The old school adopts a new groove.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This has seemingly been the motto for an event industry that’s been set in its ways for decades. Now, we are seeing benefits of virtual work that will carry forward to new standards for events.
Take my Dad for example. He is an old school salesperson who really sees value in doing things the way he always has. Flying to Denver to take a prospect to dinner and jotting his thoughts about it on a yellow notepad worked for a long time. Like all of us, he was forced to change his practices and recreate these interactions virtually, digitally. Now Zoom calls make him a more efficient salesperson and he can forego the TSA pat downs and cramped airline seats.
My Dad had to innovate and so did the event industry. Sure, we were using software for planning and production, but we were only using that technology in the service of how we’d always done things. Events were (and will continue to be) about making human connections. The status quo seemingly worked. Even though pretty much every other aspect of marketing had gone digital, events stayed in a rut.
Major events in every corner of the world were left with a simple choice in the wake of the pandemic: cancel or innovate. So that’s what we did for our clients at Hubb. We rolled out the digital transformation of event production in a matter of weeks instead of years.
Immediately discovering the value of virtual events.
Even as we iterated and improved from event to event, we quickly realized the significance of the paradigm shift that was taking place. No one thought it could work. There was a widespread acceptance that an event could not make an impact without in-person human interaction – until they saw it happening with their own eyes.
Our clients were blown away. At first, they viewed virtual events as a salvage operation. “Let’s make the most we can out of this, hope there aren’t too many complaints, and make a big splash at the Palms in Vegas next year.” Then, they started to see results from virtual events. Regional events become global. You get more attendees, more leads, better leads. By responding to feedback in real time to improve the user experience during the event, we get deeper engagement.
Event virtualization is necessary for our industry to grow and innovate. Once you free yourself from the convention center mindset, it’s pretty obvious that virtual or hybrid events can reach a larger, more diverse audience, more cost effectively for both attendees and event holders. That’s why I like to push the bounds on the thinking of whether virtual events will continue beyond 2021.
Virtual events are just beginning to iterate and improve.
I say be patient. The industry is innovating at a breakneck speed, constantly improving the virtual experience. Look at gaming. Players from all over the world experience something together, in real time, socializing with each other along the way.
And there’s a reason social media giants are pouring money into virtual and alternative reality technology. We’re just not that far away from event attendees putting on Oculus headsets and meeting in virtual settings capable of exceeding the limits of their imagination.
Consider what it would be like to virtually attend a tech conference using a VR headset that puts you in a breakout session on the production floor at Tesla or inside the SpaceX capsule. These are the types of technologies that will help take virtual events to the next level. You can’t tell me that won’t be more valuable than sitting in a rickety banquet hall chair squinting at a speaker from a hundred feet away.
Increasing personalization, improving results
We can continue to increase the accessibility and personalization of virtual events, which translates directly into a happier attendee, higher attendance, and better results. At a high level, it just costs less to attend an event virtually, so you can bring in more people from more places. During the registration and pre-event phase, we can leverage technology to tailor the user experience by helping them find content that is meaningful to them.
Qualifying event leads in real time
As the virtual event is underway, we know which attendees are attending this breakout session or listening to that speaker. At a traditional on-site event, attendees get a badge and a lanyard and a “Have a nice day.” Without making a sizable investment in badges with radio-frequency identification chips and towers throughout the venue, something few can afford, it’s almost impossible to know what’s happening on your event floor. That’s why it takes a lot of legwork during and after the event to qualify leads, determine their needs, and follow up appropriately. With a virtual event, we collect data about attendee interests and interactions as they happen — making it possible to qualify more leads and follow up with them almost immediately.
Virtual events are here to stay.
The event industry was forced to adapt quickly and get on a digital path the rest of the world has been steadily marching on for some time. These changes will be permanent, we are not going to snap back to the old way of doing things. There are certainly event types where a hands-on experience is beneficial, but even then, why would you give up the additional business and leads offered by adding a virtual element?
After vaccines are widely distributed, my Dad will probably still occasionally hop on a plane to make a sales call, but he’ll increasingly rely on video conferencing to make more sales calls in less time. Now that virtual and hybrid events are proven to work, there will need to be very compelling reasons for organizations to incur the cost of holding on-site only events or paying for their employees to attend them.
Virtual and hybrid events are just going to keep getting better. When we look at how much they’ve evolved in just a few months, imagine what they can be next year. To learn more about how Hubb can bring your next virtual event to life, sign up for a demo.
Founder and CEO