2020 has so far been the most challenging year in the history of the events industry. The COVID-19 pandemic had an unprecedented impact on the event sector. The global disruption forced the events industry as a whole to pause, think and make innovative changes.

With physical events on hold, 2020 saw a massive shift of in-person events coming onto the digital platforms. Several large-format events including the Adobe Summit, the Northeast Astronomy Forum 2020, and the UN General Assembly chose to hold a virtual conference. They adapted to the virtual platforms by shifting exhibitions and conferences to various streaming platforms and apps that allowed attendees to participate virtually.

Virtual events the ‘new normal’

Virtual events have opened up new doors and provided a unique opportunity for organisers to host events that attract global audiences. According to a report published by Event Outlook, 93% of event organisers plan to invest in virtual events moving forward. Other than meeting social distancing requirements, companies have many other reasons why they choose to run a virtual event including convenience and cost-effectiveness. We have compiled a list of some interesting statistics from different surveys that reveal the trends of the virtual events:

  • 52% of event professionals think the future of the events industry lies in virtual events and will continue to be the ‘new normal’ in the post covid era as well. (Eventackle, 2020)
  • 93% of event organisers plan to invest in virtual events in the future. ( Event Outlook, 2020)
  • 80.2% of event organisers said they were able to reach a wider audience with virtual events. (Bizzabo, 2020)
  • 65% of organisers plan to reallocate some or most of their physical event budgets to virtual events. (Event Marketer, 2020)
  • 39.5% of event organisers found it easier to find great speakers for virtual events. (Bizzabo, 2020)
  • In June of 2020, the average price paid for a virtual event was $254 USD. (Bizzabo, 2020)
  • 68% of event marketers are looking for hybrid event technology that supports both physical and online events. (Bizzabo, 2020)

Reliable tech for successful virtual events

New event technologies witnessed a massive receptiveness this year as the event organisers leveraged various technologies to engage attendees and used event apps to organise their agendas and conference programs. According to a recent report by Bizzabo, event organisers are reportedly spending more than 52% of their event budget on various technologies to make their virtual events engaging. Here are the most significant findings:

  • In terms of preferred platforms to run virtual events on, 41% of event organisers use Zoom for their small virtual events, followed by Microsoft Teams, which is used by 29% of organisers. 31.6% use Intrado as the virtual platform for hosting large conferences while 20.1% use ON24 as their preferred virtual conference platform. (Markletic, 2020)
  • 97% in the technology industry used agenda features in their event app. (Event MB, 2020)
  • 70% of event professionals believe that good microphones are critical to the success of virtual events. (Markletic, 2020)

Virtual engagement/interaction strategy

Virtual events have created new challenges for virtual audience engagement. Over half of event professionals find virtual engagement more difficult. While many companies use virtual events to generate leads, one thing that virtual event organisers cannot overlook is their audience engagement strategy. We’ve compiled a list of the most interesting trends surrounding audience engagement:

  • 67.7% of respondents say audience engagement is the largest challenge when it comes to virtual events. The next biggest challenge is interaction. (Markletic, 2020)
  • 63% of event marketers believe that virtual audience engagement tools will play a major role in their 2021 event strategies. (Bizzabo, 2020)
  • 60% of event organisers use social media to drive registrations for their virtual events. (Markletic, 2020)
  • 81.8% of event planners use event polling to improve interaction and 61% use videos as an interactive element to keep people engaged. (Markletic, 2020)
  • On average, a virtual attendee watches 68% of a session that is 20 minutes or longer. (Bizzabo, 2020)
  • 68% of organisers hire external moderators for their virtual panel discussions. (Markletic, 2020)

Virtual events ROI

In a survey conducted by Bizabbo, 80% of companies used ‘attendee engagement and satisfaction’ as a KPI to measure the success of a virtual event. The second most popular KPI chosen by 42% of the companies in the survey was ‘qualified leads generated’. Another survey by Marklectic revealed that 49% of marketers believe that audience engagement is the biggest contributing factor to having a successful event and attendee satisfaction is also considered a success factor by 85% of marketers. To determine attendee satisfaction, 64% of event organisers use the feedback provided by their sales team.

This past year has changed our perspective towards events. From the rapid shift of in-person events to virtual platforms or to incorporate hybrid events as in-person events return, the events industry has adapted swiftly. The statistics revolving around virtual events will continue to change over time as companies place a priority on bringing their events to the next level. Some out of the box thinking and proactive energy from event organisers will help in reviving the events industry in 2021.