The pandemic led to thousands of face to face event cancellations, with businesses having to find new ways to reach their potential customers quickly.
Unsurprisingly most went virtual, and these online events grew increasingly popular. It’s a trend that looks to be staying, with one UK survey finding 72% of businesses will maintain a virtual approach going forward, and 77% looking to pursue something more hybrid.
But as with any emerging trend, what was once a niche has now become the norm. Consequently, the virtual events market has become just as crowded as those that take place in person. Hosting a video conference is no longer enough to set businesses apart, they need to find fresh, more dynamic ways to make their virtual meetings different and exciting for those who attend.
The pros and cons of going virtual
The benefits of taking your events online are huge. Firstly virtual events are more accessible for both those who attend and the organisers behind the scenes. As long as attendees have a smart device, they can join from wherever they want. They are also more cost-effective; attendees no longer have to pay to stay at or near the venue, while organisers can avoid having to pay for expensive hosting spaces. And let’s not forget the benefit to the environment with international travel being cut.
This accessibility however hasn’t gone unnoticed, with thousands of businesses competing to be the best virtual events organisers.
As a result, potential attendees and speakers are being bombarded with requests to attend events, and businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to encourage attendees to sign up and become interested in what they have to offer. The so-called video conferencing fatigue is spreading, with the average no-show percentage of virtual events now coming in at over a third of attendees (35%).
Businesses, therefore, need to be aware of this and offer something which sets them apart from the competition. This includes ensuring not only that they have incentives to make people join, but stay engaged throughout.
Creating compelling engagement
Sitting at the core of this is engagement, and having practices in place to ensure attendees feel just as engrossed online as they would in person.
Virtual events may not be everyone’s favourite, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be equally, if not more, engaging than face to face meetings. Take the Q&A portion for example. When done at a physical event it means clumsily passing a microphone around a large hall, or having respondents shout out, with only a handful of people able to submit and get their questions answered per session. Done virtually it can be much easier for attendees to get their queries to the host. And then there is the scale of these events, hundreds, if not thousands of attendees can type what they would like to know into a chatbox, including those who would be too nervous to ask in person.
Virtual events also open the doors for hosts to speak to people all across the world from the comfort of their own homes. This means businesses can get key speakers within their market and attract attendee sign-ups based on the high profile of those who they have speaking for them.
Getting these speakers may be costly, but this is outweighed by the fact businesses no longer have to pay for event spaces or fly teams to the venue.
Providing gift vouchers for attendees to buy a meal can be another innovative way to boost engagement. If an event is happening in the morning when attendees would usually eat breakfast, for example, businesses can send out food vouchers to ensure attendees can still eat as they normally would or enjoy healthy snacks pre-event or afterwards.
Improving employee experiences
But it’s not just the attendees businesses should look out for when organising their virtual event. Those in charge of the event often spend so much time and money improving the experience of attendees that they forget about the team behind it all. 39% of marketers say that their sales teams generate a significant amount of registrations during these events and the support of designers, IT specialists, content writers and PR teams also ensures the event is a success for the business.
Praising and rewarding these individuals is just as important, if not more so than the attendees. Organisations must always make sure they have a system in place to reward both during and post-event to make employees feel valued
Virtual events have grown in popularity as a result of the pandemic and businesses are becoming increasingly aware of their value. Therefore, companies need to ensure they are making the most of virtual events and taking the right steps to create a recipe for success, such as creating compelling content and devising ways to boost sign-ups. Organisations which do this will be able to throw successful virtual events again and again.