It’s probably safe to say that you’ve attended at least one virtual event over the last year – and that’s probably an extreme underestimate. As businesses pivoted to using virtual meets, they became a frequent part of everyday life. More than just conferences becoming virtual – product launches, trainings, classes, panels, virtual job fairs, meetings, happy hours and more took place virtually as well.
In 2019, the global virtual events market was valued at $77.98B. Now, the industry is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 23.2% from 2020, with an expected valuation of $404B in 2027.
To provide inspiration as you elevate your live and virtual strategy moving forward, here are some of the events in 2020 and 2021 that stood out as they took a new approach, elevated experiences or engaged audiences in a new way,
1. CES 2021
For the the first time ever, CES was all-digital, and made history as the largest digital tech event. Close to 2,000 companies launched products, the worlds largest tech companies exhibited, and industry leaders from Verizon, GM, Microsoft and more led keynotes. The event featured more than 100 hours of programming. Attendees from more than 150+ countries were able to attend sessions, receive personalized experiences and recommendations, and connect and network with others from around the world.
Online conferencing software - Zuddl
Salesforce World Tour Sydney was transformed into Live: Australia and New Zealand for 2021. It featured keynotes, interviews with industry leaders, panels with innovators, partner product launches, and workshops designed to inspire action. Held over more than a month, the event focused on segments for key verticals and audiences.
Zoomtopia is Zoom’s annual user conference and in 2020 it went completely virtual. With world-renowned speakers, deep dive technical sessions, product announcements, demos, networking and grammy-award winning music performances, the event was open to all and focused on both entertaining and educating.
Microsoft pivoted their annual event and changed its week-long in-person conference into a global, 48-hour digital gathering. With customized language localization, digital local community meetups that included instructor-led technical learning, skill building, certifications, keynotes, product updates and more, the company ensured that their virtual event was impactful and unique.
5. REACH 2020
G2 took their annual conference online and jam-packed it with over 100 speakers and sessions from entrepreneurs, sales, and marketing leaders. The event was built in collaboration with attendees who had input from registration to the event schedule (they shared the topics they were most interested in). The speakers then incorporated these requests into their keynotes and presentations.
Hubspot took its annual user conference, Inbound, online for a two-day immersive digital experience. They held fireside chats that each had a pre-recorded and live component, and had educational sessions with live Q&A, debates, AMA’s, case studies, 1:1 meetups, audio-only sessions and virtual networking. With surprise guests, office hours with speakers and live entertainment, each attendee was able to stay engaged and enjoy a personalized experience.
NASSCOM is the premier trade body for the tech industry in India with over 2,900 member companies, including the world’s leading technology companies. In February they held their annual Technology and Leadership Forum virtually. No longer limited by geographical or scheduling constraints, more than 1,600 attendees from 30 countries joined sessions with 94 speakers from the world’s leading companies. Additionally, they decided to hold the rest of their events, virtually. This included a total of 8 virtual conferences with over 1,000 speakers, and 80,000 attendees.
A fully immersive digital festival with eight stages featuring the best artists in the dance music industry. With 60 artists performing, the event included chat rooms, games, interactive meetings and workshops - more than one million people attended. The event was converted from in-person live festivals, to one worldwide digital event in just 2.5 months.
9. Oktane 21
Okta took their industry conference, Oktane2, virtual with keynotes, exhibitors, networking, breakout sessions, certifications and more. Attended by thousands of industry leaders, IT executives, security professionals, developers, product leaders and more – the conference prioritized small group and 1:1 networking.
South by Southwest celebrates the convergence of interactive, film, music and tech industries and in 2021 it moved online. Attendees had the opportunity to join via an online platform, television, digital devices or an XR platform streamed daily on five channels. With keynotes and sessions, film screenings, music showcases, exhibitions and professional development opportunities including mentor sessions, roundtables, networking and more, SXSW connected attendees in new and meaningful ways.
IBM’s THINK is the premier hybrid cloud and AI event, and in 2020 it was re-imagined as a premiere digital experience. With live streamed content, interactive sessions, certifications and locally hosted smaller digital events. Over 100,000 clients and business partners registered, more than 3x their typical audience for the in-person event.
Retail’s Big Show, NRF, went virtual in 2021. With 330+ speakers across 130 sessions, a virtual expo with 300 solution providers, AI-powered matchmaking, lunch and lounges, interactive discussion rooms, musical entertainment, cooking with a celebrity chef and a startup zone – they elevated the attendee experience and made diversity and inclusion a central focus.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, 67% of B2B marketers utilized virtual events in 2020, and the use of livestreaming increased 19% to 29%. Those same marketers said virtual produced the best overall content marketing results for their organization in the last 12 months.
As virtual events continue to grow and see increased demand, how can you create an engaging, unique and memorable experience for your next event?
Cover image credit: Austin 360