- The recent disruption caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic is acting as a catalyst for the virtual events industry as several companies are turning to the alternative option of going virtual.
- Several organisers have decided to go virtual-only and continue with their agenda while preventing the spread of COVID-19 and allowing people to participate remotely.
- With the transformation from money saving to money-making platforms, virtual events are reshaping the B2B events industry landscape.
The recent outbreak of the novel coronavirus around the world is having an unprecedented impact on the events industry. The ongoing disruption has forced countless events to be postponed, cancelled or switched to virtual platforms. The global pandemic is reshaping the working culture, many companies are implementing remote working policies and are using virtual platforms to host meetings and coordinate with employees working from home. As social gatherings have now become limited to digital-only platforms, several organisations are experimenting and seeking new creative ways to keep the business going. While there are many advantages of in-person events that can't be replicated in digital form, the virtual events also present distinct opportunities that might be helpful for organisations in the long run.
Now, with the coronavirus prompting travel bans and event cancellations worldwide, virtual events have never been more timely. Several organisers have decided to go virtual-only and continue with their agenda while preventing the spread of COVID-19 and allowing people to participate remotely. Events like Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, Adobe Summit, Google’s Cloud Next, and tech conference Collision have decided to shift panels and discussions to various streaming platforms and apps that would allow attendees to participate virtually.
Previously many successful events have been held virtually including Apple’s iPhone 11, Pro Max, and Pro launch event in September 2019 which kept 1.8 million people glued to their screens as the event was live-streamed.
The recent disruption caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic is acting as a catalyst for the virtual events industry as several companies are turning to the alternative option of going virtual without compromising on quality, networking, business opportunities, and most importantly, safety.
What is a Virtual Event?
A virtual event is a multi-session and highly interactive online event that involves people interacting in a virtual environment, rather than physical space. Several technologies provide a suitable platform for virtual conferences, live trade shows, seminars or any event that features multiple presentations and discussions to engage with the target audience. Virtual events can be as small as a webinar or as extensive as a virtual trade show or conference.
In a virtual event, networking, meetings and all other activities are done through live streams and other collaborative tools. Virtual events like webinars, webcasts, workshops, and seminars offer highly engaging platforms where attendees can choose to attend or download sessions from the available series of sessions. Virtual conferences or virtual trade shows allow the host and the audience to enter a virtual 2D or 3D space, where attendees can join meetings, live webcasts, visit trade show booths, display their products & services, explore break out rooms, and interact with each other in private chat rooms in real-time. With the transformation from money saving to money-making platforms, virtual events are reshaping the B2B events industry landscape.
Types of Virtual Events:
Web-based seminar or webinar is a live event, conference, presentation or seminar held via the internet which is attended by an online audience. Webinars are considered to be more cost-effective than in-person events. These events allow the audience to interact with the host and send & receive information in real-time. Webinar platforms support interactive participation by offering services like Q&A session, live chat, screen sharing, live streaming video or the ability to pre-record the webinar and publish-on-demand later. Professionals can charge attendees to join using online payment services or can be offered free of cost. Various platforms including Cisco Webex and Zoom provide cost-effective and easy-to-use platforms for webinars, video conferencing and online meetings.
- Virtual Conferences
A virtual conference is a conference that is hosted over the internet and allows participants to engage and share information in real-time from any part of the world. These conferences offer several advantages including cost-effectiveness and wider audience reach. Much like in-person conferences, virtual conferences include discussions, presentations, keynotes, sessions, and more. These conferences are built around an agenda and feature interactive tools that allow audience engagement.
- Virtual Trade Shows
A virtual trade show is a type of virtual event, where exhibitors and visitors connect and display their products and services in a virtual environment. These trade shows are visually captivating and recreate the whole physical trade show experience including exhibition halls, separate conference rooms, booth set-ups, seminars, and meetings in real-time. Depending on the technology, attendees can walk around the virtual exhibition floor, meeting rooms and navigate from booth to booth through their computer screens. Some platforms even support an instant-messaging interface that allows exhibitors to interact with attendees. Virtual platforms like LogMein, Zoom, InXpo, and ON24 offer virtual networking and breakout rooms for participants to use throughout the event.
- Hybrid Events
Hybrid events are conferences, trade shows, or seminars that allow both the physical as well as the remote attendees to come together and participate in the same event at the same time from different parts of the world. A hybrid event represents an in-person event taking place at a physical venue which can be attended by a live and interactive online audience via audio and video technologies. Live events can be integrated with virtual platforms for added marketing impact. One of the advantages of hybrid events is that they provide an opportunity to expand the audience reach as these events are not bound by geographical or physical limitations. Because of the interactive services offered by various platforms, online attendees can easily participate in meetings, seminars, polls, and surveys.
Benefits of Virtual Events
- Health and safety: As long as the coronavirus poses a threat, limiting in-person attendance reduces the risk of spreading the virus.
- Cost-effective: Virtual conferences can be more cost-effective than in-person ones. Hosting attendees online can eliminate many expenses associated with traditional conferences including venues, hotels, setup, travel, and more.
- Reach: Virtual events allow organizers to reach a wider pool of audience as these are not limited to regional or geographical barriers. Professionals can participate remotely from around the world without disrupting their work or personal life.
- Revenue: Virtual events reduce the overhead costs that are usually associated with a physical event such as travel, accommodation, venue and other expenses. Thus, with fewer expenses for expanded reach and lead acquisition, the overall revenue is increased.
- Data and lead generation: Virtual conference platforms can be used to track the behaviour of attendees like which sessions they attended and for how long, or which booths they interacted within the virtual exhibition hall, and more. These insights are invaluable for developing targeted content and for making the next virtual conference even more successful.
Virtual events are still in the nascent stage and there are still a lot of unimaginable aspects of these events that might become the reality of tomorrow. Emerging technologies, such as virtual reality and augmented reality are revolutionising the events industry in a number of ways and if done right, virtual events would emerge as the conquerors of the events industry in the upcoming years. Moreover, when social gatherings pose a threat to public health safety or the environment, the events industry must find virtual alternatives to continue working amidst the global catastrophes.