COVID-19 might have made them a necessity, but the global pandemic coming to an end does not mean the end of virtual events too. Hosting conferences, trade shows or career fairs online, while won't replace the live experience, could prove invaluable in the post-COVID reality.
As it stands, virtual events are the only viable alternative to in-person business gatherings. Of course, many events will return to their normal, physical form and resume as if nothing happened but the question everybody is asking today is "What will the 'new' normal look like?" We can't simply move on and act as if the rapid 2020 digital growth never happened because it most certainly did, and it has completely transformed most aspects of our lives.
Prime example? Word on the street is that hybrid offering will dominate the event industry and an astounding 97% of event marketers seem to agree with this prediction. Therefore today, we would like to share the most significant advantages of online events to help you prepare for what's to come in the post-pandemic world.
Benefits of Hosting a Virtual Event
1. Increased audience reach
Finding a suitable venue and date are crucial elements in the event planning process. And yet, no matter how much time, thought and resources you put in choosing the perfect location, there will always be plenty of potential attendees unable to make it, especially if you're targeting senior positions. There could be other possible barriers, such as lack of disability-friendly adjustments or enough seats to fit all planned participants.
None of those limitations affect virtual event planning. Attendees are free to join from wherever in the world they're from, given they have WiFi access and a laptop or a smartphone. No travel. No accommodation. No stress. Even if a person is unavailable on the day of your event, they can watch sessions on-demand whenever it suits them.
2. Unique attendee experience
Although virtual events have been around for quite some time, it wasn't until the coronavirus pandemic when they became more popular and so many people are still unfamiliar with the online conferences or trade shows. This gives companies a chance to deliver a truly memorable and exclusive experience they have never seen during in-person functions.
For example, you could showcase your products in Augmented Reality or even send event invitations or announcements with holograms of your speakers or CEO. And because the event takes place online, designing virtual booths and stands is no longer restricted by space limitations, enabling you to include additional marketing collateral.
3. Data and improved feedback collection
It's almost impossible to track attendee activity during live events, even in this day and age. However, most virtual event platforms come equipped in powerful user behavior tracking features, finally giving event planners and organizations insight into participant activity throughout the entire event.
It's the same story when it comes to collecting feedback.
As you can imagine, it can be time-consuming for the sales team to be measuring attendee satisfaction. With virtual events though, you can ask for feedback during (real-time polls or surveys) or after the event seeing as you'll have access to attendees' email addresses.
4. Cost-effectiveness and profitability
There's no denying that planning a live event involves a huge budget. There are venue costs, visuals, audio, catering, administration fees, promotion... And the list goes on. On the other hand, online conferences require only an investment in a virtual event platform and, of course, virtual event marketing plan. Not to mention attendees also save money on travel and accommodation costs which can make them more inclined to attend.
More importantly though, you absolutely can monetize your virtual event - whether by selling advertising spaces within the virtual event platform, as well as sponsorship packages, premium tickets and media outside of the event. And, with a powerful event strategy and seamless execution, online functions can outperform in-person event profits.
5. More value for sponsors and exhibitors
Sponsors and exhibitors count on increasing their brand awareness and sales by promoting their presence during live trade shows, expos or conferences - but online events are no different. Virtual stands and booths are fully branded and customized; exhibit halls and lobbies also come with banner ad spaces for this exact purpose. Additionally, increased attendance rates also promise a wider reach, so sponsors and exhibitors will see a better ROI on your virtual event.
6. Reduced environmental impact
Sustainability might not be the first thing that pops into your head when wondering about the pros and cons of virtual events. However, choosing to go virtual as opposed to in-person has got a huge impact on the environment:
Let's not forget that more and more people are becoming more environmentally conscious and put a lot of thought into reducing their carbon footprint. For some, hosting an online event instead of an in-person one could be the real deal-breaker.
7. Ease of management
While virtual events still require a ton of work, such as content creation, planning or promotion, they are much easier to manage on the day of the event. Forget the logistics, travel, booth setup or staff training; everything is happening digitally, so once the planning & production phases are over, you can quite literally sit back and enjoy the show.
Although it might not seem like it in COVID-19 era, online events are so much more than just "damage control". Sure, we might see less of them when ban on social gatherings and travel is lifted, and B2B functions can once again take place in a physical environment. However, with the right strategy and virtual event platform, digital events can help businesses thrive and will continue to do so even when the coronavirus pandemic os over.