We’re more than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, and while things are slowly but surely starting to return to normal, life in a post-COVID world is going to continue to look very different. The pandemic has changed the way most of us do business, particularly when it comes to the way we meet potential customers and host events.
Whether you typically attend trade shows in your industry or your organization hosts major conferences, the lack of live events has probably left a gaping hole in your calendar this past year. Still, unless you’re in the event-hosting business, you might not think there’s an urgent need to pivot to a virtual setup.
But if you haven’t considered attending or hosting a virtual event in 2021, you’re missing out on a big opportunity to generate leads and interact with your prospects.
Why the Need for Virtual Events?
While the hope is that we’ll be able to travel and attend in-person events again soon, the past year has likely driven a more permanent change in audience behavior. As 2020 unfolded, people became more likely, not less, to adopt digital tools and attend virtual events. According to Reed Exhibitions, by September 2020, 94% of event visitors said they’d like to carry out one or more event activities digitally. Virtual events have become just as, if not more, valuable to organizations as in-person conferences and get-togethers. Here’s why you should consider one:
1. Audience Participation
Even when in-person events are back in full swing, most attendees will probably be interested in a hybrid option, with opportunities to engage on-site and digitally. 65% of visitors and 57% of exhibitors believe digital events will continue to work after COVID-19, especially since most people have become accustomed to them over the past year. It also helps that people can attend virtual events whenever and wherever they want. Thanks to on-demand recordings, attendees can view sessions when it’s convenient for them, so your audience isn’t limited to who can attend on a particular day.
2. Low Cost, High ROI
The budget for joining or hosting a virtual event is going to be much lower than what it typically costs to do the same in-person. For one, you’re cutting out on travel and hotel costs completely, and digital events are less costly to run. You can repurpose some of those dollars into creating a truly special digital experience that ends up reaching more attendees with digital materials that wouldn’t necessarily translate to in-person communication. Unlike in-person events, virtual attendance is essentially limitless.
3. Tailor to Your Strategic Goals
Trade shows and conferences usually serve more than one purpose for companies (for example, brand awareness through sponsorships and client acquisition through one-on-one conversations). You can do the same with a digital experience. These virtual platforms can be used to showcase thought leadership, educate your audience, boost your branding or interact with warm leads, all depending on your organization’s goals and priorities. Some even find it easier to engage with different types of people during virtual events since all interactions happen within one platform, and you have the opportunity to network with just the click of a button.
What Types of Events Should I Consider?
There’s no shortage of ways to engage with virtual events and your target audience. Event support now comes in all shapes and sizes, and with new technology advancements organizations are getting creative with their event efforts. Here are just a few ideas:
- Sponsor a session or event: Most virtual event organizers offer the opportunity for you to sponsor either part of the event or sign on as a title sponsor. This is a good solution for brand awareness and can also be a lead generation tactic, depending on the terms of the sponsorship.
- Present a session or participate in a panel: Sign up to present your own session at a virtual event hosted by a trade organization or popular publication in your industry. Cost of entry is usually low and it’s a great way to generate leads who are interested in your topic or solution.
- Small gatherings and happy hours: These types of gatherings, which can range from lunch-and-learns to happy hour wine and cheese tastings, are a more casual solution. They work really well for client retention and acquisition for prospects.
- Host a networking event: If you’re looking for the opportunity to showcase thought leadership and create a more engaging experience for your audience, consider a networking event. Give folks a space to connect and learn from others in your industry.
- Host a full conference or exhibition virtually: If you’re looking to do something bold and engaging, the next best thing to an in-person show is hosting your own event. There’s more legwork needed on your part (lining up presenters, marketing the event, and producing all of the content) but it’s the best way to make an impact on your audience virtually.
With all of the options available today, virtual events are becoming much more interesting and engaging. Once you have an approach in mind, the next step is pulling it off. We’ll explain how to execute a seamless virtual event (no matter what it looks like) in our next blog.
Ready to get started? Awesome! We’d love to help. Simply fill out a short form here telling us about your needs, or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!