The pandemic shut the doors on in-person events and businesses had to adapt fast. Virtual events became the go-to option and proved incredibly effective. Now, a shift in approach appears to be staying for the long term, with one UK survey finding 72% of businesses will maintain virtual events going forward, and 77% will pursue a more hybrid approach.
But as with any emerging trend, what was once a gimmick has now become the norm. Therefore, virtual events have become just as competitive as those that take place in person. Hosting a video conference is simply no longer enough to entice attendees, and businesses need to find new, more dynamic ways to make their virtual meetings feel interesting and interactive.
The Pros and Cons of Going Virtual
The benefits of going virtual are massive. Firstly they are more accessible for attendees and organisers. Everyone can now join at the click of a button. They are also more cost-effective; attendees no longer have to purchase hotel stays, while organisers can avoid costly event spaces. And let’s not forget the benefit to the environment with those speaking or joining international events no longer having to fly to and from the destination.
This accessibility hasn’t gone unnoticed and we can now see an extremely competitive channel all vying for their share of attention. Potential attendees and speakers are being bombarded with requests to attend, and businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to achieve sign-ups. Video conferencing fatigue is also in play, with attendees getting distracted and dropping off mid-session. In fact, the average no-show percentage of virtual events is over a third (35%). A figure which is slightly higher than in-person events.
Businesses, therefore, need to be mindful of this and offer something differentiated and superior to the competition. This includes ensuring not only that they have incentives to make people join, but remain online for the long term.
Sitting at the heart of this is better engagement, and ensuring that those dialling in from home feel they are having the high-quality experience they would expect to receive from a brand, regardless of location.
Virtual events are of course different to what’s come before, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be equally, if not more, engaging than meeting in person. Take Q&As for example. When done in person it often involves a microphone being passed around a large hall, with only a few people able to submit and ask their questions per session. Done virtually, however, it can be much easier for attendees to get their questions out there. And then there is the scale of these events, hundreds, if not thousands of attendees can submit written questions in chat – including those who would be too nervous to ask in person – enabling organisations to answer more queries.
Virtual events also open the doors for speakers to be anywhere in the world and still speak on key topics to anyone across the globe. This means businesses can get higher profile speakers and attract incremental attendee sign-ups based on the status of those who they have speaking for them.
Getting these speakers may come at a price, but now businesses don’t have to hire event spaces or pay for the hotels associated with physical events, they have scope to invest their budget elsewhere. For example, to boost interactivity while attendees remain at home, quizzes can be conducted on devices and then the results are shown in real-time by the host. This polling will give valuable insights as to what attendees would like and let them guide the speaker’s next talking point.
Providing gift vouchers for attendees to buy food can be another great way to boost engagement. If an event is happening over lunchtime, for example, businesses can send out food vouchers to ensure attendees are able to have their lunch at no expense in between sessions or enjoy healthy snacks pre-event or afterwards.
Improving Employee Experiences
But it’s not just the attendees businesses should look out for when running a virtual event. Organisers often spend so much time and resource improving the experience of attendees that they forget the team that made them possible in the first place. 39% of marketers say that their sales teams generate a significant amount of registrations, while there will be a host of other individuals, whether they be designers, IT specialists, content writers, PR teams etc behind the scenes that put hours into ensuring the virtual event is as successful as possible.
Recognising and rewarding these individuals is just as important, if not more so than the attendees, so businesses must always make sure they have processes in place to give and reward during and post-event. Having a suitable rewards programme in place which enables employees to come together and celebrate their success, such as team lunches is a great way to show appreciation post-event and ensure successful future ones.