As the leading provider of virtual environments, 6Connex has been organizing virtual events for years. And a quick survey of our sales and account management teams will reveal that historically, the most significant obstacle they face when working with customers is mindset. Until the COVID-19 pandemic, most event planning teams were nervous that a virtual event would fall flat. And even when their virtual events attracted thousands of attendees, our customers remained petrified that the event would lack “mojo.”
But with a record number of virtual environment builds in 2020, we can say unequivocally that the most successful organizations have let go of biases and not tried to reproduce their physical format virtually; they’ve created a new media platform instead. We’re not saying we’ll never again sojourn to an attractive destination to network at vendor booths, sit in large ballrooms to hear presentations from industry thought leaders, and take in a ballgame or round of golf with colleagues and customers, but we wholeheartedly believe we are on the forefront of a new market for virtual events that is permanent. And we’re not alone. The virtual events market is currently valued at approximately $45 billion, and Grand View Research projects it could grow at a compound annual growth rate of approximately 23 percent.
The truth is event planners and marketers have long wanted to increase audience engagement beyond a two- or three-day event. Even before the pandemic, hybrid events were gaining in popularity. With remote work becoming more common, event planners were increasingly willing to explore what could be done virtually that would hold attendees’ attention, looking beyond traditional, passive webinar formats and focusing on engagement and user interaction through features like video one-on-ones, breakout rooms, round tables, and more.
Then the pandemic hit, serving as a flashpoint. For event planners, it shifted the industry landscape, and for marketers, it left pockets of opportunity in budgets. Finally! Virtual events were going to be invited to sit at the cool kids’ table. And technology vendors made sure they brought their A-game. Wowed by state-of-the-art features and functionality, event organizers and marketers quickly discovered what technology vendors knew all along: a virtual event platform is a gateway to long-term content engagement. As 2020 unfolded and event planners and marketers became more familiar with the format, it was clear that beyond the pandemic, virtual events would be more than a standard tool in every event planner’s and marketer’s toolkit, they would be a media platform.
Virtual events have gone from the bench to starting position due to myriad benefits that event planners and attendees alike celebrate:
While the above benefits more than justify the ROI of a virtual event, it’s really their ability to shapeshift from an event to a media experience that gives them staying power. Similar to a news site, a virtual event can offer myriad content formats and engagement opportunities, and it can be available year-round. In fact, some companies are capitalizing on the evergreen nature of their virtual events, regularly promoting event content through social media and paid marketing channels, ensuring the event is optimized for SEO on an ongoing basis, and leveraging programs that keep attendees coming back, such as sponsoring online trivia contests and hosting a weekly speaker series. And some companies have transformed their virtual events into a continuous revenue stream, using their virtual environments to sell products, promote third party advertising, direct attendees to sponsor websites, or feature fun branding opportunities through virtual room sponsors.
The COVID-19 pandemic undoubtedly positioned the event space for a ground-breaking pivot – one that yields time, cost, and environmental benefits. The rapid innovation of virtual event technology has seized this opportunity and transformed virtual events into a new, unique, and creative media platform to get audience engagement and brand differentiation right.