In May 2018, the world was glued to screens to watch Warren Buffett’s comments at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder’s meeting. In September 2019, Apple’s event where iPhone 11 was launched, streamed live for the first time. And 1.8 million people logged in virtually to watch it. This was before the pandemic hit.
Today, at the dwindling end of the pandemic in 2021, virtual events have proven their significance and their applicability more than ever. They became the default during the pandemic. Event planners, organizers, marketers, associations - anyone who wanted to bring a community together - witnessed and quickly understood the potential of virtual events.
But will they remain relevant in the post-pandemic world? Definitely. The potential virtual events hold does not end with the pandemic. They offer a far better and sustainable way to bring people together. According to the Global Virtual Events Market Report 2021-2025, the virtual events market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 33%. Wondering what’s fueling this growth?
Here are 5 reasons why virtual events will not only retain but also grow in relevance in the coming years.
1. Virtual events are easily scalable
Event marketing has changed significantly over the past year. But the fundamentals still are and will remain constant. The goal of building brand awareness, generating business leads, and increasing customer loyalty, to name a few, will always be relevant. And the more scalable events are, the easier it gets to achieve these goals.
Virtual events make scaling things such as event design, attendee capacity, networking rooms, etc., quick and easy. This frees up time for event organizers and marketers to focus on event engagement. Or planning a better and more immersive experience to represent their brand. Virtual event platforms do the heavy lifting of scaling up events. And it means marketing teams can be sure that later they can expand their events to cater to a wider audience. Moreover, scaling up virtual events doesn't need a proportional increase in effort and budget.
With virtual events, you also get access to extensive data and actionable analysis. It is an important factor that helps organizers in scaling events intelligently. Most aspects of an online event can be captured, analyzed, and reported - thanks to AI. You can understand your audience and the effectiveness of your event strategy at a granular level. There are also insights available about which sessions, topics, and speakers were most engaging.
You get to know how much time the attendees spent with which exhibitors. And which sponsor ads converted the most. It becomes easy to deep dive into the event KPIs and to plan the next event better and bigger. These insights can also be fed into future marketing campaigns making them more efficient and relatable to the audience.
2. Organizing virtual events saves time
In 2020, the Primetime Emmy Awards transitioned to an online ceremony because of the pandemic. This was possible because of the quick turnaround time of virtual events. You can put together virtual events in a lot less time as compared to in-person events. It is one of the most impressive, and perhaps the most underrated, facts about virtual events.
All the time and effort that goes into managing the logistics of an in-person event don't feature in the list of to-dos for a virtual event. It also takes a little less time to get speakers on board because there's no traveling needed. And people are more open and willing to commit 30 minutes to your event than 3 days of their time.
Another added advantage of virtual events is that you don't have to spend time coordinating a thousand items on the list. You can focus better on creating and delivering an exceptional event experience instead.
3. You can reach a wider, more diverse, and global audience
The pandemic cut off the possibility to gather together overnight, but the desire to meet up did not stop. Virtual events continued to make sure that we could connect globally. They take away geographical, financial, and visa restrictions. Nothing prevents people from disadvantaged backgrounds from attending international meetups any longer.
Virtual events also make it easier for the differently-abled to take part. Advance tech support such as captioning, screen readers, sign language interpretation, etc., make them more accessible. They are also more inclusive and can bring together a large, global, and diverse audience base.
The European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly held in Vienna in 2019 had 16,200 participants. The same when held virtually in 2020 saw over 26,000 individual registered users.
4. Virtual events cost less and give more ROI
Event organizers always look for ways to reduce costs and maximize ROI. When viewed from this lens, virtual events are a dream come true.
They drastically reduce the costs of planning and implementing an event. You save costs for hiring personnel and event production. No more expenditure on booking venues, accommodation, catering, and travel. The marketing budget is available exclusively for online measures. And a penny saved is a penny earned.
You can direct all those savings towards getting a speaker you couldn't afford earlier. Or sending out pre-event swag kits or maybe earmark it for the post-event marketing budget. There is so much you can do to enhance the attendee experience with the budget at hand. With lesser costs, less time to organize, and a wider audience reach, virtual events promise great ROI for your marketing.
5. Virtual events are seamlessly extendable into a hybrid event
It’s human nature to want to build relationships and meet in person. People love to network, gather around a campfire, tell stories, and share memories. With the advancement in technology, how we communicate and what we do for entertainment have changed. But the primal need is still the same - to come together and share experiences.
It is no surprise that some of the biggest product launches, summits, and annual events adopted a hybrid model in 2020. GITEX is one of the world’s biggest technology exhibitions held annually in Dubai. The organizers faced the challenge of a restricted number of visitors at the event venue in 2020. As a response to the imposed restrictions and keeping the safety of the attendees in mind, they transitioned to a hybrid event model - executed seamlessly by Hubilo.
After the pandemic, when the in-person events make a comeback, they will look different. In-person events of the past and the virtual events of today will complement each other in the future. A hybrid event model leverages, celebrates, and amplifies the offline event model, online. And vice-versa.
So, what does the future look like?
Virtual events are staying and in-person events are making a comeback. It is not about one eating into the other's pie. By creating new possibilities for event professionals, virtual events have established a new category inside the events industry.
As much as you may feel like hosting an in-person event, you can’t overlook what virtual events bring to the table. Lower expenses, better scalability & ROI, wider reach, and convenience of hosting and attending.
Virtual events are only starting to make their mark. And it goes without doubt that they will continue becoming more and more relevant for years to come.