John Saunders argues that virtual events are not a passing fad in response to the coronavirus pandemic but a very real offering that meets the needs of the ‘new normal’.
There is no doubt that events have taken a huge hit because of the pandemic, with forced cancellations seen across the board from corporate conferences, tradeshows, meetings and more. With live events generally off the calendar for the rest of the year, there has been an increasing demand for all things virtual.
As many navigate into the territory of virtual events, I believe that the results from a virtual offering are plenty and hugely impactful. Corporate offices and brands must adapt and be able to clearly understand the tangible results that can be generated and communicate this to their teams. The quicker people start to adapt, the quicker they can start to reap the benefits.
Although we might not be physically in attendance at an event, virtual offerings ultimately increase the diversity of any gathering – whether that be because of regional location, time zone, social class, age, expense or even level of expertise. The vast global reach that is achievable from a virtual event is hugely powerful. People from around the world can join instantly without even leaving their home.
The pandemic has devastatingly caused immense economic strain on businesses, but it has forced everyone to pause and reflect on their carbon footprint which is imperative. I passionately believe that we have a duty as event organisers to make events more sustainable, and sadly, with live events, the reality is that they still produce an incredible amount of waste and particularly plastic waste, from cups, cutlery, lanyards etc.
More often than not, pamphlets are produced for a one-day event that you rarely see last the duration of the day before they are binned. Event organisers should be looking at producing collateral and content that can’t be physically put in the bin but provides branded assets for a broader digital campaign. For example, talks from a conference or an event can later be repurposed into podcasts, website content or perhaps social media assets.
I’m also bemused by the still commonly held practice of gaining feedback from event attendees a week after the event has happened. Not only are attendees not as engaged, but providing feedback
is definitely not high on their agenda and so valuable data capture is lost. Obtaining real-time feedback is second to none, presenters can ensure they are meeting the needs of their audience and adjust their content accordingly to achieve great engagement when audience interest might be waning.
As we eventually rise out of these strange times, I urge businesses to really look at the benefits of virtual events from a long-term perspective. I don’t believe they are a passing fad in response to the pandemic but a very real offering that meets the needs of the ‘new normal’.
John Saunders is CEO and Founder of UK-based The Virtual Event Company (TVEC). TVEC is also represented in Paris and Chicago.