Updated: May 11
As the pandemic has lasted for more than a year now, more and more people are getting used to the new normal. In event industry, going virtual has been a trend now and most event organizers and event agencies have already had a first taste on the new way of doing things. Well, the truth is everyone thinks differently. Some organizers think hosting virtual events is just a contingency plan and still prefer physical events, while some do embrace digitalizing events but they have no ideas on how to host a truly engaging virtual events and bring out the new benefits. So what’s the conclusion? The event industry still doesn’t understand what to do and how to do very well.
When we say going virtual, we mean the events in the new normal should be planned and executed with digital mentality. Going virtual isn’t equivalent to hosting full virtual events and it is very important to note that virtual event must be part of a hybrid event.
We can’t really tell when the pandemic will end but it will certainly end one day. What we can do is to be forward-looking and plan for the future. The future of event industry will be dominated by hybrid form since it can bring out the best of both in-person and virtual experience. Hence, to know how to host a successful hybrid event is to first know how to host a full virtual event or incorporate some digital elements to your physical events properly.
Below are a few key benefits that we think event organizers are missing out if going virtual is being interpreted merely as a contingency plan during the pandemic.
1) Attracting new segments of exhibitors and visitors
It is true that a virtual event can allow events that can’t be hosted physically in some regions to be hosted online. In this case, seems organizers are looking at the same segment of attendees just like when the events are being held on-site.
Try to take a step back and imagine whether the reach of your physical events held before COVID-19 is great enough. Are you missing out any potential attendees that you really want to covert? Or do you remember those potential attendees who can’t turn up at your events? There can be various reasons behind but it is not uncommon to see people not attending the events simply because they are based at a too faraway place and it is too costly to fly to the event.
With or without the pandemic, some attendees are meant to join your events virtually and they are the remote attendees as always.
So don’t just lament on how virtually meeting one another isn’t as engaging as meeting people in person. Here is a chance to meet people that can’t be met even if the event is being held offline!
Other than improving the global reach of events, organizers should also try to think about selling virtual booths to foreign companies or even start-ups. Potential exhibitors not getting a booth at a physical event might not always be due to reasons like they are not available to come. Not being able to afford a physical booth is a commonly seen reason especially to new companies or start-ups. Try to sell a virtual booth at a price much lower than physical booth to these companies. By having a more diverse assortment of participating exhibitors, new segments of event visitors might be attracted as well.
Never think in a way that virtual booths are replacing physical booths as having both together is always a viable and suggested option! In your future events, experiment with providing both virtual and physical booths together and target different segments of exhibitors correspondingly. A flexible hybrid setting can allow you engage more attendees than ever before.
2) Having unrestricted opening hours and prolonged event period
Attending a physical event is an act of devoting a full day or at least half of a day to an event. A lot of event organizers see this as how a physical event can retain more people than a virtual event. However, it should not be the setting of being physical or virtual that determines if attendees want to stay at your event or not, but the content of your events.
Assume the content of your event can effectively meet the expectation of attendees, indeed going virtual can allow attendees browse all the content that they are normally missing out if the physical events have concurrent sessions. With a virtual event platform, attendees can now watch the on-demand streaming that is available for a limited time.
When we say limited time in the context of virtual or hybrid events, we are not just referring to the live days but the whole event period. Without the restriction from the availability of physical event venues, an event can be hosted online for a prolonged period of time after the live days have ended. With a longer hosting period, there is more time to do marketing, so as to build a stronger online presence than running a traditional physical event in the past.
Even if it is during live days, no matter the event is held online, offline or hybrid, not all attendees are available to come during work hours. Unlike physical event venues, the digital realm never has closing hours, so this is a big convenience brought to attendees in the new normal.
Some people might worried on whether this makes live event losing its unique values. Absolutely not indeed. A virtually held live event can have real-time engagements features such as online commenting session for discussion and live polling. And not to forget live Q&A is something that you can never find in on-demand live streaming.
Do remember going virtual can bring extra convenience to the event industry and whether an event is attractive or not is always mainly determined by the quality of event planning and content.
3) Providing useful or fun features for both remote and on-site attendees
While keep maintaining the quality of your event content, organizers need to brainstorm on how the events can bring special visiting experience or satisfy attendees’ goal of visiting better.
Before the pandemic has happened, the event industry has long been discussing on incorporating digital elements to allow a more convenient and effective attendee experience. Going virtual during the pandemic doesn’t make the benefits brought by digitalization not justifiable anymore.
Have you ever felt too nervous to ask for a name card? Or you might not even have the chance to ask for! By having a virtual event platform, you can easily check out what companies have joined the event and who are the company representatives. A virtual event platform can also show which attendees are currently online as well. If the one you would like to connect with has a virtual booth, you can either leave a message or join a live chat if the exhibitor is online. If your targeted attendee is a visitor, you can still try to book a meeting using the business matching feature.
