The pandemic has been a turbulent time for many events businesses, however virtual platforms have thrived in this time of great change. One such platform is Hopin, which has grown rapidly over the last 15 months.
Now one of the major players in the digital space, the company has launched a free plan for its events solution. To find out what digital events look like once we return to live, as well as what the free plan means for Hopin’s events offering, we spoke to Anthony Kennada, CMO, Hopin.
A sign of the times
The free plan is not an atypical approach for tech businesses, but we wanted to find out if the plan was a temporary campaign to capitalise on the ‘digital high’ that the events industry is experiencing, or a permanent change.
AK: “This isn’t meant to be a one-time campaign or anything along those lines. What we’ve found is that a lot of people coming to Hopin are large multi-national trade shows, but others are small community groups that needed a way to gather during the pandemic. By going to a free model, we want to enable that, we want to be good stewards for this technology to enable anyone to feel closer to a community they feel like.
“When we talk about what the free plan looks like, the big limit we put on free is number of registrants – which I think we are capping at 100. The other limit being a two-hour cap on event time. We feel that’s a pretty big window for community groups or small emerging teams.”
Projecting a wobble?
When events return to live, it’s fair to say that many professionals in our industry are projecting a wobble in demand for digital events. So, is this free plan a response to that feeling? Kennada spoke about what he saw the event landscape being post-pandemic.
AK: “When we think about what the world looks like post-pandemic, I think it is a clear that people want face-to-face contact, but I think there is a place for virtual and hybrid moving forward.
“From a virtual perspective I think what organisers have found is that it’s easier and more cost effective to do events virtually, yet the reach of the event is higher. All our research indicates to virtual having a place in the event industry of tomorrow, and our free plain aims to serve as an onramp to those who may not have tried the format before.
“On the hybrid side, the idea behind it is that we as an industry cannot abandon the ROI we have received from the virtual world. For us, what we have learned over the pandemic is that the ROI is just too high to not have a virtual element to events, many events do still need a platform to engage with that wider audience that simply cannot attend an event in person.
“To this end, while we do want to have people who have not tried our platform give it a go on the free plan, but I don’t think that’s our primary driver for doing this. I think the reason we’ve done it is to facilitate that next step into virtual events.”
Who owns the data?
With GDPR in Europe and its international counterparts globally, data protection is more important than ever for digital event organisers. As more events businesses jump onboard Hopin’s virtual offering, where is the line in the sand when it comes to ownership of attendee data?
AK: “We are totally in compliance with GDPR etc, it’s one of our key drivers. I don’t think you can build a company in the modern era without being very invested in protection, security and compliance.
“But more than that, as the purveyor of the database we make sure that we don’t market to attendees of our customers programmes. We think of our databases as very much partitioned; we have our organisers who are using Hopin and want to run virtual events, and then we have our own data. That won’t change, from free all the way up, we’re not planning to solicit our customers attendees and communities.”
Hopin’s place in events
Technology development is an ever-changing beast, Hopin’s exponential growth is proof of that, but the return to live events promises to be a major disruptor to Hopin’s business model. We asked Kennada where he thought the business would be in a year’s time.
AK: “I think one of the things that will influence Hopin going forward is the learnings from the pandemic, we’ve been able to develop during the pandemic to advocate for the digital viewer. We have been able to build this interactivity between the digital components for online event.
“A year from now, we are going to be bringing these design principles we have learned to any event vision. If you were to rebuild an event platform in 2022, that’s the vision for Hopin, it’s modern, it’s completely immersive and all the tools are designed with event organisers in mind.