If you are a meeting professional, COVID-19 is affecting your industry in a way that none of us could have ever imagined. Social distancing restrictions put in place by government officials have made large meetings and conferences almost obsolete for the near future. You may be asking yourself what you can do to keep your job and industry afloat? As more and more companies begin to transition to working from home, virtual events and online conferences are becoming more popular. Online conferences and virtual events can consist of virtual keynotes, webinars, and online courses and can be live or pre-recorded. Up to this point, virtual conferences were only popular in the tech and digital marketing world. Now that in-person events are on an indefinite hold, many industries are turning to virtual conferences for their teams. While virtual may not feel like the best option, it actually has a lot of hidden perks that we rarely think about.
Everyone Has a Front Row Seat
There is a level of intimacy that a virtual event holds that in-person does not. Speakers are talking directly to the viewer from their homes or studios. Attendees are granted an opportunity to see the space where the speaker works and creates. If the speaker has an additional talent (ex. Phil Hansen, an artist), you may be granted an exclusive look at their current projects or work. A virtual speaker’s words and ideas are inches from the viewer’s eyes and ears. It becomes easier to focus on what the speaker is saying rather than getting distracted by what else may be happening in the room. This can help to humanize the speaker and make them more relatable. It is easier to relate to someone when it feels like they are talking to only you vs. when they’re onstage and the hundreds of others they are speaking to are also visible to you.
More Opportunity to Have Your Questions Answered
Many speakers hold Q&As within their virtual presentations through various different online platforms and apps. While it is also common for speakers to hold Q&As at their in-person events, it is much easier to get to your question when you are sending it directly to the speaker. This is also a better option for those who may not be as extroverted and wouldn’t typically ask a question in a crowded space. In addition, this can help to weed out any questions that may be inappropriate. Some speakers go as far as answering questions they didn’t get to during the live event via email afterwards. There is less of an opportunity of this happening following an in-person event.
No Travel Required = Increased Attendance
You can watch virtual events from literally anywhere! Your home office, your kitchen, or even while lounging on your couch. Virtual events can be accessed from any device in any part of the world. It allows the speaker to address a wider audience. More people are likely to attend if they are able to watch on their iPad from their living room vs. a plane ride and weekend away from home. This can also be a more affordable option for companies who usually pay for their employees to travel to events.
In a world where a company’s social and environmental responsibility is having an impact on their business, sustainability is important. Due to less travel and less energy used to keep a large event venue running (lights, heat/air) a virtual event will have a smaller carbon footprint. There is also no printing hundreds of brochures or hand-outs, you just email attendees all of the materials they may need to reference throughout the presentation. According to meetgreen.com, the typical conference attendee produces 4 pounds of garbage per day. If you take the number of attendees X the number of days X 4 it equals a whole lot of unnecessary waste! This also helps companies where the current climate crisis is important to their cause. Going virtual could be a great business decision for the environmentally conscious.
It is important to think about the long term effects that the Coronavirus will have on our industry. Even as social distancing restrictions begin to lift, will people want to travel on planes, stay in hotels, and/or attend a conference with hundreds of other people in very close proximity to each other? Event Professionals need to adapt to the idea that virtual may be here to stay for a while. While that may seem scary, it’s not all bad! If we take a step back and look at the big picture, the pros to virtual events will become more and more apparent. While virtual may not feel like the best option, it actually has a lot of hidden perks that we rarely think about.