Let’s face it, the pandemic changed the ways organization members interact with one another in many ways. Organizations were forced to quickly pivot to using virtual and hybrid (a mix between virtual and in-person) solutions to carry on their missions of providing quality educational experiences.
Despite the initial challenges, what we learned was that online events have many benefits. That’s why, even post-pandemic, online event management tools will remain an essential component for event organizers.
Today’s technology has made virtual event hosting easier, but if your goal is to promote a strong image and seamless experiences, not just any technology will do. You likely need dedicated virtual event software.
Today, we’ll discuss what a virtual event platform is, common reasons for using them, the benefits of using a dedicated platform, and the different types of virtual events.
What Is a Virtual Event Platform?
A virtual event platform is a solution that combines a variety of tools to promote, organize, and host interactive, online events. Through specialized virtual event management software, organizers are able to broadcast content while engaging virtual audiences through interactive experiences. Organizations can charge a fee for attendance, using online payment services, or offer them for free.
Top 6 Benefits of Using a Virtual Event Platform
What are the goals of your digital events? Here’s what may make virtual events an essential component of your event planning
toolbox in the years ahead:
1. Greater audience reach
2. Lower marketing/operating costs
3. Provide valuable data
4. Providing education
5. Extend the life of your event
6. Sponsorship and exhibitor exposure
1. Greater Audience Reach
When planning an event in-person, you have to look at the convenience of the venue, accessibility for your target audience, if it’s large enough, and what the dropout rate may be due to unforeseen circumstances. Using a virtual event platform can drastically cut these concerns.
With virtual options, you can accommodate those who can’t or don’t want to attend in person. Attendees from all over the globe can attend a virtual event from the comfort of their homes or on the go, as long as they have a computer or mobile device and access to the internet. The ease in access can lead to higher attendance rates, especially if you offer on-demand viewing.
2. Lower Marketing/Operating Costs
When going virtual, you can focus your marketing efforts and budget online.
• Brand promotions won’t require printing costs for booklets, banners, etc. A virtual platform gives you greater control over the ROI of your ad spend through email marketing, search engine optimization, and more.
• Operating costs are kept to a minimum because you won’t be spending additional money on venue fees, lodging, food, or logistics.
• Your organization can save a lot regarding speaker’s travel and lodging fees.
• Overall, virtual events demand less investment than physical events with more returns.
3. Provide Valuable Data
Collecting data is an essential part of planning for future events. A digital event platform can provide you with useful information such as:
• Attendee lists
• Session or track attendance/engagement
• Networking activity
• Viewing times
• Sponsor/exhibitor booth activity/engagement
• Polling stats
• You can use this information to influence future marketing and business decisions by identifying messaging and content that resonates with your target audience.
4. Provide Education
A virtual event platform can provide your association members with a customized learning experience that’s accessible to them wherever they are in the world. Some of the beneficial features of using a virtual event platform include:
• Members can customize their learning paths, accessing the information that’s beneficial to them and skipping out on sessions that may not be of as much value to them
• Breakout rooms for participants to discuss materials in between sessions
• Attendees can keep track of their continuing education credits
• Event organizers can easily keep track of which sessions members attended
5. Extend the Life of Your Event
Did you know that most attendees only experience 10% to 25% of the education provided?
Providing access to recorded sessions gives your attendees the ability to access content all year long, reinforcing the value of the education, benefits of being a member of your organization, and the ROI of attending your meeting.
You can also generate revenue through content capture through the sale of sessions or by packages. Monetizing content by rebroadcasting sessions or creating virtual events can help you drive revenue and further engage your audience.
6. Sponsorship and Exhibitor Exposure
Partnering with sponsors and exhibitors is one of the most effective ways to generate revenue and increase ROI.
Virtual event platforms enable sponsors and exhibitors to interact with attendees through meeting rooms, video conferencing, and virtual booths.
Sponsors and exhibitors can gain exposure by featuring them on your event landing page during event promotion, including them in event emails, pre-recorded event videos and interviews, sponsored breakout sessions, inclusion in presentation slides, and platform exposure with banner ads.
Three Main Types of Virtual Events
Now that we have a better understanding of what a virtual event platform is and common reasons for using them, let’s take a look at the four main types of virtual events:
Virtual conferences involve a live and pre-recorded agenda, including sessions, keynotes, breakout sessions, and more. Virtual conference software allows attendees to interact with one another, build their own agenda, and view live keynotes.
Webinars are typically 1-2 hours in length and allow attendees from anywhere in the world to watch as one or more speakers present content. Managed webinar services often have a Q&A component, ability to present live or pre-recorded video, as well as the option to be offered on-demand afterward.
Hybrid events include both physical and online attendees, allowing your organization to significantly increase your overall attendance. This can include:
• Educational conferences
• Organization-wide events
• And more
Worldwide organizations often use hybrid events to share messages to the entire organization when members aren’t all in the same place. Virtual team-building activities also work well as hybrid events.
Events don’t have to just be limited to participants inside your organization. They can be a place for attendees of common interest or industry to exchange ideas, make major announcements, and share information. Examples include conferences and summits.
During this type of event, audience engagement not only extends to local participants, but also to off-site attendees. External attendees can participate in various parts of the meeting, such as poll questions and networking.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is, virtual and hybrid events are here to stay.
Embracing virtual platforms can help you create online events that mirror the experience of an in-person event, while bringing in and engaging a larger, diverse audience. Hosting a virtual or hybrid event can extend the reach of your message; increase participation, ROI, and cost-efficiency; and provide valuable insights.
If this sounds like something your organization can benefit from, get more free resources about virtual event production here.