Events are a big part of business life and can make a huge impact on target customers. Companies and major brands have made their events more than just advertisements as they have the power to create a lasting and powerful impression. Today, events are the doorway to experience and interact with a company and its product or service while simultaneously connecting with potential buyers.
In businesses, people meet each other at conferences, conventions, and other similar places to make new connections and to make announcements for their work. Executives agree that the best-accomplished in-person are new business opportunities (86%), networking (89%), training (73%), workforce engagement (80%), and staying up-to-date on industry trends (62%). A majority of them believe that team engagement (94%), collaboration (91%), professional development (88%), and productivity (84%) are improved by participation in in-person meetings, conferences, and events, according to business leaders survey.
Unfortunately, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, all the events have been cancelled or postponed. However, this did not stop companies from finding a backdoor to give their customer experience of a lifetime through virtual events.
On 19th May, Google announced new dates i.e. from July 14 through Sept. 8 and the format of its annual event, Cloud Next. Last year the event was held as a weekend conference in San Francisco will be shifted to a multi-week digital event series called Google Cloud Next ’20: OnAir. Some of the major events around have been cancelled or postponed due to coronavirus pandemic.
Google Cloud Next was in the list of tech conferences that planned to move digital to abide by state and federal social distancing and other measures in place. On March 2, Google said the conference will still be held as scheduled but online. The company presented it as Google Cloud Next ’20: Digital Connect. However, two weeks later, they decided to postpone the online conference.
According to the company’s blog post, the conference is free and the nine-week digital series will feature more than 200 sessions. These sessions will include keynotes from industry leaders and opportunities with Google developers. Besides, there will be an interactive developer and learning programs along with free one-month access to learning paths on Pluralsight and Qwiklabs.
The online event will focus on industry insights, infrastructure, productivity and collaboration, security, cloud artificial intelligence (AI), data management, data analytics, databases, application modernization, and business application platform. Users will be able to explore exclusive Google Cloud products and content. They will be able to connect with industry experts and see the latest cloud tech in action.
There have been plenty of discussions going around on the future of marketing and the role of technology. But, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that business is not going to remain usual for marketers. Even though marketing has been in a state of evolution for a while now, COVID-19 has seriously changed things.
Impact of Pandemic on Events
Today, many parts of the world are starting to re-open with several restrictions due to the fear of the virus. In the past three months, many companies have limited business travel out of fear of being responsible for employees contracting the virus. The COVID-19 pandemic has curtailed events indefinitely and will continue to do so until its vaccine is ready.
In addition to the cancellation of major events such as Facebook’s F8 conference to Mobile World Congress to SXSW, companies organizing these events have suffered major economic loss, along with many others. Each year, the concert and event promotion industry produces and manages a variety of live events and performances including sporting events, conferences, concerts, and public appearances. This industry over five years from 2015 to 2020 has increased at an annualized rate of 3.5% totaling $35.1 billion.
Furthermore, according to Oxford Economics and Events Industry Council, 2018, in the U.S., 53% of attendees participate in corporate and business meetings, 18% in conventions, conferences, and congresses without an exhibition floor and 16% in conferences with an exhibiting component. 6% participated in incentive meetings and 6% in other meetings.
For such corporate event planners, budget is the biggest concern (82%), followed by new ideas (62%) and Return on Investment, or ROI, at 54% says EventMB.
Other than the virus, there is another factor paving the way for virtual events. Companies spend a lot of time and money setting up, designing, and staffing people to speak in at trade shows and other conferences to talk to a few dozen interested people over a few days. Furthermore, even for people attending large events, it takes a lot of time and resources. They can even run down and get sick from all the travel and activities.
In return, sometimes such large events even fail to draw specific right crowd. While a tech conference might seem appealing to many, it will likely draw one type of crowd for one topic and another type for another topic.
Virtual Events: Physical to Digital
Virtual events have been around for quite some time now, in fact, they have been happening since the advent of broadband. According to a study by Westuc in 2015, which surveyed over 340 marketing professionals based on thoughts, experiences, and perceptions of virtual events they concluded that:
- 50% of marketers have attended a virtual or hybrid event and 51% of them are more likely to attend another one.
- Only 33% of marketers surveyed say their company has hosted a virtual event and 70% of them said that they plan to host more.
In the past, digital events were a little boring, and many still are. However, as necessity is the mother of invention, companies are using all the resources possible to make the event of a lifetime. As there is a lot of room and capabilities made available by technology to improve them.
While more and more brands are forced to cancel their physical events or their presence at physical events, there is an enormous opportunity for them to create their digital version. However, the only condition is that the virtual event should be as lively and equally engaging and interactive as a live event.
Advantages of Virtual Event
Even though most companies have not hosted their virtual event, 30% of the respondents in the Westuc 2015 survey, said that their company plans to host more virtual events. Furthermore, 70% of marketers who had already hosted virtual events said they plan to host more.
Currently, it is the right time for marketers to try test if a virtual even can work for them as marketers that had previously hosted virtual events experienced increased lead generation and attendee engagement. Some of the other benefits of the virtual events include:
- Lower your cost per lead
- More and better-qualified leads
- Cut in in-person event budget
- Add more events without increasing the budget
- Branch out and attract a broader audience
- Connect with a national or global audience
- Eliminates the necessity to travel
- Reduce the price of admission
- Allow organizers to invest more into speakers
- Reduce environmental pollution
Other than saving time and money on travel, these events have the advantage and the ability to gather better leads. Many times online events integrate technology to provide a platform that captures every aspect of the attendee’s visit from registration to information about attendee’s viewed content and its duration. Even though many marketers aren’t taking advantage of collect metrics they can still use the lead scoring mechanism.
Are Virtual Events the Future?
Everyone is desperately waiting for the pandemic to end. However, we still don’t know how will the post-pandemic era will be. During these crises, we saw the major implementation of technology in almost every field. These changes not only changed our traditional working models but also opened a lot of better business opportunities.
Many such changes are will stick around after the pandemic, for example, companies and their employees have shifted to remote working and it is unlikely that they will ever go back to offices. A similar situation might arise, once people realize that they do not have to travel for big conferences and might never return to the traditional model.
Even if there remains a need for social and face-to-face interactions after the pandemic, local conferences are likely to be at least the first wave of live events. The changes made throughout the pandemic period are shaping the way we’ll interact in the future because it will take a while before people feel safe while traveling and attending large gatherings again.