It’s no secret that 2020 turned the events world upside down (sideways, at least) and the virtual event became more important than ever. Technology and modernisation of the traditional corporate event had hybrid and virtual events becoming more and more popular for forward-thinking organisations over the past few years, before the year of the Coronavirus pandemic pushed us all into having little choice.
Whilst the world adjusts to ‘the new normal’, the events industry must, too. This might mean that venues are working at reduced capacities to maintain social distancing protocol into the future and, whilst the live event will never be entirely replaceable, virtual and hybrid events are an important part of managing events in the near future.
As the world gradually opens its doors – along with venues all over the country – many aren’t quite itching to get back into a crowded space with lots of other people and will appreciate the option to attend your event from home for a while longer – and it may well be the case that the option is now permanently a good thing to have.
Much like the office environment in which many businesses will no longer be expecting full time attendance from their employees, adapting to the new event industry landscape is going to involve some level of virtual participation from here on out. But can you really get the same experience from attending an event virtually?
The arrival and registration stage of your event is one that can see the most benefit from taking your event virtual. When attending in person your delegates will be required to travel, they might have to queue when they get to you, register, get a drink and find a seat ready for your content to kick off. When it’s virtual, however, your guests can join you from the comfort of their own homes or office spaces without the requirement of travel – saving them a lot of time and money. Great start!
The content itself isn’t likely to change whether your event is virtual or live, but you might need to adapt how you deliver it. You may be losing some element of experience by going digital (audio visual and production, for example) but there are a number of ways to make your event content shine.
Ensuring that your content is well-targeted and value-adding for your delegates is the number one priority, but there are a few ways to enhance it when virtual:
The networking opportunities provided at live events are not easy to replicate. With a room full of people with a mutual interest, genuine and fruitful relationships can be built at live events and this is difficult to bring to life digitally. However, it is possible.
When researching event platforms, consider choosing one with options for breakout rooms or splitting your event up into different areas. This way, guests can easily access the talks of their choice (particularly if you have many taking place at once) but also networking areas, breakout rooms and therefore, other guests. It is harder to connect and make a memorable impression, but providing your delegates with innovative ways of networking will help.
Live events often come with a number of added extras including catering and goody bags or freebies, all designed to add to the experience. When hosting a virtual event it is really up to you how far you take these elements (if at all): you might decide to still provide catering and have hampers or meals sent to your guests beforehand, or invest the cost of catering elsewhere.
When it comes to goody bags, virtual events provide a real opportunity to be especially valuable. Stereotypically, live event goody bags are usually stuffed with branded pens, sponsorship leaflets and notebooks – but the reality is that this probably isn’t what your guests are going to find most useful. Sending a virtual goody bag enables you to give real value with resources, downloads, articles, freebies based on your event content: you know it’ll be of interest to your delegates and allows you to show your expertise.
There will always be a place for live events. We are human beings with human needs and a large part of that is interaction with others. There is no better way to connect than in person and, in business, we all know the power of meaningful connections.
But whilst it might take a bit more effort to network virtually, online events provide countless opportunities for innovation, cost-saving and convenience for delegates.