The virtual world is our new normal. It’s now a pervasive and inextricable part of our daily lives, driving new ways of interacting, transcending the physical limitations set by space, time, and even a novel coronavirus. About 60% of the world’s population now uses the internet and in 2021, an estimated 3.71 trillion hours will be spent on social media alone. So, the question is not really one of in-person vs. virtual reality. Going forward it is not ‘one or’ but ‘both and’.
As a species we’ve “covered a decade in days,” says a McKinsey report in describing the “adoption of digital” during the pandemic. Case in point: Disney Plus being able to achieve in just 2 months what it took Netflix 7 years. From remote learning and telecommuting to online deliveries and telemedicine, the pandemic accelerated a whole spectrum of consumer behaviours. Today, virtual tech is key to interacting with the modern-day consumer, and virtual events follow suit.
Grand View Research, a market research and consulting company, recently forecasted that the virtual events market size would expand at a CAGR of 23.2% to be worth $404.45 billion by 2027. Moreover, marketers and event planners cite that virtual events can be easier to scale, house a global audience, generate insightful data, take less time to plan, and are easier on attendee schedules. Given these real benefits, here are important factors driving events onto the virtual stage.
Modern user habits have changed drastically. A study by DataReportal cites that about 40% of the typical global user’s waking life is spent with connected tech. That’s an incredible average of 6.5 hours online each day spent checking email, frequenting social media, taking pictures, reading the news, shopping, and banking.
The reality that the virtual world can be an extension of one’s life, coupled with the fact that virtual events are meaningful social experiences, opens up new possibilities for the events industry. (When Microsoft E+D held their first virtual offsite for instance, the company found that by virtue of the event being virtual, all previous success metrics were thrown out the window).
Piggybacking on habits formed during lockdown, Microsoft employees spent more time attending panel sessions and visiting their colleagues’ Expo booths than before. And attendees near-doubled the number of connections they made via AI-powered networking! (Read more about Microsoft’s virtual event here.) By going online, we find ourselves connected to an intricately-knit global digital village. Virtual events can leverage the fact that digital brings people together at the same time, to foster connections and build relationships in a manner that feel intuitive for digital natives.
Physical events have physical confines, virtual events don’t. Geography isn’t a barrier, travel restrictions aren’t a worry, and space isn’t a limiting factor. You can have attendees join in from around the globe. EventMB indicates that 34% of planners consider an uptick in attendance to be the most positive benefit of shifting to virtual.
The second, is lower overhead costs, and 27% of planners cite this as a significant upside. Let’s distill the benefits of virtual events:
1. Travel restrictions and lockdowns aren’t a hindrance to the event
2. Busy attendees can fit the event into their schedules easily
3. Renowned speakers from around the world can address your attendees
4. More people can attend on account of no physical limitations
5. The overheads of the event can be significantly reduced
6. Users can show up from home, office, a train, a car—anywhere!
7. The event can be up and running in no time at all
A lot of people have a soft corner for online communication, as opposed to in-person meetings. And some of this boils down to the fact that much of online communication is non- verbal and hence, demands less cognitive and emotional effort. For users who are prone to introversion, for instance, the ease of typing into a chat box, with emojis, as opposed to talking face to face, worrying about one’s demeanour and how to articulate one’s thoughts, can be relieving.
And virtual event platforms like Zuddl help you go further, with options for live sessions, 1:1 networking, break- out rooms, polls, and gamification. You can then have different degrees of verbal interaction and varied modes of engaging your audience. With technology giving you the nuts and bolts for your event, you can build it up to be a workshop, conference, career fair, trade show, expo - or even a hybrid event.
In fact, there’s no doubt that the use of tech to finesse hybrid event strategies is going to be a game-changer for organisers. Using insights captured from audiences at virtual events, organisers can use that information to build excitement, refine their content, and drive better ROI for their live events.
The decisions your users make follow the changes in their habits, and with digital adoption consumer habits are continuously being reshaped. Consider for instance, how throughout the day, most people today use two or more devices at the same time to consume content, actively and passively taking in information based on the context in which it is used. Identifying such factors is easier than ever in a virtual event. For instance, you can keep tabs on webinars attended, best times for engagement, PDFs downloaded, booths visited, chat box interaction, quizzes taken, and so much more.
In a physical event it can be tough to even get your audience to fill out an opinion form. Zuddl allows organizers to observe the micro moments of a customer’s journey, throughout the event, whether it be watching product demos, interactions with virtual booth owners, or time spent in the lobby. Better analytics makes for improved customization and more efficient use of your resources and budget.
Physical events demand an insane level of logistical work: sourcing venues, planning floor layouts, hiring equipment, set-up, and the like. All of this can sap your team’s energy and detract attention from the brand itself.
Virtual events, conversely, are no-frills versions that are easy to plan and execute. That way you have more time and energy to strategically position your brand.
There’s another advantage to virtual events and it’s characterized by the proverbial saying, “out of sight, out of mind.” This proverb implies that your audience is likely to forget things that are no longer visible.
With virtual events you can have your branding throughout the user journey – from login, to the welcome lobby, to virtual rooms, and networking areas. The same holds for sponsored banners that your partners can have in such a way that they are just a click away from your audience.
The pandemic has made clear that virtual events are clearly very effective, if not more effective, than their physical counterparts, given they help you reach a wider audience, engage audiences intuitively, collect insightful data, and market your brand more strategically. But it takes the correct virtual events platform partner to make the difference between an average event and a fantastic one. If this intrigues you, take a Zuddl demo today to explore how you too can host a virtual event that is immersive, visceral and impactful.
Cover image credit: Challenge
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