Virtual events still sound a little futuristic, but they’ve been happening since 1993 when the world’s first livestream brought us nail-biting webcam footage of a coffee maker in mid drip. The streaming pot brewed up millions of views. In some ways little has changed in 2021. On TikTok, teenagers have gone viral with sleep feeds, raking in crypto coin as they catch some zzz’s. But tech and social media upgrades have opened the door to new ways to connect online, from virtual museum tours to live Q&As with astronauts in space. Even some of the largest conferences have gone partially or complete.
What is a Virtual Event?
Simply put, a virtual event is an interactive experience that can be experienced virtually (via a computer) or in person (via a virtual reality headset), but it doesn’t have to be. The purpose of a virtual event is to attract an audience to a website and, ideally, engage them and hopefully recruit them to an in-person event. In the case of many large conferences, it is also a way to limit costs. You can host them from a giant auditorium or a boutique venue, while still attracting the same large crowds. I spoke with Brendan Gordon, CMO of digital marketing agency Digital Turbine, to find out what digital marketing innovations and technologies are driving the growth of virtual events. What are the main attractions of a virtual event?
What are the advantages of a virtual event?
Convenience, according to the organizer. It allows participants to pay and register directly through the platform, offering more accountability. You can also keep details confidential. What’s your end game? Think of this like a live TV show, says Josh Coldwell, an online marketing expert at Altimeter Group. By opening up the virtual platform to contributors, you’re building an audience for the streamers and viewers, and engaging with those audiences to foster a more real-time experience. Virtual events can also increase a brand’s exposure and open doors for lucrative sponsorships. How can business owners set up a virtual event? A big virtual event has several moving parts: video, audio, text, graphics, and the interaction that occurs within the event.
How much does it cost to host a virtual event?
The biggest digital conferences include Signifyd Live, ticketing platform, and inTouch, marketing and sales software company. At each of these events, you can experience the thrill of Burning Man while seated in your own office, taking part in a cooking competition while chatting with friends and business partners, or even chatting with stars. At the companies’ private offices, attendees pay about $65 to join. Then there’s the digital conference that many entrepreneurs host to keep their employees in the loop: tickets start at about $25. While these events are easy to setup, not all of them come with an agenda. The creators of Virtual Innovation Challenge says it’s designed to create networks of ideas, connections, and investors.
How do you host a virtual event?
Virtual events are growing in popularity. About 30% of people aged 18-29 have attended a virtual conference in the past two years, according to surveys by interactive media research firm Newzoo. For example, the InterContinental New York Barclay Hotel was able to reach more than 1 million guests with Facebook Live in just 10 days, its own record. The first one is this weekend. The ability to connect digitally is now so far reaching that even Airbnb hosts are making appearances on Facebook. “I’ve got 11,000 reviews and 4,000 bookings that all look the same, but they’re actually from a different host,” said Lakenya Hall, who owns two guest houses on Airbnb in Cape Town, South Africa, and found herself adding a video chat overlay on some of the listings.
What is the future of virtual events?
These increasingly complex online events have a real-life footprint, since audience members wear wearable devices that prompt events to respond in real time. Any software has a wide range of possibilities for incorporating this feedback and interaction. These increasingly complex online events have a real-life footprint, since audience members wear wearable devices that prompt events to respond in real time. Any software has a wide range of possibilities for incorporating this feedback and interaction. Online events have powerful online real-time analytics. Virtual events bring in massive numbers of viewers and listeners, so organizers can track conversations online.
I’m cautiously optimistic about the future. I think that the tide has turned to be more accepting of people who believe they were born with a special ability and that they’re wasting their time and energy doing mundane tasks. As a result, some will take creative liberty with how they live and work and harness the power of their imagination. If nothing else, I’m cautiously optimistic that by 2020, we’ll have a better handle on our internal clock, and our business will take a turn for the better.