Few industries have been challenged so hard by the pandemic as the event management industry.
Over the last few months, the industry has been forced to take multiple technological leaps to keep up with the times.
With events stopped everywhere, from product launches to tech conferences to music shows, the industry has had to adopt change faster than ever before. Virtual event platforms are an excellent example of that technological adaptation.
Virtual events and hybrid events are the norm now for companies and organizations across sectors as venue space and gatherings are restricted or limited.
A virtual event can be described as an event that’s hosted online. They typically have a livestream component, like hosting a webinar, and other breakout sessions around content that is either prerecorded or streamed live.
A hybrid event, on the other hand, has both a live audience and a much larger online audience. Among others, product launches and conferences fall under this category.
As more and more companies host these successfully, virtual and hybrid event platforms are now a must-have in the event tech stack for companies and organizations.
Why do you need virtual events?
Let’s face it, the pandemic has completely rewritten the rules of social interactions and engagement for the foreseeable future. As remote work gets institutionalized in some form in almost every company, large live events are risky propositions at best, and unfeasible at worst.
An event, either internal or external, is held with the usual set of objectives. These are, to inform the audience, showcase a new product or feature, give the attendees a platform to network, and get their feedback.
If you relied on larger events to achieve these, you cannot expect to achieve the same goals by going smaller.
However, virtual events can deliver on all these counts. They offer significant advantages in terms of cost, time, scale, engagement levels, shelf-lives, ease of use, and an overall better allocation of resources.
So here are 11 reasons why hybridization of events is the future for the industry and why virtual & hybrid event platforms are essential tools for that future.
11 reasons to have virtual and hybrid event platforms in your tech stack
1. Virtual is bigger
By definition, a virtual event can be scaled exponentially. There is a limit to the number of physical attendees at a seminar, launch, summit or workshop.
But on a virtual event platform, there is no limit to the number of participants. For multinational companies, hybridization of events means that along with their in-person participants, they can now reach their employees across continents at the same time.
By keeping it virtual, companies and organizations also take the pressure off of attending. By giving them the option of entering and exiting at any point, virtual events can get the attention of those who had no plans of attending the event.
This increases brand awareness and brings in likely participants for the next live or virtual version. CoinDesk opened their Consensus event for free to any and all participants, and attracted over 22,000 attendees to their virtual event.
2. Reduce cost
There’s no need to hire large venues, no need to fly in participants from different parts of the country or the world. Also, there’s no need to rent hotel rooms for a large number of people.
With a virtual or hybrid event, there are considerable cost savings that you can then deploy elsewhere. And for attendees, virtual events are almost free. With the elimination of this entry barrier, any event has the potential to scale.
Participants can now sample multiple events and figure out which one provides them the most value.
3. Save time
Virtual events save time for organizers, speakers and participants. The large physical infrastructure and its customization mean that companies and their event managers spend a lot of time organizing an event.
Virtual events are easier to set up as their architecture is simpler and more scalable. And as there’s no travel involved, it makes it easier for a majority of the attendees to opt for the virtual event.
People may not be able to dedicate 4 days to attend a live event. But they are likely to devote 4 hours a day for the same event online. So your speakers can now reach participants from the confines of their home or office.
Polar Bear Pitching needed to go virtual 7 days before their event, and due to the ease of set up for their virtual event platform, they succeeded.
4. Ease of use
Virtual event platforms are incredibly easy to use. From students to C-suite executives, everyone is comfortable with video conferencing and streaming platforms. There’s no need to buy additional hardware or software to attend a virtual event.
In fact, in almost all cases, there’s no need to buy or download anything to participate. It also reduces the personnel required to organize, host and manage an event, thus adding to the cost efficiencies.
5. Greater flexibility
Virtual and hybrid events afford greater flexibility to organizers and attendees. Companies can now tailor their content to suit the needs of the participants. They can also segment the event for more focused reach and involvement.
And hybridization also ensures that in case of cancellation of the live event due to a natural calamity, it can still happen online. It offers necessary insurance that no event should be without.
6. Higher engagement
Virtual event platforms also score high on audience engagement. Participants can bookmark videos, give feedback and ask questions to speakers in real-time. And unlike at a live event, they can also revisit sessions and training programs to rewatch their favorite sections or refresh their memory.
When participants are engaged, they are more likely to share their experience on social media. As this sharing is immediate, more people can attend the event as it happens.
That organic outreach gives the event more visibility and brings in newer participants. That’s how TEDTalks exploded a few years back.
7. Data and analytics
As they run on technology, virtual events give a wealth of valuable and actionable data to organizers and speakers. Instead of relying on headcount at the venues, now they can know how many people attended a session, how engaged they were, and whether they left the session (plus when they left).
They can also know how many shared their experience on social media and how many people asked questions and gave feedback.
And as an event organizer, you’ll also know in detail the kind of content that got the most response and engagement. And you can know it all in real-time.
Quite simply, you’ll know what works and what doesn’t. These metrics will help you iterate your events in the long run and tailor-make them for specific audiences and objectives.
8. Longer shelf life
A virtual event provides you with content in multiple forms, including video and downloadable white papers.
Plus, participants can continue to learn and experience the sessions online for months after the event, meaning one virtual event can be a continuous lead magnet months after it's over.
9. Virtual connectivity
A significant advantage - and the prime reason - for attending live events is the ability to network. This lack of random and serendipitous connections is sometimes erroneously cited as the biggest drawback of virtual events.
But now virtual participants can connect with each other and, more importantly, understand why they should meet each other. While random encounters are less likely, virtual event platforms offer potential for facilitated matchmaking based on interests and goals.
Virtual event networking is slowly coming of age.
10. Better ROI for sponsors
Sponsors of virtual events can get brand association far beyond the actual event.
From digital dashboards to in-video branding, sponsors can now get extended visibility for their brands. The sponsors are also likely to push the event through their social media channels, furthering the reach.
Also, despite not being able to meet attendees face-to-face, the best virtual event platforms have facilitated matchmaking capabilities so your sponsors can easily find and meet qualified leads to drive business.
11. Easier on the environment
As stated, virtual events do not require unnecessary travel and lodging. Plus, they don’t need large auditoriums.
With virtual event platforms, companies will be leaving a considerably smaller carbon footprint. Which of course is a good thing for the brand and a greater thing for the planet.
Which is ideal for your company?
When you consider the advantages of virtual and hybrid events, going back to purely in-person events is a losing proposition. Any uncertainty - economic, political, natural or public health - can jeopardize your entire event if you don't have a virtual component or online fallback.
Whether you host small internal conferences or large external events, it’s now good practice to opt for a hybrid model whenever possible. This minimizes your risks and maximizes your gains.
The full potential of a hybrid event goes beyond recording the event and streaming it live. It's about the clever and strategic use of virtual event platforms to enable audience participation, facilitate engagement, and provide actionable data and metrics.
It’s also about fostering a community of participants and giving them the virtual event networking platforms to engage with each other. That’s when companies and organizations will truly capitalize on the enormous potential that virtual & hybrid events hold.
You'll find all the information you need to know to provide the best networking experience to your participants!