Over the past two years, organisations have moved online in ways we could not have predicted before the pandemic. Virtual events have proven to be an incredibly effective means of building brand awareness, launching products, generating leads, and boosting customer loyalty – all activities that organisations traditionally generated from physical events.
As we ease into an era where conducting events online is commonplace, organisations and individuals alike are becoming more discerning about virtual events and platforms, and whether to participate.
So, what do organisers need to keep in mind as we move forward in the era of virtual events? And how do they navigate the saturated marketplace of virtual event platforms to ensure they are delivering engaging, high-quality experiences that will attract attendees?
BlueJeans sponsored a white paper titled What should you look for in a virtual events platform? which looked at how organisations have responded to the challenges surrounding internal and external events, and what lies ahead. Here are some of the key findings.
First, virtual events are here to stay. The average survey respondent reported attending between one and three virtual events per month, with 31 per cent attending more than four.
Organisations rushed to create online events during the early days of the pandemic, putting together a range of platforms that were available and familiar to them. But they have since had the opportunity to step back and re-evaluate their priorities when it comes to deciding on a virtual event platform.
When asked to rate on a scale of one to 10 the likelihood of their organisation continuing to host virtual events when physical events are safe again, 72 per cent of respondents selected eight or higher, and only nine per cent nominated five or lower. Hence, it is clear that virtual events will remain a regular feature in business operations, pandemic or not.
Secondly, virtual event platform providers need to be prepared for the fact that attendees are expecting more. Most survey respondents (80 per cent) at least somewhat agreed that their expectations for virtual events are higher now than they were 18 months ago.
Engaging content and innovative features can make or break virtual events. Whatever the aim of the event, features like customised branding, networking and engagement tools, and an intuitive platform are key to facilitating a memorable event experience.
When asked how satisfied attendees have been with their experience of virtual events, 35 per cent of respondents said seven or lower on a scale of one to 10, and only eight per cent said 10. This suggests that there is still room for improvement. But what features are actually important to attendees at virtual events?
According to the white paper, respondents’ top priorities for virtual events were high-quality audio and video experiences (63 per cent), and ease of use (60 per cent).
For hosts, combining a virtual platform with their management system could go a long way towards creating events that save time and money. It could also provide crucial insights into event performance.
While ease of use and high-quality audio-visual experiences ranked highly, security and analytics were surprisingly low on the list of priorities at 25 per cent and three per cent respectively. This can be expected to change over time as privacy and performance become increasingly important in the virtual workplace.
Also key to the success of virtual events is the opportunity for networking. Around 43 per cent of survey respondents cited difficulties in recreating the atmosphere of physical events and networking opportunities as an area of concern.
Online event platforms are experimenting with using innovative technology, such as virtual and augmented reality, to create unique experiences for attendees. For example, BlueJeans is investing in exhibition-style booths and organising multi-session events to provide more networking opportunities.
While it is a challenge to recreate organic social and networking opportunities from behind the screen, event organisers should look instead to promote the distinct advantages of virtual events to their audience, such as accessibility, convenience, personalisation and analytics.
As we slowly move towards the more familiar in-person scenarios, the question must be asked: is the future hybrid? With 88 per cent of respondents at least somewhat agreeing that the future is hybrid, and with work and events continuing to take place both remotely and in person, the outlook for virtual event platforms is clear.
Organisations will be looking to design and host events that combine live, in-person experiences with an engaging online component. But this is easier said than done. It is important that organisers take the time to re-evaluate how their current event platform fits in with their long-term goals, and whether it can be used to adequately deliver the hybrid experience that attendees will be looking for in the future.
Read the full white paper at: https://bit.ly/3N8mXOh
Maureen Beckman is a senior product marketing manager for BlueJeans by Verizon
This article was originally published in the Spring 2022 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.
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