Face to face events such as conferences, exhibitions, investigator meetings and seminars (to name a few) are powerful, well used and traditional methods of connecting people and sharing content. But then…cue global pandemic… things changed.
Like the rapid shift the whole globe has made to working from home and home schooling, and alongside numerous other major changes to our daily life, virtual events have flourished. There’s one simple reason for all of the above – necessity. Virtual events have been the only realistic way of getting people together when this couldn’t happen face to face. Virtual events have supported businesses in moving forward whilst facing immediate and long-term challenges presented by the pandemic. They have formed a crucial part of companies’ strategies to overcome challenges caused by Covid-19 as well as capitalising on new opportunities and future plans.
But, as society starts to open up, there is a big question mark around a lot of things… including how face to face and virtual events will work together. We’re still unsure when we can all be together, safely and travel again without restriction.
Even though vaccines are being rolled out across the world, and despite a positive and hopeful roadmap for the UK, face to face events are still a risky proposition for many. While we’re certain face to face will come back stronger than ever as people crave the connections that have been so sorely missed, virtual events are certainly here to stay. Businesses have almost exclusively had to host their events virtually and this will remain a route that will enhance (if not replace) face to face events in future.
Here are a few reasons why…
Previous barriers such a speaker availability and budgetary or travel constraints have been removed in a flash. Through online events, businesses have become more ambitious with content in a virtual world than they may have been in reality; trying new things, engaging with new audiences etc. In simple terms, there’s been nothing to lose so why not give new things a go? A strong consensus in the industry is that the general appetite for new and exciting content, speakers and technologies has grown exponentially.
Improved networking & engagement
While many attendees are extroverted and enjoy formal and informal networking at live events, many loathe this part and it’s the informal networking that is often more successful in making longstanding business relationships. However, online events create an easy forum for even the shyest of professionals. Networking and making connections in a structured and formal way, that only online events can offer, has been hugely positive. Delegates are now asking questions in live sessions and engaging with content and peers in a way that they perhaps never would have done in person. In one survey, 80% of companies used “attendee engagement and satisfaction” as a KPI to measure the success of a virtual event (Bizabbo, 2020).
Data & analytics
We all know that everything online is built on data and virtual events are no different. When an event is hosted virtually the statistics and data available to hosts and exhibitors are mind-blowing. This data provides a new level of analytics and insight that provides detailed and powerful business intelligence never seen before.
When we can’t travel, we save time. There is certainly a case for travel, new experiences, culture and human connection and there always will be (after all what’s the point in living if everything is online?). But, saying this virtual events save a lot of travel time for hosts and attendees alike and this is something that cannot be sniffed at in the bustle of corporate life. There is a large cost that can be attributed to this travel so virtual events offer a cost effective and time efficient method of getting people together, and will do forevermore.
Reduced environmental impact
In a similar vein to travel and time – virtual events are just less harmful on the environment. It’s as black and white as that. Birmingham University’s study found that a one-day physical event could produce up to 170kg of Co2 and create up to five tonnes of refuse waste. This excludes travel to and from the event, and other actions like printing. Scary. With the increase in awareness of climate change issues and call to reduce carbon emissions, environmental responsibility and positive action is more important now than ever before. As demonstrated by the US recently committing to halving its carbon emissions by 2030, reducing unnecessary environmental damage is a real consideration for all.
Extended content lifetime
Content shared at a virtual event is not only available to attendees live and on demand quickly post event, but the opportunity to engage on live platforms both before, during and after the event date provides huge opportunity that an in-person event just can’t offer in the same way. According to Bizzabo 80% of event organisers enable on-demand for virtual sessions. This means the lifetime of that content is hugely extended which can only be a good thing.