COVID-19 spun the events industry on its head. In March 2020, in-person events across the United States came to a standstill after concerns of the pandemic swept the nation.
Now, several months later, that concern is still ever-present.
As a result, in-person events have yet to start relaunching due to safety and health concerns. 54% of event-goers reported they would not be comfortable attending large, in-person work-related conferences or events this year.
The reality is, this concern will continue into 2021 and beyond, too.
However, to keep the events industry afloat and continue to engage with potential customers and brand advocates, businesses are shifting to a hybrid events approach by incorporating various online experiences. For instance, IBM’s Think conference went digital this year, combining locally hosted events with live streaming content and digital activities.
It’s easy to question the value of online experiences, especially when the Center for Exhibition Industry Research reports that 48% of event attendees say face-to-face interactions are more valuable today than they were five years ago. But, with our “new normal,” online experiences are necessary.
If you’re still wary of adding online experiences to IRL events, these five reasons will convince you to take the leap.
1. Online Experiences Provide Greater Audience Reach
Even when hosted by businesses with the largest budgets, in-person events are limited in nature. By hosting an event in a physical space, some interested participants will not be able to attend for financial or geographic reasons. Now, with the added COVID-19 concerns, you can add safety and health to the list of reasons why people will not attend your in-person event.
Adding online experiences to an in-person event opens the event up to those who previously could not attend. With a click of a button, they can tune into the event via a live streaming virtual panel, pre-recorded lecture, or interactive chat room with attendees.
The more people you’re able to reach with your hybrid event, the greater opportunity your business has for qualified sales, brand exposure, and ongoing relevancy.
2. Online Experiences Add Value for Attendees
Remember, in-person events are inherently limited. Online experiences, such as pre-recorded lectures or scanning QR codes to share contact information, provide an immense level of value for participants and brands.
For example, offering a virtual event hub to access lectures, live streams, vendor information, chats, and so much more, enables those unable to attend in-person to fully participate in the event from the comfort of their home or office. And, with this information live online, attendees can access content and information well after the event has concluded.
After the coronavirus pandemic concerns, 75% of event professionals stated they would be investing in interactive features such as Q&As and chats as part of their digital experiences.
From the standpoint of an event speaker, online access also expands the possibilities of the content shared with audiences. Rather than sticking to the traditional PowerPoint, speakers can share interactive links to further enhance the listeners’ experience.
3. Digital Events Offer Longevity
By hosting and publishing aspects of an event online, brands actively guarantee their relevance for months and years to come.
Long after the event concludes, participants can return to the virtual hub to review video content, find vendor information, or access lecture notes. This permanent digital environment allows past participants, vendors, and sponsors to find information on-demand.
Additionally, if participants were unable to attend certain lectures or interviews, they don’t have to fret about missing pertinent information. These experiences are recorded and published online for attendees to access at their leisure.
4. Virtual Experiences Lead to More Qualified Sales
79% of US marketers use event marketing to generate sales for their business. In-person events offer excellent opportunities to speak with interested attendees and qualify potential leads.
Previously, vendors would only have a conversation and company name or role to use when qualifying attendees for potential sales.
However, adding an online component to the event provides vendors and brands with more accurate data to qualify leads. Businesses can see which event sessions leads attended. What content they accessed. And the online actions they took during the event. By using this data and identifying the patterns within them, companies can make more accurate sales lead qualifications.
You can take your event a step further and offer virtual meetings and conversations between attendees and vendors. Some online events charge extra for this capability.
5. Online Events are Cost-Effective and Scalable
It’s no secret. In-person events, meetings, and conferences are expensive. Between registration, additional fees for other experiences, travel expenses, and more, attending an in-person event is hard on the wallet.
The cost to host an in-person event is also astronomical. On top of securing a location, companies must budget for marketing and promotions, obtaining sponsorships, costs for operations, and so much more.
However, companies are discovering that online events are far more cost-effective and scalable.
To start, offering online experiences as part of a fully digital or hybrid style event opens your event to the masses without draining your budget.
For instance, you can host a hybrid event with a higher price point for in-person attendance and a lower cost digital attendance registration. This gives participants the option to attend in-person or online without missing out on any content or value.
It’s far easier to scale a digital event, too. In-person events must adhere to specific room capacity. The sky’s the limit with online experiences. There’s no cap on attendance, the number of programs/sessions, or what sponsors can promote — it’s all up to you.
Include Online Experiences as Part of Your Next In-Person Event
If your event was canceled or postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis, pivot to an online model. In 2021 and beyond, people will still be hesitant to travel and attend large in-person events.
Take advantage of this new digital frontier the next time you host an event and reap the benefits.