn’t mean it will cost a fraction of an in-person event. There are usually cost-per-delegate cost savings, but using cutting-edge technology and getting the right expertise to plan and configure an engaging and captivating bespoke virtual event doesn’t come at a bargain basement price.
The flexibility offered by virtual events also means you can enjoy a far wider reach. There are no geographic restrictions and sessions can be shown at different times to accommodate for time zones, plus content can be available on-demand in as little as 1.5 hours for those that can’t attend in real-time. Moreover, another advantage of virtual events is that you can let the data do the talking. Hosting your event online makes capturing guest data such as attendance, engagement and feedback so much easier than IRL. Justify the cost of your next virtual event by showing the stats which prove your event was a huge success. Plus, having followed registrations, sign ups, surveys and follow ups, you’ll know which of your delegates are open to a conversation, who wants to talk business and who might be a hot lead.
In short, we urge the world to stop looking at virtual events as second best. They are after all what has kept the events industry alive over the last year. Even when the world gets back to normal (or the new normal, whatever that may be) virtual events will still be a highly credible option for connecting and engaging people across the globe. In-person events will definitely return but will likely include hybrid options – in fact an astounding 97% of event marketers believe we will see more hybrid events in 2021 and a whopping 93% of event marketers plan to invest in virtual events moving forward.*
The moral of the story stands that virtual events are much more than glorified webinars. They are an experience and a chance to capture the hearts and minds of professionals across the globe. Long live the virtual event. And to find out how Fox Agency could help you stage a showstopping virtual event, get in touch.
* 2021 Event Marketing Statistics, Trends, and Data by Bizzabo