Virtual events - whether trade shows, seminars, conferences or musical festivals - have grown to be so popular and impactful that 45% of future B2B events will be completely virtual.
For most event professionals, this should come as no big surprise as the benefits of virtual events are obvious: better reach, branding, engagement and ROI. Because of this, hosting a virtual event has become an evergreen marketing strategy that is worth cultivating, regardless of the size of your business or which industry it belongs to.
Let’s quickly look at the ways different industries have benefited from holding virtual events, so you can learn from them and follow in their footsteps.
1. Education industry
When the pandemic made it impossible for students to go to school, college or universities, educational institutions were forced to pivot to virtual spaces and classrooms instead, and reimagine methods of teaching, engaging, motivating and inspiring students.
While educators were hesitant and untrusting initially, most have come to realize the surprising ways in which virtual events and platforms can create supportive and collaborative environments that enable more efficient teaching and learning.By virtue of the digital medium, educators can create exciting new virtual experiences for their students; they can invite guest lecturers from all over the world, facilitate small-group student learning via virtual Breakout rooms, and even set up networking sessions to drive social interaction and camaraderie.
Not to mention, educational institutions can hold a variety of virtual events, from university lectures to job fairs, open houses to networking events, with ease online - and at a fraction of the cost, and logistical effort. Take for example the virtual open day experience offered by the University of Stirling. Prospective students watched presentations about student life, funding, accommodation, and applications, and were able to chat with current students, lecturers, and directors in course-specific virtual Rooms. There was also a virtual tour that showcased the campus and university's facilities.
Thanks to virtual events and platforms, educational institutions now have unique ways to power better learning and engagement with students.
2. Hospitality industry
As with the education sector, the hospitality industry was forced to pivot to virtual solutions in order to continue to create memorable experiences for guests without compromising health and safety.
The adoption of virtual event platforms to host events, exhibitions, meetings, and conferences in particular has led to hotels and restaurants discovering how to leverage them as new avenues of expression, communication and connection with guests, and of course, maintain cash flow.
Take for example, the RPM Restaurants group in Chicago. The group hosted a variety of virtual events, ranging from cooking classes led by one of their chiefs to a drink-making session with a hotel mixologist. They also created meal kits for their classes that contained all the ingredients needed for the dish or cocktail that could be picked up or delivered to event attendees. The sense of social connection and community is strengthened when everyone cooks or drinks together online. Indeed, having received a strong positive response to these classes, the RPM group plans to hold more of these events.
Cooking classes are just one example of virtual events hosted by the hospitality industry. Businesses have also held a variety of healthy lifestyle classes such as yoga, meditation, physical fitness and even gardening. Using ticketing tiers was an avenue to drive revenue.
Larger MICE events were also successfully held online. Food & Hotel Asia for example, held a virtual Food & Hotel Digital Week that consisted of sessions and product showcases. Because of the medium of the event, it was attended by more than 5,000 industry players from more than 20 countries and regions. Quite an achievement for the company’s inaugural event.
So even though the ease of lockdown and social distancing has meant the rise of in-person gatherings once again, it’s clear that the hospitality industry will benefit from continuing to hold virtual events or hybrid ones. Not only does it give establishments a way to stay top of mind, it also provides convenience for guests and helps to keep profit margins up.
3. Marketing and communications
Perhaps no industry has benefited from the rise of virtual events as much as the marketing industry. While the benefits of hosting virtual events remain the same for this industry as the hospitality and education industry ie. better branding, and more reach and engagement, one of the greatest benefits enjoyed particularly by marketers is the ability to capture data.
Unlike in-person events where tracking attendee micro-moments and calculating revenue is difficult (click here to read more about how to calculate ROI from a virtual event), thanks to virtual event platforms, marketers can keep track of engagement metrics such as time spent at the event or individual sessions, the number of Polls answered or Q&As asked.
If the virtual event platform offers organizers the ability to create Expo Booths like Zuddl does, marketers will also be able to see which attendees clicked on the ‘Registered Interest’ button, and which marketing collateral was the most or least consumed. This enables organizers to make changes on the fly that leads to better rates of engagement and to collect information on leads for post-event follow ups.
This in turn can lead to more leads and revenue. (Click here to read more about how NASSCOM generated 1000+ leads for their event sponsors).
4. Tech industry
Unsurprisingly, the tech industry took to virtual events like a duck to water, with companies like Salesforce, Consumer Technology Association, G2 and IBM pivoting to large-scale virtual conferences and summits with ease and reaping the benefits. (Click here to find out which of these companies made our list of 12 virtual events done right.)
The perfect example of this is Gainsight’s Pulse. In May 2021, the company decided to transform their traditionally in-person event to a virtual version. The event featured 25 sessions presented by the leaders of top companies like Adobe, VMWare, and LinkedIn, and was attended by over 22,000 Customer Success and Product professionals from 50+ states/countries. In stark contrast, the same in-person event held in 2019 was attended by only 5,000 people.
The company shared pre-recorded sessions and switched to live Q&A with the speakers right after the session, an engagement strategy that seemed to have paid off; the company tracked one million viewer minutes over the two half-days. Indeed, Stephanie Robotham, Chief Marketing Officer at Gainsight, pointed to the availability of real-time tracking of virtual attendees as a tremendous advantage, as it allowed them to take action immediately and have richer data for sales follow ups.
As a consequence of better reach and engagement and tracking, the tech industry has been able to hold more impactful and valuable events.
To sum up...
All kinds of businesses, forced to throw out their playbooks completely due to lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions over the last year, discovered a silver lining amidst the chaos: virtual events.
Regardless of industry, it became quite clear that through use of virtual and digital event solutions, organizers and marketers were able to hold immersive and creative virtual experiences for their customers and clients that drove energy, enthusiasm, meaningful connection and engagement for attendees, and delivered on business goals for organizers.
Even though in-person events are on the rise again, it’s a surety that virtual events or hybrid ones (a blend of virtual and in-person components) will remain. The benefits of virtual events are just too obvious to walk away from.