The final session of 'Business And Events In A Post-Pandemic World - Part 2' considered what the virtual events landscape will look like as we move forward and how we can make an impact with online virtual events. This event was hosted in partnership with Swapcard and London Filmed.
This expert panel was comprised of Renaud Visage, Co-Founder of Eventbrite, Damien Courbon, COO & Co-Founder of our hosts Swapcard, Ruben Onderdelinden, Co-Founder of Lively and Robyn McGirl, Head of Product and Venues at Hire Space. Caleb Parker, Founder of Bold, moderated the panel.
You can watch the video below, or read on for our key takeaways of the session.
Table of Contents
Shift in trends
As a result of the pandemic, the sheer volume of online events has increased significantly. Robyn notes that businesses who wouldn't necessarily hold online events before are now looking to virtual events as a way to engage with their audience, showcasing the international opportunities to be had when not restricted by geography. This means that in a way, virtual events have been a real education piece for the events industry.
Ruben adds that another trend we are seeing is that events are getting more partner-driven. Partners, as opposed to simply sponsors, have a chance to get more involved in the actual content and demonstrate thought leadership, such as in an interactive roundtable session. By using a platform and supporting technology to hold the virtual events, partners have also got an opportunity to garner better insights into their audiences. This gives them an element of control for lead generation and is therefore potentially easier to demonstrate ROI.
Renaud adds that with the huge volume increase in online events comes an increase in creativity too, especially in terms of monetisation. At first, there were lots of free events, but that mix is shifting now. As the quality of online experience increases, so does the freedom in pricing.
Hybrid brings challenges
Live, in-person events are sure to come back in a big way, but as so many organisers have adopted virtual events, Renaud believes this will bring more opportunities in creating and crafting experiences that bring back some of the serendipity that we're used to seeing in physical events. However, there will be a new set of tools that allow hybrid events to be much more easily organised and interactive and engaging, and with that comes learning. Organisers will need to adopt these skills and work hard to navigate the copious platforms available, and this will be a fairly large hurdle in itself.
Robyn points out that there will be a lag with people feeling comfortable or able to travel to in-person events, so hybrid will be a huge part of the event strategy moving forward. That being said, she believes that the experience of hybrid events needs to improve. If you can create great hybrid events, there is potential to triple or quadruple the size and reach of your events, but the production and quality of content needs to improve in order to succeed. If you're looking to organise a Hybrid event make sure to read about the Hire Space Safer Events Accreditation in our White Paper for more information on how you can do so safely.
Is VR the next big thing?
Renaud notes that it is still very early days, but there potentially will be a big place for VR in hybrid events. He adds that it is difficult to master; you have to recreate the physicality, such as how you manage sound, in virtual environments. He believes it is about harnessing the technology to replicate certain elements, and it can be done with hard work and investment.
Ruben offers a solution: combining platforms such as Swapcard and Virtways (who develop 3D virtual environments) allows organisers to allocate each attendee an 'avatar', meaning that the experience is much more lifelike. For example, when attendees book a networking meeting, they have to direct their avatar to 'walk' there. This gives a completely different dimension to online events.
Budgets and proving ROI
Robyn believes that on a delegate level, there is huge scope to get greater ROI. Budgets are a concern and will likely be tighter following this pandemic, so there will likely be much more out-the-box hybrid solutions to cater to those. Read our piece on organising a virtual event on a budget.
In terms of feedback on virtual events so far, Damien highlights that time spent at the event and time spent networking is lower for virtual events than physical events. This data reinforces the need for a live-virtual mix and creativity in the event planning process to ensure the event is as valuable for virtual attendees and whilst also worthwhile for the organisers. Some events may need to cost slightly more in order to be even more valuable.
He adds that it's important to not underestimate the production side of events, which he says is hugely important for attendee experience, so it's worthwhile to find good suppliers. He wraps up by advising organisers to think of events as a revenue stream rather than just as an expense, as this will help when making decisions on what to spend budget on. Read our piece on monetising your virtual events for some ideas.
Renaud adds that digital marketing becomes a lot more important with online events as you have a much broader reach, so you need to find the right partner or have a good in-house team to be able to produce this high level marketing to attract a global audience.
Do you have any advice on what else should be included in the budget for a purely virtual event, in addition to the platform?
Marketing, collateral and on-the-day content that needs to be produced should be considered, suggests Robyn. Whether that comes from in-house team or you need to outsource it, the market is saturated at the moment with other virtual events, so it's important to focus on aesthetic. It doesn't need to be expensive but the brand you're presenting needs to be considered.
Are virtual events right for all companies and all types of events, or are there some events that don't work online?
Renaud says organisers of larger events will have a harder time creating an interactive virtual experience that measures up to their live events. He also notes that the nature of sports events makes them really hard to replicate in a virtual capacity. Ruben adds that workshops are difficult to take online too, in order to get the same energy and stimulation.
What's your one top tip on how to make a virtual event stand out?
Robyn - Keep it really simple, focus on the content.
Ruben - Incorporate a variety of elements so people can learn something and stay engaged.
Damien - Involving attendees is really important, so keep the format as varied as possible.
Renaud - Set expectations and make sure you provide your attendees with really clear instructions for the event.
Renaud Visage, Co-Founder, Eventbrite
Renaud Visage is the founding technical architect of Eventbrite. He anticipated several fundamental shifts in the way we use the internet – including the arrival of social media, big data analysis, the shift to mobile devices as first screens and the ubiquity of APIs – and leveraged their disruptive power to Eventbrite’s advantage, fuelling the company’s growth into the globally leading ticketing and event technology platform it is today.
Damien Courbon, COO & Co-Founder, Swapcard
Damien Courbon is the co-founder and COO of Swapcard. Swapcard is an event engagement app, helping B2B event organizers increase interactions and encounters within their audience, and leverage the power of data to improve their events. Launched in 2014, Swapcard now operates in 4 countries and works with industry leaders such as Informa, Clarion, GL Event, Comexposium, and Dubai World Trade Center.
Ruben Onderdelinden, Co-Founder, Lively
Ruben Onderdelinden is co-founder and consultant at the first full service event tech agency in the Benelux. He started his career 7 years ago in sales & marketing at local event app providers. The last 3 years he has been reseller for international tech companies like Grip, Glisser, Swoogo and Boomset. Implementing these various solutions at large organisers like RAI Amsterdam, gave him the right background to guide conferences and tradeshows in the transition to hybrid events & business models. With his independent role towards technology, he is always looking for new opportunities in efficiency, sustainability and business.
Robyn McGirl, Head of Product and Venues, Hire Space
As the Head of Product at Hire Space, Robyn looks at new ways to make event booking a joy through transformational technology for both the Hire Space Professional platform and hirespace.com.
Caleb Parker, Founder, Bold
Caleb believes in "challenging the status quo" and is a champion for entrepreneurial and innovative thinking. He is the former CEO of MeetingRooms.com (2013-2016), the world's largest online marketplace (at the time of his exit). Prior to joining MeetingRooms.com, Caleb co-founded a technology startup in 2012 to create the first global distribution system for on-demand office & meeting space. In 2009, Caleb co-founded a flexible workspace consulting firm where he brokered flexible workspace and advised businesses on agile working strategies. Caleb is one of the first licensed commercial real estate agents to speak on the new economy, mobile working trends and the rise of flexible workspace, and has been quoted in numerous publications.
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