Revitalization of virtual events
Updated: Aug 18, 2020
Virtual events have been propelled to the forefront in 2020. Prior to the pandemic, events were over a trillion dollar industry according to the Events Industry Council. This was driven primarily by live event experiences (including conferences, sports, concerts and festivals), with virtual events taking a backseat as live events firmly remained the preferred option.
As we’ve witnessed the revitalization of the virtual events market, there are many contributing factors to the paradigm shift we’ve seen this year. We'll explore some of them here.
While live in-person experiences have long been the preferred methodology for sales, networking and experiential reasons, this channel quickly became less viable due to safety concerns and CDC limitations on gatherings due to the global pandemic. Businesses were forced to evolve to meet their goals, which quickly opened up the need for virtual solutions. Technology organizations have since flooded this space to meet the growing virtual demand, with some seeing enormous business growth. Ruben Castano, CEO of 6Connex, confirmed a 1,000% growth for their virtual event platform solution over the past few months, “we’ve been working overtime and hiring non-stop to keep up with the demand.”
Technology enhancements & capabilities
Technology has improved exponentially over the past few years, making the virtual events of today a viable and successful way to meet business objectives. Some of the significant advancements include:
Recommendation engines tied to customer registration information, or machine learning of behavior, providing suggestions of sessions attendees may be interested in, peers they may want to network with, and vendor organizations they may want to review, are becoming an industry standard.
Experiential enhancements to make the virtual “event campus” and session rooms feel more immersive. With advancements to video streaming, you can still have the same high production keynote experience expected in the virtual world that you’d expect at a live event. AR and VR are also gaining traction for the more techy and gamer-focused communities. Technology is lessening the divide between people and devices, helping them "feel" like they’re part of an event experience more than ever before.
Audience engagement and interaction opportunities have been prioritized, creating new and improved ways to connect with your audience as they learn. The ability for attendees to meet for a follow up discussion on the back of a session taking place is no longer constrained by the limitations of physical venue space, as it largely is in the live environment. Audiences can also now choose their own experience through the offering of alternative formats for them to engage with, including polling, gamification and other interactive elements. "It's important to understand that interaction is not the same as engagement." said Shannon Malkin Daniels, Founder & CEO of encaptiv. "We've designed our technology solution based on communication research and best practices to drive greater attendee engagement with content, create meaningful interpersonal connections & better accomplish event goals."
Data gathering from virtual events is like no other! Understanding human behavior is vital for event organizers (e.g. level/time of engagement within the event, what topics resonated and how sessions and the event performed overall). Every click and movement is captured within the virtual environment so far more intel and data is captured than that from the live counterpart.
As the market has historically focused on live events, this created disproportionate skills and experiences for event planners in the live space, with few event organizers frequently running virtual events. As a result, the event community is now focussing on the new market demands and trying to understand what makes a good virtual event. Taking best practices from live events and replicating them in the virtual world won’t drive the best results as the experiences are inherently different. The limitations associated with live don’t translate the same as those in virtual, and vice versa.
Untapped revenue source
Virtual events are an additional revenue stream, with many organizations now discovering the financial benefits of moving into this limitless space. "We've been able to market our event to a broader audience geographically by pivoting to virtual in 2020. This should fast track our growth strategy." Jon Winkel, Executive Director, Stamford Innovation Week
Virtual events have made a strong statement in 2020. As live events begin to emerge again, there will still be a key space for virtual events to run in the future. We’ll also see continued emergence of hybrid experiences, where live and virtual collide (due at least in part to the new revenue streams now discovered, and the flexibility virtual events now offer attendees). Planning for virtual or hybrid events can be tough to navigate. Next Level Events Consulting has experience working to pivot large, live events to the virtual world. We have tools to ensure every facet of the attendee and sponsor journey is considered & optimized for the best experience & financial results. We’re currently working with this year's winner of “The Event of the Year,” from Connecticut Entrepreneur Awards, Stamford Innovation Week. We would be happy to support your needs as well. Contact us for a free consultation, www.nextlevelevents.org