Chances are a conference you planned on attending this year looked a little different in light of COVID-19. Some organizations canceled their events entirely to keep attendees safe. Other businesses pivoted. They took their events online, supercharging a trend of completely virtual or remote conferences.
They faced some successes, like saving budget, and some drawbacks like technical errors. But, in a year that’s been difficult, let’s focus on the positives. Here are some favorable outcomes and trends in virtual conferences in 2020.
Increased Diversity and Attendance
Some companies have noted that moving to a virtual setting increased their number of attendees. With an online format, people are no longer limited by travel restrictions, budget, or other responsibilities like parenting. Even better? With state-of-the-art event technology, presentations can be translated into different languages, making these conferences available to anyone with a Wi-Fi-enabled device.
Networking Opportunities and “In-Person” Experiences
One of the best parts of any conference is the networking. It’s also the reason some attendees choose to go. Platforms like Accelevents, Brandlive, Boomset, and others come with robust features to mimic in-person interactions like this at home. Event organizers can use them for everything from registration, user-profiles, chat tools, polling, virtual exhibitor management, 1-1 video calls, gamification, Q&A, and more. A favorite of virtual attendees, though? The virtual “meet-up” or an online event where you can help segment users based on interest, allowing them to interact with like-minded participants.
Not every brand has a conference or large-scale event, but many still jumped on the opportunity to turn their in-person content into a virtual setting. For example, at Lynton, many of our clients began hosting more webinars. Some took the content they would typically talk about during in-person meetings and recorded it so everyone could access it. In some ways, these recorded events are similar to breakout sessions at a conference but available on-demand.
People love talking to their favorite speakers and asking them questions at live events (or at least, some do). Virtual events can still do this by utilizing tools like Zoom and other event platform technology as mentioned. The difference here is that users could submit their questions in advance, instead of worrying if they’ll be picked on. Events were also able to dedicate a time slot to just Q&As versus having five minutes left after a session. That results in no question being left unanswered!
The virtual event market is already competitive and will only continue to become more cutthroat. Organizations looking to emulate in-person events have started hiring “virtual emcees.” These emcees can help guide your event and help keep attendees engaged – which could be hard in a virtual setting!
Sponsorships are another critical element of conferences. Companies have their logo branded on banners, pamphlets, and giveaways across the event space in an ordinary event. These organizations still managed to get brand recognition in a virtual event with digital ads and a new trend – “virtual swag bags.” Instead of a standard gift bag of a shirt and button, companies gifted access to premium content or free trials. However, it still may be worth it to send a goodie bag to their addresses in advance for some businesses!
Conferences of all sizes typically offer some food incentive, like free coffee or lunch, which is still possible virtually through Postmates or UberEats. Use a branded code to keep up the recognition!
What Are the Benefits of Virtual Conferences?
A lot of what came of the increase in virtual conferences was good, but for some businesses, it’s still all so new. If you’re hesitant to make the switch to a remote setting, here are some ways your company can benefit:
Avoid travel costs - and cut back on carbon emissions caused by air travel
Save money in your budget or put more budget into making your event personalized and great
More time to test presentations
Record presentations to eliminate any mistakes
Users can attend their preferred sessions in real-time and watch every presentation (if you offer them on-demand). This way, they get to experience the total event rather than a small selection
Company branding recognition goes on longer if you offer things on-demand
More people can attend - it’s more convenient
More diversity - you can open your event up to the entire world if you want (as noted, many platform systems have language translations)
With benefits like these, it’s safe to assume virtual events will stick around even as in-person conferences become safe again. If you want to discuss how to put on a successful remote event, reach out.
By: Corie Stark
After spending many years as a sports journalist, Corie switched to marketing in 2013. Her love of writing, talking to people, and keeping up with the industry enables her to use her skills for anything from social media to long-form blogging. Outside of work, she enjoys hiking with her dogs and making her cats chase the ever elusive red dot.