Technological problems are arguably the biggest point of concern, when it comes to planning a virtual event. Nearly 40% of all organisers report apprehensions about technical glitches that might cause issues for participants. Attendee engagement and interaction/networking are other factors where online events are widely believed to 'fall short' - particularly in comparison with in-person events.However, virtual conferences are not necessarily the 'second-best choice' for professional event planners. There are several key advantages associated with online events, and we will deliberate on them in what follows:
Contrary to what many people believe, virtual events are actually likely to register higher participation figures than their in-person counterparts. A recent survey showed that attendance levels at an online conference can be, on average, 29% higher than at a live event. The reason for this is simple - there is no traveling involved, people can join in from wherever they want to, there are (in most cases) on-demand videos/other material available, and networking is facilitated. If a person based in Austin, Texas wants to attend a live event in Berlin - that might not always be possible. A virtual event removes such geographical barriers.
At first glance, it might seem that virtual events do not offer good value for exhibiting companies and sponsors/partners. There is no physical venue, no actual booths/stalls, no in-person interaction and such opportunities. However, a closer look reveals a different picture. Exhibitors/Sponsors can connect with participants virtually at any time, showcase & promote their services through virtual social communities (included in most leading event management platforms), and no longer worry about empty event booths at the physical venue. Less of travels, more of valuable, effective interactions.
Planning a B2B event is an expensive affair, there is no getting away from it. However, by moving to the virtual event platform, organisers can save quite a bit. There are venue charges, on-location staff payments, travel/accommodation/meal costs, stall setup charges, and other related expenses - which are normally associated with a physical event. Event planners can use these savings to actually increase their budget for purchasing a reliable, high-performance online event platform. Virtual events need lesser per-event costs, and deliver much higher ROI.
At an in-person event, time is always at a premium. Attendees have to be at the speaker sessions, join the workshops/demonstrations, interact with others, grab their meals, and perform other key duties. In such a time-crunch scenario, it is not uncommon for attendees to miss key peer-to-peer networking opportunities. Virtual events make things a lot easier, since there are live chat options and tag-based interactions (B2B matchmaking on the basis of common interests). A person can also look up other participants with their names/emails, and connect with them. In most cases, there are virtual event communities - ensuring effective and mutually beneficial business relationships.
A lot of the apprehensions about planning a virtual event stems from the fact that, for many organisers, this is a first-time experience. However, these online events can actually help in planning a roadmap - since collecting attendee feedback and opinions is very easy in such events. Planners can set up live polls, create surveys and rating systems (e.g., ratings on a 5-star scale for each session), send push notifications - and in general, find out audience preferences for future events. With proper feedback, it becomes rather simple to plan even better virtual events from the next time.
Once the critical task of choosing a virtual event platform is out of the way, it becomes clear how these online events can actually cut down on time-consumption for the event planners. Since everything happens digitally, less time (and money) is required for marketing and promotional purposes. Registration and virtual check-in happens quickly, unlike onsite check-in procedures. Of course, there is no need for time to be allotted for travel either. Instead, organisers can focus squarely on making their event a lot more systematic and value-yielding.
When an event happens onsite, it’s pretty difficult (if not impossible) to keep track of the activity of each attendee. Things are a lot simpler when it comes to virtual conferences, however. Real-time user activity logs can be maintained, indicating when any person joined a live session, attendee locations, how many people used the live chat and networking options, who got in touch with a particular exhibitor or sponsor (there can be virtual booths as well), what was the event app download count, and a lot more. With more data, it becomes a lot easier to actually gauge the success of an event.
At a conference, there can be multiple concurrent sessions. If the event happens physically, participants have to choose which one they would like to attend (sacrificing the other ones in the process). In the virtual domain, people can actually have the best of both worlds. They can participate in one live session - and if other sessions are happening at the same time, they can view the recorded versions later on. Also, if an attendee is unable to join on the event dates, they can access on-demand content later on at their convenience (provided that the organiser allows this). More options for participants.
In spite of an exhibiting company’s best efforts, the footfalls to its stall at a live event venue can remain negligible. Even if the company is successful in getting in touch with a lot of people - keeping their records systematically (names, emails, contact numbers, preferences, etc.) is a huge challenge. On the other hand, while a virtual event is happening , exhibitors/sponsors can scan attendee QR codes (if allowed by the respective attendees) to collect and securely store the details. Personalised communication can take place later on. The number of fruitful leads generated on a virtual platform can be comfortably more than that at an in-person event.
As already highlighted above, the overall costs and time required for hosting a virtual event are significantly lower. Organisers can use these freed up resources to schedule more interactive panel discussions, speaker sessions, virtual breakout rooms, networking sessions, and other elements during the event. That, in turn, would take the attendee experience up by several notches. Participants will get the scope to ‘learn; more through one-on-one sessions - an opportunity that is not likely to be present during a live event.The biggest apparent challenge for event organizers when they plan a virtual event - the technical aspect - is no longer a problem either. With the pandemic raging on, more and more vendors are coming up with virtual event platforms with cutting-edge, user-friendly features. Participants can join the events from their mobile devices or from their computers, from wherever they like (a stable internet connection is the only requisite). Online events might have been forced upon us by the coronavirus pandemic, but there are definite - and substantial - advantages associated with fully virtual events.