So it is 2023, COVID responses worldwide are winding down, we don’t have to wear our masks anymore and the world is returning back to normal. Everyone wants to be back in person and virtual events have bitten the dust, right?
The truth is there is still a market and a need for virtual events but virtual fatigue is definitely real.
The event type you ultimately choose is going to depend on many things:
Your event goals
What are you actually trying to achieve? If your ultimate goal is networking then maybe a virtual event isn’t for you. Networking is traditionally the hardest thing to pull off from a virtual event, but there are tools to assist. Try checking out something like wonder.me.
On the flip side, if education credits is your objective then a virtual event may actually be preferable. Attendees are used to being able to access content on demand, rewind and pause as they wish. To the extent that many in person events are recording the event content for later on demand access.
Food costs are rising (as much as 30-50 per cent in some cases); venues are expensive and booked out a long time in advance. Travel is expensive and still undesirable to many people. Virtual events offer a fixed cost solution with no surprise expenses or $100 car ride from the airport.
Are all your attendees local or are they geographically diverse. Virtual events allow you to reach a wider range of attendees, from all over the world. This can be especially important if your event is struggling with diversity, equity and inclusion issues. Virtual events remove many of the barriers to attending: cost, travel and time away from work and family.
So we’ve established that there is still a demand for virtual events, your next problem may well be persuading whatever board or committee you report to, that virtual is still the way to go. Here are some things to consider bringing to those decision makers.
Increased revenue streams
A good virtual event can generate income long after the event has finished. You have a complete package of every single presentation and information on how popular it was with attendees. Bundle them up and offer them for sale. Base the pricing on the popularity. Income generated with very little time, expense or effort.
Virtual events done right can bring increased sponsorship opportunities with little to no costs. Most virtual platforms have a reasonable degree of sophistication to allow you to place logos, lower thirds, banner ads and hosted content as part of the basic package. No more paying for printed signage and branded items.
There is a caveat, however.
Your sponsorship opportunities need to be meaningful. When is the last time you actually clicked on a sponsor logo and visited their webpage?
Sponsored speakers (pay to play) and introduction advertisements are much better investments from a sponsor perspective.
Remember to keep hold of your analytics from each event you do. See what opportunities attendees are actually viewing and price accordingly.
Despite people’s desire to meet again, conference attendance figures are trending downwards. There may be many reasons for this but cost is surely the biggest one. As mentioned before a virtual event eliminates many of those costs for attendees. For the organizer, virtual platforms tend to be fixed cost once you have selected the features you desire. Many allow you to add additional attendees at a later date, meaning you can budget small and scale up if needed.
In a worst case scenario, virtual events tend to be easier to cancel. You don’t have to deal with hotel or venue penalties or incur the wrath of your attendees who may have purchased non-refundable rooms and travel. Many virtual platforms will allow you to keep the credit for a period of time, allowing you to re-advertise, re-group and re-evaluate your options.
In conclusion, despite all of us event planners being raring to get back to our in person events and “normality”, it may be that virtual events are here to stay. They’ve become part of our essential toolkit and still fill an important niche and probably will for many years to come.
Zoe Bell from Managing Matters has become an expert in virtual events despite her best efforts.