Virtual event industry trends: what you should already know

Virtual Event Trends with Zuddl

To quote every article published in the last year, these are unprecedented times.  

The whole world pivoted quickly to meet the demands of a new reality, accelerating digital transformation that would normally have taken 10 years to accomplish.  Of course, everyone has known the importance of digital and virtual platforms for years, but no one assumed that it would become the center point for our lives almost overnight.

And the pace of change keeps accelerating. There are always new technological advancements just around the corner, especially in the events industry. And you risk losing a competitive edge if your event seems outdated. To quote George Stalk, Jr. in the Harvard Business Review, “The best competitors, the most successful ones, know how to keep moving and always stay on the cutting edge.”

So to help you stay a step ahead of the competition, these are the latest virtual event tech and virtual event trends.

Trend 1: Facial recognition

Facial Recognition with Zuddl

Most people have seen facial recognition used in movies and TV shows for decades - in Star Trek, Robocop, James Bond for instance; Batman had facial recognition software way back in 1966.

Today, facial recognition is becoming an increasingly common element at virtual and hybrid events. Here’s why:

  1. Better analytics
    Facial recognition technology can help in identifying the emotional responses of attendees. At virtual event booths, for instance, facial recognition software can help you track how long attendees visited,  and how they felt learning about your products and services. This is incredibly valuable information that can help you create more targeted lead generation campaigns post-event.
  1. Increased security
    You can't forge a face, not yet anyway. Using biometric data for entering guests at your event will ensure that you have a high-security level because it ensures that really only authorized attendees are allowed to enter the event. (Here’s hoping no one from Netflix is reading this piece and gets any ideas).
  1. Shortened queue times at registration
    Giving attendees the ability to check-in at your event via facial recognition is a simple way to smoothen the registration process. If you’ve ever spent time at a high-traffic trade show, you’ll know what an advantage this is. 

Now, keep in mind that not everyone will be okay with their face being scanned and analyzed as they might find this an invasion of privacy. So, you will need to be as clear and transparent as you can be. Put information about using facial recognition throughout the event, on your landing page, and in your post-registration emails as well. Attendees should be able to easily access guidance on specifics like who will have access to the submitted photos, where you will be storing the information, and for how long.

Trend 2: Event Apps

Apps make everything easier - and the same goes for virtual and hybrid events. With a powerful event app that acts as an extension of your virtual and hybrid event platform, you’ll be able to deliver a seamless and integrated experience for your attendees.

Using the app, your attendees can easily register for the event, access the schedule, explore speaker profiles, and send notifications before, during and after the event. It’s a great tool to keep event activities top of mind, and drive engagement. 

Especially in the case of hybrid events, your app is what will keep your in-person and virtual attendees on the same page. Regardless of whether they are on-site or 1000 miles away from your location, they will be able to consume the same content, network with other attendees, ask questions to speakers, etc.

And of course, using an event app makes it more likely that you’ll have more attendees tuning into the event, especially the virtual ones who can join sessions whether they’re at home, or in transit. 

Trend 3: Projection mapping

With projection mapping, you’re definitely levelling up your event. 

Think of it as painting with light. You can use it to create exciting indoor stage effects, manipulating lighting to turn common objects into 3D interactive displays. You can add as many colors and textures to your environment. You can project anything - from cinema-style narratives to sponsor branding.

Furthermore, you can also use holograms to create lifelike images of keynote speakers who are not at your in-person venue. Brushing aside the travel and accommodation expenses you’ll save on, this allows you to make attendees at different venue hubs feel like they’re all having exactly the same event experience. How impressive is that?

Trend 4: AR & VR 

As many people confuse the two terms, let’s first distinguish between AR & VR. 

Augmented Reality (AR) is defined an interactive experience of a real-world environment where the objects that reside in the real world are enhanced by computer-generated perceptual information - like with Pokemon Go.  Virtual Reality (VR) on the other hand, is a simulated experience that can be similar to or completely different from the real world - like in Ready Player One.

Both enable you to create extra layers of experiences for your event. In fact, according to the PwC's Future Forecast report, XR (Extended Reality) will add £1.39 trillion to the global economy by 2030. Many big brands like KFC, Hilton, Deutsche Bahn, and others are currently working with XR experts to unlock the power of AR and VR technology to organize virtual events. Here’s why adapting it into your event strategy can pay off:

  1. Expand your physical events
    With XR solutions, you will be able to create exciting, interactive real-world spaces that your audience can explore and interact within. For immersive VR experiences, you would need to send attendees VR headsets, or you can opt for interactive web-based 3D experience platforms like Zuddl. Either way, this means that you are no longer dependent on one in-person venue, meaning that you can boost your event reach x 1000.
  1. Truly immersive experiences
    There are plenty of creative ways you can use AR for your events. With AR, you can give your attendees a try-before-you-buy experience. For instance, you can give attendees the ability to virtually ‘place’ different pieces of furniture or home decor in the houses. And you can also show attendees your services and products as interactive 3D experiences during your event. This works well for products like automobiles or travel. 

