If there is any positive trend the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the events industry, it is the adoption of virtual event platforms as a viable alternative to in-person events.
This adoption has helped many event organizers to prevent event cancellation, thereby minimizing their revenue loss. They have also been able to retain and engage their audiences through the use of virtual platforms.
But in a pandemic-free world, are there particular benefits that hosting a virtual or hybrid event (a blend of live and virtual) can bring to a business?
Absolutely! In the absence of a global health crisis, hosting virtual or hybrid events offers tremendous benefits for event organizers, speakers, attendees, and partners as well. Before the pandemic, the adoption of virtual platforms for event production was already on a significant rise, and now that many more organizations are seeing the benefits of virtual, there will be no going back in the use of virtual event technology for event production or augmentation.
Highlighted below are some good reasons your organization might still consider hosting hybrid and virtual events beyond COVID-19:
- Opportunity to expand audience base
- Significant reduction in cost
- Ease of collaboration and community building
- Immersive learning experience
- Extension of event content life cycle
- Data-driven lead tracking and capturing
- Extended opportunity for driving ROI
- Convenience and flexibility
- Opportunity for smaller companies to make a huge impact
- Significant reduction in carbon footprint
Continue reading to learn more.
Opportunity to Expand Audience Base
Hybrid and virtual events open up event attendance to qualified audiences from any part of the globe. By hosting a virtual event or adding a virtual component to your in-person event, you will eliminate the hassles of travel distance, time, and money that often prevent many interested participants from attending events. You will also be able to capture those who would rather prefer to join your event from the comfort of their homes rather than attending in-person.
More People Can Be Encouraged to Attend Live: There are some prospects who can afford to travel to attend your event live but are reluctant to make the financial commitment. When you make your event hybrid, you can capture this category of people and give them a taste of your compelling content. When they see what you’ve got to offer, they might be willing to attend your next event in-person. By giving them that opportunity to join virtually, you have won them over and retain them as your audience.
Opportunity to Attract Busy Professionals: There are some busy professionals who might be interested in your event but whose job schedule can prevent them from attending in-person. This is also a large audience base that often misses out on events. When you go virtual or hybrid, you will capture some in this group and give them the opportunity to access relevant content and also connect with colleagues in their industry.
Significant Reduction in Costs
One of the main benefits of hosting virtual or hybrid events is a significant reduction in cost and event logistics. For a virtual event, your overhead cost could be reduced to about 25%. This is because many event logistics such as venue, staff, travel, accommodation, and meals will have been eliminated or reduced drastically. This increases event ROI and gives you higher profitability on your event.
For hybrid events, it may appear that adding the virtual component will increase cost and logistics, but looking at it conversely, there will actually be a reduction in cost per attendee.
By introducing hybrid, you will save many of the attendees the travel costs. This might be the attendance-determining factor for some, but when this cost is eliminated, you will have more attendees joining your event. It also means that you will have more attendees with less space requirement. This will cut your cost and also boost your overall event profitability.
Ease of Collaboration and Community Building
Virtual or hybrid events offer more opportunities for collaboration and community-building than in-person events can offer. Event organizers can use virtual platforms to gather information and foster community before, during, and after an event.
Pre-Event: You can use your virtual event platform as an opinion sampling center to gather feedback and opinions from past event attendees about event topics and focus areas for future events. You can also poll the community on speakers they would prefer to listen to. The platform can also be used as an information center to place announcements, notify your audience of changes, or upload materials for download.
During Event: The platform can be used for networking during your event. Virtual platforms offer multiple networking opportunities with live chats, 1:1 video meetings, Q&A, gaming, and other networking and collaborative activities that can be initiated using a mobile event app.
Post-Event: Unlike in-person events when most activities end after the event, networking continues on a virtual platform. After the event, the platform becomes a channel for both organizers and members to stay in contact and build business relationships that last beyond the event.
Virtual can also bring the opportunity to collaborate with more speakers and domain experts from around the world to facilitate sessions during your event. Ordinarily, some of these experts may not be available to participate in your meeting if it is limited to live-only. However, an opportunity to facilitate remotely might draw these popular speakers to your event. The advantage this brings to your event is that attendees can benefit from a rich faculty, which contributes to your overall event perception.
