The breadth and depth of analysis from eMarketer's principle analyst Jillian Ryan was impressive to say the least. Informed by data collected from around the events industry, Jillian was able to uncover key findings and trends in virtual events. And what was really cool about this session, is that she was able to create a data-driven view of the future of events in 2021. No this wasn't more crystal ball prophesizing, but predictions based on hard data. Here are three key takeaways from Allie's conversation with Jillian.
1. Virtual Events aren't going anywhere
This is probably pretty obvious based on the title of the session Virtual Events Are Here to Stay: Are You Prepared? But the implications of this statement are profound. It means that an industry that has resisted digitization for years has finally embraced a digital future, along with it's rapid pace of innovation. So to all the planners that have been waiting for in-person events to return and have refused to learn the virtual venue, it's time to reconsider your strategy. It also means that when in-person events return, they are going to look completely different. We've got a lot to learn to prepare for this future and it's going to require a rethink of experiential design to create a compelling hybrid experience.
2. We need to retrain sponsors
Providing our sponsors value was one of the first challenges faced in the transition to virtual events. And it continues to be a challenge for many planners and sponsors. But this absolutely does not mean virtual events can't or don't provide value to sponsors. In fact, in many ways the opposite is true. Virtual events provide a treasure trove of data, much of which is super valuable to sponsors and could help them warm-up leads and slot them further down the funnel. The challenge has come from the fact that most of us are unfamiliar with the virtual format. As Jillian said in her analysis, we have to throw out our in-person playbook.
Unlike an in-person event, if you just sit in your virtual booth, you will never get any leads. Like an in-person event, if your team is proactive and is engaging with the event, attending sessions and meeting people, your going to get a lot more leads. And the cool thing about the virtual environment, is it's a lot easier to get someone in a session chat to come check out your booth. If your offering a piece of content or consultation that is related to what the speaker is talking about, then it's basically a done deal. As long as you are helpful, friendly, and providing something of value, people will come to hear what you have to say.
As planners, set expectations with your sponsors and exhibitors that they will have to put in some effort to get leads and then provide training on how to do that. They will be a heck of a lot happier than if they just sat in their booth and you gave them a list of cold leads after the virtual event.
3. Planners are expecting their full budgets to return
On the surface this may not seem all that shocking or groundbreaking, but it presents a challenge if the industry will move towards a hybrid future. Why you ask? Because a hybrid event is really two events—an in-person event and a virtual event. Sure they may happen at the same time and contain many of the same sessions and other content, but they are still happening in two places with two distinct audiences. Each audience and venue has their distinct costs, especially the in-person element. And the tech to seamlessly connect those two audiences is going to cost even more money. All of this is to say that if planners are only going to get 100% of their previous budget, then they are not going to be able to produce the same quality or quantity of events. This could mean that virtual events are going to stay even longer, that they will be a much larger portion of the hybrid experience, or that planners will host fewer events. We don't have a crystal ball, but it's going to be a challenge we need to solve as an industry.
If you want to hear the full discussion rather than just some of the takeaways, you can head on over here, to view the full recording. It's got all the stats, trends and analysis that Jillian made. As a bonus, you'll get a copy of our Data-Driven Virtual Event guide, which will show you how to use your event data to improve your virtual event in real-time, and ensure that you get your sponsors the information they need to drive their sales cycle forward.