When your team is making the choice between virtual and in-person events, there are many factors to consider. COVID-19 is an omnipresent risk that affects your potential attendees' behaviors. Uncertain travel restrictions and potential cancellations are a cost-intensive headache. Even your attendees' motivations change depending on whether an event is in-person or virtual.
According to Drift, "almost three-fourths of virtual attendees said learning was their main goal, compared to less than 10% who specified networking as their top priority."
However, many event teams are still chomping at the bit to make the return to in-person events, even if it may not be the best decision for their attendees. While we all look forward to the full return of in-person events, the truth is that some organizations will actually hurt their attendees’ experiences if this decision is rushed.
Keep reading to see if in-person events are the right strategy or if virtual events can give you the engagement you need.
Understanding the Current State of In-Person Events
Everyone is eager for in-person events to resume — but only with the guarantee of safety, certain timelines, and real engagement that events promised before the COVID-19 pandemic. While some events are returning to the status quo, the vast majority are smaller, delayed, or entirely virtual.
While hopeful attendees want in-person events to go back on the calendar, no one yearns more for the return of high-quality, stable events than event planning teams. Let's take a quick look at what event teams want and what the current reality holds.
Event teams want to return to hosting in-person events without the complex contingencies of today's in-person conferences. More than that, they want to see the participant volumes, positive feedback, and return on investment that they enjoyed before 2020.
However, the reality is not in a good state to meet those hopes. Because of continued concerns about in-person spread, events must still limit person-to-person contact. As a result, events are often required to have much smaller pools of attendees. Many events are also on a small scale, such as region-specific conferences.
Even when these constraints are handled, the limitations of in-person events are evident. This makes events stale and uninteresting, further reducing their value relative to the risk of attending. Most audiences are simply turning down invitations and skipping events for another year.
Let's Think About Event Engagement
While there is very little that corporate event teams can do about travel restrictions, attendee constraints, and similar policies established by the government or regulatory bodies, they can increase the potential value of attending the events, making them attractive even to cautious travelers and companies.
One of the best avenues to drive more value is by increasing overall engagement. Creating unique experiences that provide value, positive associations, memories, and exclusive networking opportunities can increase the value of your event.
One thing that's important to note about all of those qualities of event engagement that your audiences find most valuable is this: they don't really require in-person attendance or in-person events at all.
By continuing to host engaging virtual events, planners can overcome friction points about travel, health and safety, and the costs or aggravation of spending money on an event when it may be canceled.
With a bit of creativity and by engaging with modern technological developments in virtual meeting and conference options, event planners can create events that are just as engaging and valuable as in-person events. In fact, engagement opportunities are often equally or more engaging in virtual contexts than in traditional in-person events.
Some of the most popular virtual event engagement opportunities are:
1. Digital Keynotes
Digital keynotes offer the same degree of engagement as in-person speeches as well as additional advantages of clearer visuals, better audio, and more control over the audio-visual experience. Pre-recorded (and, in some cases, even live) digital keynotes can be supplemented with subtitles that make the keynote more accessible to audiences around the world. Combined with the ability to pre-record and share keynotes, attendees in every time zone around the world can view keynotes with local virtual attendees or other attendees on their team.
2. Celebrity Engagement
In current in-person environments, it's next to impossible to book a celebrity for your in-person event. Because in-person events are also smaller, celebrities are more likely to turn down the correspondingly lower contract value.
Virtual events, however, are a different story. Celebrities can safely and easily attend the event to create an engaging, memorable interaction. Because of the reduced costs around transportation and time, booking a celebrity for your virtual engagement may be even more cost-effective than booking one in the past.
Webinars are increasingly popular, and they're virtual by their very nature. As professional education and certification become decentralized, working professionals can also use webinar attendance to highlight knowledge and skills. Webinars also provide small-group instruction, opportunities to chat and analyze new information, and other actively engaging elements.
4. Thought Leadership Sessions
Thought leadership sessions are a broad category of events. They include almost any live event with a host, an audience, and a topic that allows for back-and-forth discussion. Sessions can include talks with Q&A portions, discussion panels that present and converse over new data or trends, and more. Virtual formats allow event hosts a broader range of experts who can attend without worrying about time zones, travel, and other constraints.
5. Curated On-Demand Content
With virtual events, hosts can also opt for pre-recorded materials that have been designed, developed, and finished exclusively for the event. This allows for a more polished final product and overall greater attendee engagement. Hosts can survey attendees before events to find their core interests and urgent questions, then devote time and effort to creating appropriate content or curating content for different pockets of attendees based on their interests.
Transform Your Events With Impact Point Group
Engagement is more than possible with virtual events and conferences. Even successful networking and partnerships, which lagged behind during the first year of virtual events, are quickly catching up to pre-pandemic success rates through highly engaging, well-planned virtual events. At Impact Point Group, we're here to help support your virtual events, drive more traffic, and generate higher ROI. Contact us today to learn more.