Immersive Learning Experience
Incorporating a digital learning experience into your event can give both in-person and online attendees greater value and a more robust learning experience.
By infusing the possibilities available on your virtual event platform and a collection of compelling content, you will enhance the attendees’ learning experience and engagement. Some of your onsite attendees might also gain a double advantage by using the virtual platform to consume more content.
Sometimes, conflicting schedules during an event can make attendees miss out on an important session but if there is a virtual platform, they can tune in or listen to the session later.
Extension of Event Content Life Cycle
Content from event sessions can be stored on the platform, giving your audiences the opportunity to playback and enjoy the sessions over and over again. Speakers can also use virtual platforms to push additional content out during or after the event.
It is also possible to create an information library for attendees to access slides, notes, and other event-related content. You can also add features such as quizzes, mini-courses, and paid content to continue to drive engagement on the platform. With that, your content can last year-round rather than ending with your live event.
Data-Driven Lead Tracking and Capturing
Adding a virtual component to your live event or hosting an all-virtual event can give you the opportunity to track, capture and make the most of attendee data in ways that would be difficult to achieve with live-only events. Virtual platforms offer deep data analytics that you can use to determine user interests and behavior during your events. These data can be captured at different points of your event. You can track login, chats, connections, views, shares, clicks, etc.
By monitoring user activity on your virtual platform, sponsors and partners can acquire qualified leads and prospect attendees in real-time. Virtual platforms also have machine learning algorithms that can suggest leads to sponsors based on user activity. This makes lead capturing much easier. Sponsors and partners will get real value for their investment as they will be able to access their target audience directly.
Apart from prospecting attendees on the platform, sponsors and partners can also use attendee behavioral analytics to decide on which of the attendees would require additional follow-up based on their expressed interests.
Extended Opportunity for Driving ROI
With virtual platforms, you can make your content available on-demand and even pre-record or create additional content to continue to drive ROI and make more money from your event.
There’s also an opportunity for topic expansion. If you notice that some sessions resonated more with attendees and there seemed to be a craving for more, you can collaborate with the speakers to expand the topic and produce more content in that area without having to wait for another event. All that you’ll have to do is record the new sessions with your facilitators and post them on the platform for a fee.
You can keep providing additional content to sustain the enthusiasm of your audiences, thereby turning attendees into customers.
Convenience and Flexibility
When you host a hybrid event, you are providing your prospective attendees with multiple options to choose from. They choose whether to attend the event in-person, in the comfort of their home, in their office, or while on another journey. This flexibility makes it possible to get a lot of people to participate in your event.
The flexibility will also reduce the incidence of attendee cancellation. Instead of canceling, they can downgrade to virtual-only. With that arrangement, you might still retain them instead of losing them outright.
Opportunity for Smaller Companies to Make Huge Impact
Companies with smaller marketing budgets can produce quality and engaging events and reach a larger audience with a limited budget when they host virtual events. They can also get speakers and facilitators from anywhere around the globe to feature in their event without having to spend more on travel costs and accommodation.
Significant Reduction In Carbon Footprint
If your organization is concerned about carbon emission, one of the ways to cut down on carbon is by reducing the amount of travel. Virtual events are eco-friendly events, so thousands of people can attend a global event without having to travel any distance.
So the next time you consider how to organize an eco-friendly event, think about hosting a virtual event or a hybrid event where you can get more people to participate without adding to the carbon footprint.
Hybrid and virtual events will remain relevant for business beyond the pandemic. If you are looking for a way to grow your audience base, keep the cost down, turn your attendees to customers, and build lasting business relationships, hybrid or virtual is the way to go!
This is a guest post from Jordan Schwartz
Jordan Schwartz is president and co-founder of Pathable, an event app and website platform for conferences and tradeshows. He left academic psychology for the lure of software building, and spent 10 years at Microsoft leading the development of consumer-facing software. Frustrated with the conferences he attended there, he left Microsoft in 2007 with the goal of delivering more value and better networking opportunities through a next-generation conference app. Jordan moonlights as a digital nomad, returning often to his hometown of Seattle to tend his bee hives.