With the global landscape forcing the events industry into hibernation, companies have had to make remarkable and drastic short-term adaptations to cope.
Virtual events have been one of these drastic adaptations, saving this year from being an eventless one.
With B2B events playing such a dominant role in any marketer’s calendar it seemed unthinkable to not find some sort of modern replacement in this brief pause within our industry.
“95% of marketers agree that live events provide attendees with a valuable opportunity to form in-person connections in an increasingly digital world.”
With B2B events having such a close relationship to a business’s success, companies were right to put their faith in virtual solutions for the time being.
What virtual events offered us?
In a world that looked like events weren’t going to happen, having a digital space for delegates to interact with brands and speakers managed to pick up some of the slack in the absence of live events.
We are fortunate to live in a time where the infrastructure exists for everyone to take part in virtual experiences. Now more than ever these online events are becoming accessible to anyone.
Not only with the affordable tech we have available, but the steps that an online event removes from the equation i.e. travel and hotels.
This not only saves your attendees time and hassle but most importantly money. By not having a travel expenditure or extended time out of the office, you are opening up the doors of your event to a much broader audience.
It’s also worth mentioning with exhibitors having fewer overhead costs with the absence of physical assets; venue, banners etc. Ticket prices have fallen making these events even more accessible for attendees.
Of course, this is indicative of a virtual event offering slightly less to attendees than an in-person experience but price accessibility becomes the silver lining for attendees.
Having both the capability and restriction of working through a strictly digital format exhibitors have had to think about how a digital experience differs from a real-life one.
With virtual B2B events exhibitors were still given a chance to promote their products with attendees; through virtual booths, video content and interactive virtual experiences.
One of these interactive virtual experiences being utilised was to bring artists on board to create real-time illustrations, known as digital live scribing. A great way companies found to engage audiences, by making a relatively familiar aspect of events become a unique type of content and experience.
Illustrators create artwork live as a panel discussion or speaker go on, giving a visual aspect to what was conventionally an auditory experience only. Which keeps it engaging and entertaining, but most importantly widely shareable/postable.
The ability to have spaces for a speaker that could otherwise not make it is another great example of how the virtual events have helped keep the events industry alive and well through this pandemic.
This coupled with exclusive content event organisers can keep locked away from the general public rewards attendees for their interest, creating even more of an incentive to attend. With the opportunity to experience something that would not be on offer had the event happened as planned, pre-COVID.
The demand for any form of event
The effects of the sudden shift to virtual events in the first half of 2020 weren’t immediately apparent. While just over half of the events lost audiences in the transition, 46% gained attendees as a result.
The number of registrations with online events is proving there is still a demand for industry-specific learning and networking despite the circumstances.
“Once the dust has settled and the post-Covid 19 landscape starts to become clearer, the need for audience engagement and face to face interaction will be more prevalent than ever.”
Being able to connect immediately and hold meetings remotely is something which will continue to grow in importance. Although these virtual meetings have been fundamental in the event space during COVID, the virtual space can never fully replicate the experiences and human element that live B2B events offer.
The missing elements
The number one aspect of live B2B events is the networking that they enable; from visitor to exhibitor, exhibitor to exhibitor and visitor to visitor. The ability to share, connect and exchange information on challenges, experiences and goals is a key benefit of networking and live events as a whole.
Virtual B2B events suffer as connecting with exhibitors can often be impossible without eye contact and body language to help put the attendee at ease and understand your business.
Touch and feel
Not to mention the lack of sensory experience that comes from physically interacting with a brands product. Feeling it in their hands can be what pushes an attendee over the edge from being interested to fully understanding your product and how it works within the industry.
That’s why adding sensory elements like the aforementioned digital live scribing can help improve your virtual event.
Without the ability to meet people face-to-face it can be much harder to gauge the interest levels of your attendees. So, exhibitors are missing out on a huge aspect that live events offer, and that’s seeing how your product/ business is being received by attendees.
Customised event registration can help with virtual B2B events, for example; personalised email surveys, whether used for feedback or offering some form of pre-registration sign-up, can be a great way for event organisers to identify who your most engaged audiences are.
Utilising a custom online form for your virtual event attendees will help you get the most from leads. So, attendees are greeted with a specific form for a specific use whereas some exhibitors will use their generic website contact form for virtual B2B events.
These specific forms offer a huge competitive edge by allowing event organisers and exhibitors to edit questions, maintaining relevance for the situation and topic of the event.
“We’re missing a way to get that direct feedback - The audience can’t interact with the speaker, there’s no heckler in the audience.”
Another human element that virtual events haven’t been able to replicate is the direct feedback and interaction attendees used to be able to have with speakers, exhibitors and other attendees.
“Being present in a meeting space with like-minded people, sharing ideas, trends, networking and socialising is integral to the continued growth of one of the most important industries on the globe.” Event Industry News.
The show must go on
Events help facilitate the meetings, learning, seeing and experiencing of people. All of which are crucial in the growth of this industry.
Although virtual meetings have a part to play in this, live events will always stand as the best way to get these experiences. Once the dust has settled on COVID there will no doubt be an unquenchable thirst for live events and we will welcome its return.
If you’d like to improve your virtual events, get in touch about Gather Event Registration today.
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