Doing OK with virtual events? Don’t relax just yet

It’s been a tough year for event organisers. The virus has put paid to the idea of getting all your customers, commercial partners and even employees together in the same space. Executives have had to trade the lectern for the videoconferencing platform. And yet, for now at least, it seems to have worked.

After being postponed at first, a good number of the world’s major trade shows have switched to online formats. Companies, too, have done a good job of going digital with customer events. And despite original misgivings, the figures for attendance and engagement aren’t bad at all.

To take just one of our own examples, at Europa we’ve been managing the event boost activity for an executive briefing event for a major technology company now for a number of years—and when the event went virtual in September, we achieved the highest registration and attendance levels ever.

If you’re seeing similar results, that’s great news. But take it from us: there’s no room for complacency. That’s because:

·       The barriers to entry are lower for virtual meetings than they are for in-person ones. You don’t have to take time away from your home or your office and you don’t have to pay for travel and accommodation. Thus, it’s perhaps natural that more people should be registering for digital conferences and the like.

·       And attendees can often access event recordings for viewing later, so they can skip to elements they find relevant and can forward sessions to others.

·       But just because someone is logged onto your livestream it doesn’t mean they are actually watching. A big draw of attending virtual events is that you can multitask with presentations going on in the background. If you’re doing the presenting, though, it might be harder to get your message across.

·       High levels of engagement won’t last forever. We’re already hearing of ‘Zoom burnout’ as people get tired of having to make do with social interactions via a screen. In the events space, we expect smart organisers to move fast to slicker, more engaging formats that will raise the bar for virtual event owners.

All this means that even if you are seeing great levels of activity now, you can’t afford to let your event promotion, registration and follow-up activities slip.

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