Virtual and hybrid events are here to stay
Virtual event companies are seeing a strong demand for virtual and hybrid events, even in the post-COVID world
Virtual event companies have been in intense demand since the COVID-19 pandemic began, as organisations quickly pivoted to virtual, and later to hybrid, event production. But with restrictions lifted, and worldwide travel possible again, virtual and hybrid events are still proving just as popular.
Of course there has been some pent-up demand for in-person events. After two years of remote digital participation at work, and restrictions on socialising, it’s no wonder that people are excited about being in the same room and sharing experiences in real life, rather than dialling in to a live conference stream from their living room or home office.
But what has been noticeable – especially to any company operating in the virtual and hybrid event production space – is that even though we are all now able to choose freely whether to hold an event in person or virtually, not many seem to be going back to pre-COVID habits, and the best virtual event companies are still seeing their market grow.
Everybody suddenly needed a virtual event company
The reason for a huge uptick in virtual and then hybrid event production in 2020 was of course more stick than carrot. The technology and services required for business continuity was a distress purchase back then, and more often than not it was a very speedy procurement decision.
Fast forward to the present day and we are finding that organisations are making a careful and conscious decision to stick with virtual and hybrid events for both internal and external audiences. We are seeing increased interest as more organisations not only see the business benefits, but also the benefits of partnering with virtual event companies to improve attendees’ experiences, strengthen their brand, and facilitate smoother running and better event outcomes.
The benefits of virtual events
Why haven’t organisations gone back to pre-COVID event habits? We think it’s because being forced to take their events online has shown decision-makers just what can be achieved, and they have discovered that there is a whole host of reasons to not fall back into old ways of doing things.
Firstly, the simpler organisation of a virtual event means it can be set up more quickly, which not only allows for a more nimble approach to event planning (key in an economic climate which requires agility to ensure resilience), but reduces the staff hours involved in preparing for an event. This can reduce costs – especially if outsourcing is involved – and also frees up team members to focus on other projects and objectives. Sustainability, too, is improved compared to in-person events, which might even involve a significant carbon footprint for every attendee.
The whole complexity, and associated costs, for people attending the event is stripped away, as there is no need to book accommodation or travel for a virtual event, and time is also saved since attendees can dial in from wherever they are. This boosts numbers (make it easy for people, and they are more likely to join in), and also improves inclusion, since personal circumstances and geographical location are no longer possible barriers.
Virtual events for global organisations
Internal events also no longer suffer so much from conflicts in different stakeholders’ calendars, or incur significant travel costs (and carbon footprint) for the organisation when they are virtual. It’s even possible to make sure that everyone, even those unable to attend through work commitments, can be involved somehow, even if it’s just having access to a post-event video that lets them catch up on the key messaging.
Indeed, with no need to limit numbers to the size of a physical location, virtual events can be easily scaled up to increase reach – we had one client event in 2020 that had previously been a 450-person conference pre-COVID, and the digital equivalent saw 30,000 virtual attendees joining the live stream conference. Scaling events can also offer the knock-on effect of increasing revenues from sponsorship or advertising owing to the larger audiences in attendance.
In addition, better audience engagement can be driven through virtual event staples such as live polls, or a chat facility which enables attendees to pose their questions at any point in proceedings, to be tackled by the speakers when appropriate, perhaps at a traditional-style Q&A at the end. Data may also be extracted to reveal attendee behaviours, providing insight into the effectiveness of various formats or the engagement with certain sessions, offering the opportunity to hone virtual event design and management over time.
Hybrid event production benefits
Hybrid events offer all the benefits of a virtual event, but with some added extras. Not only does a hybrid event offer the maximum choice for potential attendees – ensuring you capture the interest of a wide range of attendance preferences and circumstances, attracting in-person and remote attendees – you can improve the range of speakers, since those unable to travel to an in-person event may still be able to take part by dialling in. This can help to secure leading experts and in-demand keynote speakers whose schedules might otherwise be prohibitive.
A live conference stream enables a wider audience than may be in physical attendance, but a true hybrid event offers engagement with remote attendees as well as those in the room. This is looking to be the future of events, whether for internal or external audiences, truly offering the best of both worlds.
To find out more about the benefits of hybrid and virtual events, the possibilities around improving attendee engagement, and how a virtual event company like ourselves can help support your business objectives, call +44(0)203 151 5870 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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