When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March of 2020, even the most resilient amongst us were tested. Many businesses struggled to survive as a result of unprecedented lockdowns, travel bans, and social distancing. Business models and event strategies needed to evolve, fast. The pivot to virtual followed. Event platforms like yours truly, led the way. With the power of virtual events, events yielded greater attendance from across the globe and people were able to come together to keep business running, all while staying safe.
Events went from driving the lowest ratios of ROI (when compared to other marketing channels) to the highest. The Virtual Event Research Report for Membership Organizations found that amongst organizations that generated the most revenue, 86% spent less on their virtual event. A Gartner 2020 Benchmark study identified that virtually hosted events are 2.3X more likely to have the highest lead conversion rates (when compared to other lead generation tactics).
A range of benefits came along with the new approach. Event professionals were able to plan more efficiently, with greater ease and the reach of events increased exponentially. Was virtual the holy grail we all sought? For a moment it felt so. The playbook for success looked like it was repeatable and scalable.
But as the industry gathered more data and analytics around virtual event experiences, a stark sense of reality kicked in. By the beginning of 2022, the average attendance percentages dipped from 70% to 35-40%. As the novelty factor of a new format started wearing off, the expectations from audiences across all segments started changing.
Since many were working remotely as well, the time spent on virtual meetings led to increased ‘Zoom Fatigue.’ This didn’t help the engagement levels during virtual events. The audience started expecting more interaction, more conversations, and more value for their time.
IMEX CEO Carina Bauer’s take is spot on, “As an organiser, it’s our rebooking rate that tells the biggest story. Exhibitors are mindful, particularly when budgets are tight — they don’t tend to participate in shows that don’t offer a proven return on time and investment.”
Studies showed that it was getting harder to keep virtual attendees engaged for more than 30 minutes. The engagement rate fell to single digits if the event went on for more than an hour. Lower engagement impacts the success of exhibitors and sponsors of virtual events as well. According to Statista Research Department, event marketers claim that the average confidence of driving value for sponsors is 6.5 on a scale of 1 to 10. Vaibhav Jain (CEO, Hubilo) recently published a post with insights from #eventprofs on why virtual is not working.
Is the solution only to invest in in-person events and go back to the status quo we once had? Certainly not. Our survey featuring leading #eventprofs found that 47.13% are continuing to plan events in all 3 formats - in person, virtual, and hybrid. 87% of them also shared how virtual events are either indispensable or at least a format to deploy at the right place, time, and audience. The right mix is key - the mix of the best elements from different event formats.
Our team at Hubilo has conducted in-depth interviews with our customers to understand their evolving needs. We also tested some new feature updates to make sessions more immersive. The boost in engagement and ROI is getting validated. Reviews like this one from Eric Storey, American Bar Association keep us going:
The community deserves a virtual event experience that emulates the immersiveness and sense of shared excitement that we feel in in person events. Challenge accepted! We are excited to release a new experience with exciting updates to the Hubilo community.
I invite you to Hubilo Next on October 20 at 10 AM PDT. Register here and join us as we unveil the latest version of Hubilo, which delivers an immersive experience that encourages participation, and a shared sense of excitement like never before.