From small tasting events to large industry trade shows, in-person events are part of the travel and tourism industry’s DNA. If you’ve listened to Destination on the Left podcast, you have most likely heard insightful examples of how creativity appears in the face of adversity. So, when the pandemic put a halt on consumers and professionals meeting face to face, innovation blossomed and the concept of virtual events met the demand to stay connected, learn together and move forward through adaptation.
There are many questions surrounding virtual events. Will people stay engaged with them after lockdowns are over? Will virtual events last beyond the pandemic? What are the benefits of the virtual event? Let’s dive in…
The Data Story for Virtual Events is Only Starting to Be Told.
- According to IMPACT, by 2021, video (including web conferencing) is projected to account for 80% of all internet traffic. A total of 86% of participants in online meetings report an equal or higher level of engagement compared to in-person meetings. I found this to be true during a recent virtual conference that Break the Ice Media executed for a client. Not only were conference delegates engaged through the business portion of the virtual event, but also with the fun and interactive elements that we included, which ranged from yoga stretch breaks to optional roundtable discussions and live evening entertainment.
- Fifteen percent of travelers plan to avoid public transport and large cities even after restrictions are lifted. This will make the return of in-person events slow to rebound. You will also see a new hybrid model of live and virtual emerge.
- Virtual events allow conference organizers to invest more in programming and speakers. As organizers save money by eliminating venue and food & beverage costs, they can focus more dollars into keynote speakers, workshop presenters and other elements that will make the event more enticing for their audience. A typical live event spends 20% of budget on the venue, 20% of budget on equipment, 20% on food & beverage and only 5% on programming & speaker fees.
- In recent years, large events have become more expensive, with the average ticket for some of the most popular tech conferences topping $4,000. When you add on expenses for attendees to travel to the conference, overnight accommodations and the number of days missed out of the office – the decision to attend a conference can become financially out of reach. Or, the number of conferences that people will attend in a year may be drastically reduced.
Virtual Event Benefits:
- Increased attendance. While you may be limited to a maximum number of attendees to fit within a venue’s capacity, virtual events provide an opportunity to expand your participant registrations. By eliminating travel costs, companies that may have been limited to sending one employee to an event may consider allowing a second employee to partake online.
- Thought-leadership and relationship building. With more dollars available for presenters, consider reaching out to industry thought-leaders or experts you may have worked with before to serve as speakers. This provides an opportunity to build new connections and reconnect with previous contacts, while providing them a new platform to reach a new audience.
- A new revenue stream. Seek creative sponsorships that will bring in revenue, such as an online trivia contest that directs event attendees to sponsor websites, or fun branding opportunities through virtual room sponsors. Ticket prices may also vary, depending on upfront or special content offerings and access.
- Increased website traffic. If you host a virtual event within your own website and not through a third-party software service, you can expect increased numbers. Our website traffic has increased 200 percent since we started hosting our own summits and it has continued to increase every month since.
- An opportunity for social connectivity. Especially during a pandemic, when there are so many travel restrictions, but also post-pandemic, digital events allow for people from across the globe to connect.
Emerging Trends Show Virtual Events are Here to Stay.
Virtual and digital experiences that have been developed during the pandemic will remain in demand even post-pandemic. Everything from the virtual museum experience to the virtual cooking class to virtual conferences will remain in play as these creative tactics have now proven to boost web traffic and sales.
Most of the data and insights that we have been tracking point to late 2021 or 2022 for a return of large in-person conferences. Even small conferences are getting pushed into 2021. This leaves a lot of space for virtual events to continue to fill the gap. Even once the larger face-to-face events start to return, we will see development of hybrid events that offer a mix of live in-person and virtual offerings. This combination can ultimately play up the true advantages and perks that only come with meeting in person, while also utilizing the more flexible benefits that can be drawn from virtual aspects.
The rapid adoption of technology for remote work proves that people are open and ready to find new ways of doing almost everything. While the shift to virtual or hybrid events may require extra research, participant guidance and technology testing, don’t lose sight that we are all uniquely and creativity growing together.