The Year of Zoom. How Zoom Won 2020. Zoom Took Over the World. These headlines from the past year make it clear that 2020 was the year of the virtual event. They also make it clear that what started as a short-term solution to pandemic problems has become a viable way to connect. More than a stand-in for the face to face, some would argue that Zoom and platforms like it have become an effective way to host meetings, events and trade shows — and they are here to stay:
- According to Bizzabo’s Post COVID-19 Event Outlook report, 93% of organizers plan to invest in virtual events in 2021.
- More than half of event planners are looking toward hybrid in-person and digital events going forward, according to Northstar Meetings Group’s January survey of 812 event planners.
- Satisfaction with online experiences is high, with 91% of respondents saying they are a success, AnyRoad’s The State of Virtual Events 2021 report states.
It isn’t just Zoom, of course. Companies and people have turned to Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Join.Me, UberConference and other platforms in the past year. More robust platforms specifically designed to host events like BigMarker, Bizzabo and INXPO offer even richer experiences focused on ease of user experience and driving engagement. But some companies are still wondering whether they should continue to work virtual events into their marketing plans in the years to come, even after life returns to “normal.” The answer, according to most experts, appears to be yes.
The Benefits of a Virtual Event
1. Reduced costs.
Anyone who has ever organized an event can tell you it is expensive. In fact, Bizzabo reported that businesses spent nearly 25% of their marketing budget on events in 2019. From securing a venue to catering to speakers, in-person events can quickly burn a hole in any company’s pocket. The expenses are reflected in the price of tickets, with some events costing attendees thousands of dollars. Hosting a virtual event cuts your expenses dramatically, even when you work in the costs of event platforms, speakers and engaging experiences. That also often means a huge discount in ticket prices for attendees, making it a win-win for you and your audience.
Cost is just one of the ways virtual events have proved to be more accessible. Without the burden of a commute time, many people have been able to attend more events than ever in the past year. Even events in different parts of the country or elsewhere in the world were suddenly available to people from the comfort of their homes. And for those with limited mobility, the uptick in virtual events has opened up a world previously difficult for them to enjoy. As Andrew Faridani, president and CEO at BreezeMaxWeb, wrote in Forbes magazine: “In-person events have been historically difficult or impossible for people who are sick, disabled or chronically ill, as well as individuals with sensory processing difficulties, to attend. Increased accessibility to virtual events will increase valuable, diverse perspectives, which will accelerate the advancement of individual organizations as well as entire industries.”
3. Expanded audience.
That accessibility means your organization has the opportunity to expand its audience beyond the local realm. The chance to reach more people than ever, no matter where they are, allows you to spread your message and build your brand in new places and industries that before felt difficult to access.
4. More chances to wow.
The fact that so many companies are new to the possibilities of virtual events equates to untapped potential and chances to impress. And with the money and time you save on in-person events, you can focus your time and resources on creative ways to engage your audience. For example, in our own i4 Business events, we were lucky enough to have internationally renowned violinist Gary Lovini open two of our awards shows. Other businesses have partnered with restaurants or wineries to bring attendees food or drinks to enjoy during the show. To increase engagement, speakers have put together presentations with polls, videos and even arts and crafts. The possibilities are endless.
How to Market a Virtual Event
Once you’ve decided when your next virtual event is, it’s time to get the word out. Luckily, marketing a virtual event isn’t much different from promoting an in-person event. When it comes down to it, marketing these events is about consistency and a strong brand. Here are some tips:
1. Provide easy navigation to one event page.
There’s nothing more frustrating than being directed to several pages when you’re trying to find the right one. Make sure all your marketing materials point to one well-designed event landing page where attendees can get the information they need on the event, register to attend and pay any fees. This can be done simply through platforms like Constant Contact or Mailchimp.
2. Use every channel for increased visibility.
From social media pages to e-blasts to banner ads on your own website, make sure you’re visible to your audience. Keep the messaging and branding consistent across all channels, and pretty soon you’ll have piqued some interest.
3. Ask sponsors and speakers to help get the word out.
The power of partnership here can’t be overstated. Tag-teaming the promotion is sure to boost your visibility, benefiting both you and your sponsors and partners.
Virtual events offered the chance for us to connect with one another when coming together seemed impossible. They gave us the chance to share ideas, innovate, get creative and expand our understanding of what works. Now that we’ve spent the last year learning the ins and outs, we can spend the next year perfecting our planning and creating better and bigger events for all.