Going paperless is another positive impact brought by virtual event platform. Since every exhibitors are supposed to upload their shareable materials to the platform, now event organizers can encourage the distribution of digital copies of promotional materials for both on-site and remote attendees.
Other than being a little bit more environmentally friendly, event attendees can also enjoy a little bit more fun through gamification elements embedded to the virtual event platform! In those special thematic mini-games prepared for remote visitors, event organizer can consider integrating digital rewards and even incorporating their event branding or event IP to the gaming content. For on-site visitors, hybrid form of entertainment such as scavenger hunt enabled by the mobile event platform is also an extremely exciting and unique event experience that can make all attendees leave a strong impression towards your events.
If you feel overwhelmed by the possibilities of going virtual, leave the planning of digital features to technology expert. What you need to do now is to be open-minded and embrace some testing on new digital features in your next event.
4) Collecting data on user behavior to understand event ROI better
Interactive features are ways to make your event attendees happy, and only when attendees enjoy their time on the virtual event platform, the user behavior and traffic of an event can be reasonably tracked.
To some industries or companies, attending B2B events such as trade shows can be the most important mission every year since such events serve as the major source of revenue.
To think deeper, a lot of business interactions are never being well understood by people as the intention to do business is never on any digital record. Even if you are the event organizer, can you really tell what your attendees have been doing all the time at your events? I’m afraid the answer is I have absolutely no ideas.
You might consider sending out survey but why not just let attendees passively inform you what they have been doing! Not mentioning you have already known most attendees just don’t fill in your survey actively.
If the event platform you use is providing satisfactory user experience, user data is naturally being tracked and accumulated. By setting up a list of important metrics, with examples like number of successfully booked and completed meetings or average session duration, you can tell if your event KPIs are met and by comparing the expected and actual event outcome, now your event ROI has a solid ground to be measured.
If the attendee is an exhibitor, real-time statistics is shown at the virtual booth. Once the event has ended, the most critical post-event task is to evaluate on event success. A data-driven virtual event platform can always provide you a statistical reporting for your easy evaluation.
These data brings valuable business insights that not just assist you calculating event ROI but also guide you to improve your next event. Next time do be more user-centric and push your event planning to the next level!
5) Maintaining a long-term relationship with event attendees
The true value of going virtual is not just understanding it as one event going virtual but the fundamental way of how event organizers run business should go virtual. The planning should never be treating one event as a unit but one organizer as a unit. The same event attendee can attend multiple events hosted by the same organizer within the same year, or the attendee can have a habit of visiting the same event every year. The right way of going virtual is to translate these behaviors into a “digital behavior” that everyone knows very well – sign up and log in to your user account. Just that this account is not any random accounts but a user account specially prepared for event attendees.
If all your event attendees have registered for an account of your virtual event platform, cross-selling the events to them is much easier now as they are always very well informed of what are the other events happening soon. Maybe you event attendees will attend a new event that they have never attended before that is also hosted by you!
On the other hand, a lot of attendees might want to keep contact with one another after the event has ended. A virtual event platform with every attendees recorded and having user accounts set up is the starting point to continue the relationship. Leaving the instant messenger open is one option but certainly there are more new possibilities to improve post-event engagements that can be done. This will be one key topic for us to discuss in the future.
Virtual event is never just about having live days going virtual or a prolonged event hosted online. The whole process management of event is started from pre-event planning and ended with post-event evaluation and follow-up actions. Or wait, maybe there is no need to have an end of an event cycle!
Between events, there is always marketing effort spent on social media accounts management. Why not better utilize the virtual event platform and maintain your relationship with past attendees more effectively than reaching out to them again and again on social media?
You might think using a virtual event platform is a significant portion of extra expenditure, but please also pay attention to the rewards that you can gain. Do make good use of the virtual event platform that you have opted in for all year round and appreciate it as a value investment!
So what’s your next step as an event organizer?
In the era of digitalization, new mentality is required. You might be an experienced event organizer, but don’t let you experience limit your growth!
Try to ask yourself why you find your current virtual events are not engaging enough. Is it the same issue that you have encountered when hosting physical events? What are some feedbacks that you have heard of from your attendees? Are those reasons directly leading to a conclusion of going virtual isn’t a viable option or it is simply the event didn’t go virtual in the right way?
If you find it hard to get an answer yourself, we are always here to listen to your needs and worries. We are Clairvo and feel free to talk to us and let us help! Don’t be worried of making changes and don’t forget together we are defining the new event industry standard.