Countries all over the world are now either easing or eliminating pandemic-related restrictions that have been in place for two years. Does this mean a full return back to normal for in-person conferences and industry events? Let’s consider a few things.
A recent white paper featuring bespoke research from Computing found that 72 of respondents nominated eight or higher when asked on a scale of one to 10 the likelihood of their organization continuing to host virtual events when physical events are safe again. Moreover, in terms of attendance, according to data presented by eChannel News, approximately 35 percent of event attendees will not be going to any in-person events for the foreseeable future, and most are reducing the number of in-person events that they attend.
It’s not really that much of a surprise that both companies and attendees are continuing to opt for virtual over physical events. After all, with things like mixed reactions surrounding COVID-19 guidance moving forward and the now uneasiness of international turmoil, virtual events are a much safer bet.
So, what does the future now hold for the realm of virtual events? To get an idea of how virtual events are set to evolve, here are a few key trends you should know.
The Dawn of the Metaverse
Over the last few months, the metaverse has been a major topic of discussion, particularly since Facebook’s re-brand to Meta last October. One of the sectors where the metaverse is predicted to have a major impact is corporate events. Leveraging emerging technologies to create immersive 3D environments, the metaverse is poised to take hybrid and virtual events to a whole new level of immersion.
For conferences, the metaverse can create rich virtual environments using avatars to represent attendees, making them feel less ‘remote’ and helping to enhance engagement. When it comes to larger events, like trade fairs, businesses could set up virtual booths that attendees can walk up to much in the same way as they would at a physical event.
These are just some of the many potential opportunities that the metaverse can offer the events world. Essentially, the metaverse helps to break down the divide between those attending events virtually and those attending events in person, creating conferences, expos, trade shows, and meetings where both can enjoy a similarly engaging experience.
Focusing on Experiences
Content will always be an essential part of attracting attendees. However, with so many virtual events now happening across practically every type of industry, what is really going to keep the attention of audiences now are notable experiences. In a report on event trends, corporate event industry news source, Event MB, listed meaningful connection as the top priority for virtual events, surpassing entertainment and content.
To enhance meaningful connections, event organizers need to look at ways to incorporate networking. Virtual event solutions are experimenting with technologies, like virtual and augmented reality, to create more in-depth networking experiences for attendees. Another way to incorporate networking is by encouraging discussions in live chats.
As the host of Industry Insights Webinars, for example, I actively find ways to keep our audience immersed as I transition through talking points by asking questions that attendees can discuss amongst themselves in the chat. Additionally, we further cultivate conversations by encouraging the speakers we have on our panels to participate in the chat themselves during our webinars. This unique aspect of our events makes attendees feel like they are directly connecting with the experts on the screen. We do also have a Q&A portion near the end of our webinars, but giving our audience members the opportunity to interact with our speakers in real-time has helped to build a true sense of networking and community.
In 2020, the pandemic disrupted traditional business models with a push for digitization and remote operations across most industries, further necessitating the move from in-person to virtual events. Now, thanks to a technological evolution and a refined understanding of how to create better, more personalized experiences, virtual events have transitioned from being a temporary solution to an essential operation in the new age of events marketing.