Over the past two years, organizations have moved online in ways we could not have predicted before the pandemic. Virtual events have proven an incredibly effective means of building awareness, launching products, generating leads, and boosting customer loyalty — all activities that organizations traditionally generated from physical events.
As we ease into the normality of conducting events online, organizations and attendees alike are becoming more discerning when evaluating virtual events and platforms.
So, what do organizers need to keep in mind as we press 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?
We recently sponsored a , featuring bespoke research by Computing, looking at how organizations have responded to the challenges surrounding internal and external events, and what lies ahead. Here are some of the key findings.
Virtual Events Are Here to Stay
The average survey respondent reported attending between one and three virtual events per month, with 31% attending more than four.
Organizations 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 organization continuing to host virtual events when physical events are safe again, 72% of respondents nominated eight or higher, and only 9% nominated five or lower. It’s clear that virtual events will remain a regular feature in business operations, pandemic or not.
So, what do virtual event platform providers need to be prepared for?
Attendees Are Expecting More
80% of survey respondents at least somewhat agree 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 customized 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% of respondents said seven or lower on a scale of one to 10, and only 8% said 10. This suggests room for improvement. But what features are actually important to attendees at virtual events?
Quality and Ease of Use Are Key
In terms of the virtual event features that survey respondents value, the top two priorities were high-quality audio and video experiences (63%), and ease of use (60%).
For hosts, combining a virtual event platform with their event management system could go a long way towards creating events that save time and money, while providing crucial insights into event performance.
While ease of use and high-quality audio-visual experiences ranked high, surprisingly low on the list of priorities were security (25%) and analytics (3%). This can be expected to change over time as privacy and performance become increasingly important in the virtual workplace.
Networking Opportunities are Vital
Around 43% of survey respondents cited difficulties in recreating the atmosphere of physical events and networking opportunities as an area of concern.
Virtual event platforms are experimenting with innovative technology, such as virtual and augmented reality, to create unique experiences for attendees. For example, BlueJeans is investing in creating exhibition-style booths and breakout sessions to provide opportunities for individuals to have more optionality when deciding what they want to do during a virtual event.
While it is a challenge to recreate organic social and networking opportunities from behind the screen, event organizers should look instead to promote the distinct advantages of virtual events to their audience, such as accessibility, convenience, personalization, and analytics.
Is the Future Hybrid?
With 88% of respondents at least somewhat agreeing 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.
Organizations 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 organizers 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 attendees will be looking for in the future.
If your organization is looking to create highly interactive, production-grade virtual and hybrid events, BlueJeans can help. and .