The events industry was one of the worst hit during the pandemic, with almost all large-scale corporate events being canceled for at least two years running. During this time, many well-established and successful venues and agencies were forced to drastically reduce costs and effectively go into hibernation mode to ride out the storm. That storm, which many expected would last just a few months, raged on tirelessly. Boutique venues and other event companies ended up suffering the worst, as bigger companies found a way to keep above water by relying on virtual events. Thus, virtual events became a huge and rapidly growing market.
The question today is, now that the pandemic is coming under control and most countries have lifted all remaining restrictions, is there any need for virtual events to continue? A lot of B2B marketers, for example, believe that virtual events are coming to an end. However, that’s far from the truth, and the reality is that few enterprises plan to abandon the virtual event format any time soon. Instead, the virtual format has become a well-established alternative to in-person attendance to form hybrid events that can accommodate everyone. In this blog, we’ll look at the reasons why:
In the past, attendance at events was often limited by each attendee’s ability to travel and pay for accommodations or even take time off work. These problems were even more significant for global trade fairs and other large events due to the time and money involved in attending in-person. In other words, many events ended up becoming too exclusive for their own good.
The virtual event format entirely does away with these limitations to greatly expand the reach of any event. Geographical, financial, and social barriers are no longer factors, leading to far greater diversity among attendees. This, in turn, results in a wider range of ideas being shared and more networking opportunities, simply because everyone has something different to offer. A hybrid virtual and in-person event goes even further to accommodate the complete range of attendee preferences. Virtual and in-person formats are not intended to replace one another, but having both formats together in a hybrid event can offer memorable attendee experiences to everyone.
It’s well-known that in-person events consume a significant amount of energy, both directly at their venues and indirectly by way of attendee travel costs and other expenses. For global trade shows, the carbon footprint and energy consumption can reach great heights. If your organization is concerned about its impact on the planet, which it should be, then the virtual event format is something you should consider. Virtual or hybrid events are more financially sustainable too. What’s better for the environment is often better for your wallet. Consider, for example, the amounts of effort, time, and money that go into finding staff for an in-person event, setting up physical booths, and organizing the cleanup afterward. By reducing overheads, along with the barriers to entry, virtual and hybrid events offer reduced financial risk and a high return on investment. This is not to say that businesses shouldn’t be thinking about scrapping in-person events, but it does mean it’s worth scaling them back in the name of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and cost savings. Given that the technology is now available to seamlessly blend virtual and in-person events, there’s a great opportunity to enhance sustainability too.
For many of us, there’s no substitute for in-person events. During the pandemic, virtual events were born of necessity, and people attended them simply because they knew they didn’t have any other choice. Given the infancy of the virtual event landscape at the time, it must be said that many remote events also lacked engagement and were far from memorable. These days, that doesn’t have to be the case, thanks to virtual and hybrid event management software. With the right event management software, you’ll have the tools to provide an engaging virtual experience that seamlessly blends with that of in-person attendees. While virtual events might not be a substitute for the ‘real thing’, there are a whole lot of unique things they can do, such as incorporate gamification or immersive learning experiences. For example, a mobile event app could include social networking functions to bring both remote and in-person attendees together and, in doing so, build stronger communities. Furthermore, just like every other digital interaction, virtual events leave a trail of data. With a platform that includes data analytics, you can instantly view this data in the form of actionable insights that can help you make your virtual event experiences better every time.
We can expect in-person events to make a major comeback in the coming years. However, this doesn’t mean they will supplant virtual events. After all, international travel is getting more expensive, many countries face serious economic recession, and there’s always the threat of more mutant virus strains leading to a return of restrictions. Yet despite this uncertainty, many people are anxious to return to some sense of normalcy and, as a result, in-person events are also not going anywhere.
Instead, in-person events will exist alongside the hybrid event format, allowing both organizers and attendees to enjoy the benefits we’ve explored above. That said, smaller venue operators and agencies must innovate rapidly to keep up with the big organizations that have already established themselves in the virtual and hybrid event market. With a virtual and hybrid event platform that offers a seamless experience to all attendees, you can do just that.
The right event management platform will help you provide a consistent experience with things like centralized online registration processes, a mobile event app that all attendees can use, and a unified marketing and lead-capture process. That way, both you and your attendees get to enjoy the best of both worlds.
MeetingPlay + Aventri + eventcore include everything you need to plan, manage, and enhance events of any kind – in-person, hybrid, or virtual – from start to finish. Request your free demo today to see it in action.