2020 has been a year of different unique experiences in all aspects. We have seen schools, universities, and many businesses turn to a remote way of life resulting in rapid digital transformation. We have seen the population connect with their families and friends though numerous video calls and new apps like Houseparty become new tools for social interaction and entertainment.
Crowded, enclosed spaces have been no longer since the pandemic. Concerts, conferences, expos, weddings, and some birthdays have had to significantly reduce the number of attendees. However, this did not stop some creative folks. Many event organizers turned to virtual events to have a similar experience. Some aspects may have been new, but the overall experience of having conversations with other people, even if virtually, brought some sense of normalcy.
What is a virtual event?
A virtual event is one that takes place online in the format of online discussions, webinars, and webcasts, as opposed to an event at a physical location. It is supposed to be under one online platform, making it more interactive and more informative. Virtual events are seen as more green, or better for the environment, due to the low carbon footprint from air travel or travel, along with wastage of materials and consumables at a live physical event.
Virtual events are also a good alternative for guests who usually attend physical events as it saves them the time of booking lodging, rushing into events on time, or avoiding jetlag. Furthermore, it also helps minimize the budget for organizers as there is no requirement to book a large event space, and no restrictions on how many people can attend the event.
Virtual events use tools like video conferencing for a personalized experience
With almost everything becoming remote this year due to travel restrictions, many events have turned to virtual events or hybrid events. For example, WISPA2020 hosted a limited attendance event this year in October. They chose to host a hybrid event which means that they had an in-person event that was limited, but the event was also livestreamed for people across the world to access it. WISPA2020 was held adhering to social distancing rules, mask wearing, and a limitation of the number of people per room. On the other hand, the virtual event was set up like past live events, with virtual booths for vendors, booth personnel contacts, and a live chat app for any virtual attendees that had questions.
The key to marketing a virtual event is emphasizing the importance of how personal it is to the user/viewer/audience. They are experiencing new products, keynote speeches, networking, and other forms of event communication/interaction from the front row, as everyone has equal access.
This personalized aspect is the evident change in experience of virtual events in comparison to in-person events. Everyone has equal access because it is from the comfort of their homes. Many events are turning to video conferencing tools, online chat sessions, social media live sessions, and other forms of online interactions to ensure that audiences are satisfied with their event experience. While not much is needed physically, the important factor to keep in mind is that event organizers, speakers, and participants will need a reliable internet connection.
Virtual events can make it difficult to engage and interact
It can be tough for some people to attend an all-day conference online. Staring at a screen for almost a whole day while listening to different people talk while you cannot really interact with them, can be extremely draining and there is such a thing as ‘zoom fatigue’. It can be even more difficult with distractions at home.
Furthermore, networking does not have the same impact or effect at virtual events. While networking online can certainly be a viable option, it can be difficult to create the impressions you usually do offline at an in-person event. Most online events encompass a group video conference, restricting you from more one-on-one conversations you would usually have at an in-person event, not to mention the opportunities to set up coffee or lunch meetings.
On the other hand virtual events can make it easier to connect with more people at once. It also helps that most virtual events might be free, which could make it easy to listen to and interact with industry leading keynote speakers.
New product experiences can be different at virtual events
The one thing about in-person events that many people look forward to is touching and feeling new products they have been reading about, especially when it comes to technology events. If a new phone is launching, or a new type of augmented reality is being showcased, it is always more exciting to experience these technologies in person. This is also an advantage for the brand that is selling or showcasing their product, as they can interact with their audience and answer any questions or showcase the product personally to the user.
At BLiNQ, we have had the opportunity to showcase and highlight the unique aspects of our products at past events, and interact with potential customers in a more engaging way. Our flagship product, the FW-300i, is compact, fully integrated, easy to set up, and is the ideal private LTE solution. We have been able to highlight the specifications of the product with more ease during a live event, as a person can closely examine and see how compact the product is. A virtual event makes this very challenging, and therefore, we have to create a more enhanced product experience for customers in the absence of real life interaction.
Will virtual events replace in-person events?
No one can foresee when the pandemic will end, but we do know that virtual events will not replace in-person events. Virtual events are the new normal for now, but eventually when things get better, regular physical events will begin to make a comeback. We may not see it happen at a go, but maybe in the form of a hybrid i.e. both a virtual and in-person event, just like WIPSA2020 arranged this year. However, as humans, we will always prefer the human contact over virtual events, so we will definitely see in-person events make a comeback as soon as the pandemic is resolved.