With so many distractions online, now is the time to leverage new technologies to create experiences that thrill attendees and have them coming back for more. AR and VR is a great way to accomplish this.

Trend 5: Language translation

When you organize an event attended by attendees from different countries, you may find that language can become a barrier. Even though English is the most common language used for events,  ideas will be better communicated if your attendees have the option to understand the content that is shared at your event in their native language.

With Language Translation, you can make your event more accessible and inclusive. Platforms like Zuddl provide live captioning and live audio translation in multiple languages in Stages. With this feature, each attendee will be able to engage with content in a language that they're proficient in. It’s a small but significant way to make sure that everyone has a good experience at your event.

Additionally, because your content is now more accessible to everyone, you can invite speakers and attendees from all corners of the world, boosting your prestige and reach. 

Trend 6: New event industry roles

The popularity of hybrid and virtual events has caused the creation of new specialist roles in the industry.  Here are a few you’ll need to factor in and budget for:

a. Chat and engagement features moderator 

Virtual and hybrid event software  like Zuddl have Chat features that can be Stage-specific and event-wide as well, which means that you’ll need team members to moderate the chat. People can get rowdy online and fearless behind a screen - not the best combination.

Your moderators will need to screen the messages on Chat, helping attendees follow guidelines, delete, inappropriate content, and keeping everything going smoothly. 

You’ll also need moderators for other engagement features. Zuddl, for instance, has a feature called ‘Raise Hand’ which attendees can use to ask organizers if they can ask Speakers on stage to ask them questions. In this case, your moderator will first need to connect 1:1 with attendees to screen their questions first before approving their request. 

This role is more important than you think. A great moderator nurtures that social and community feeling by making a chat feel comfortable and inclusive enough for attendees to confidently engage with fellow attendees, speakers and organizers as well. 

b. Virtual event hosts and emcees

Your host or emcee is the one steering the event so to speak, so they’ll need to be someone comfortable with your platform, event goals, and with engaging with in-person and virtual attendees. 

c. Technical producer

This is the person who will advise you on whether you should be recording or live streaming your event, etc. They are responsible for the production of the entire event. They will have to work with your A/V team or tech support to ensure that the cameras and mics are functioning properly and have to arrange the sets and lighting for your speakers at your in-person venue.

d. Tech support

There are A/V technicians and tech support for in-person events. But at virtual events, they play a more prominent role. They handle your event's technical aspects like protecting the event from cyberattacks, creating a response plan for any incident, and ensuring internet connectivity. Some technical glitches are expected in a virtual event but you need someone who will ensure that it doesn't disrupt the flow of your event.

Trend 7: Breakout rooms

Breakout rooms are no longer a ‘nice to have’ but a ‘must have’ because of the value they add to the attendee experience. As breakout rooms allow attendees to interact in smaller groups, they facilitate more focused discussions and interactions and help attendees to get to know each other just a little better.

Breakout rooms that also let attendees in the room view what’s happening live on a Stage are extremely useful. Instead of just listening to Speakers, within the room, attendees can express their thoughts about what is being spoken about, listen to the opinions of other attendees and just have a great conversation. On Zuddl, you can ‘tag’ Rooms based on the industry and topic, to help like-minded attendees connect better.

Organizers can use breakout rooms in a variety of ways - for discussions, for simple socializing or for quiz rooms, trivia rooms, etc. You can be as creative as you like.

Trend 8: Gamification

Gamification is a fun and interactive way for you to drive attendee actions while simultaneously creating value for them, for yourself, and for your sponsors. By simply assigning points to actions like answering a Poll, visiting an Expo Booth (thereby driving traffic for a sponsor or partner), and asking questions during sessions, organizers can encourage attendees to get more involved, especially if the top three attendees on the Leaderboard win a prize! 

Here are a few ways to use gamification:

  • Drive interaction with speakers
  • Boost posting on social media about the event
  • Photo contests
  • Scavenger hunts

Keeping attendees engaged during your event can be challenging, especially with the many other distractions easily available online. Gamification is a great way to address this.

In conclusion...

Knowing the latest trends and tech will help you to not fall behind, but keep in mind that digital and technological acceleration is a continuous cycle, so event organizers will need to continually evolve their event strategies and production to meet changing expectations. 

Zuddl is a unified platform for events and webinars that helps event marketers plan and execute events that drive growth. The platform has clients across the globe, such as the United Nations, Kellogg’s, Microsoft, HSBC, VMware, Google, StackCommerce and Cipla amongst others. In January 2022, Zuddl announced that it closed $13.35 mn in Series A funding.

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