The Show Must Go On(Line)! - Exploring Virtual Events
The Pandemic Impact
With the Coronavirus epidemic continuing to be a hindrance to many businesses across the UK there has never been a more important time for conferencing and event companies to focus their efforts of what they can control to navigate the current climate.
With the business events space contributing to the worldwide economy to the tune of $1.5 trillion, the impact of Covid-19 has been enormous to companies providing events spaces and hosting venues across the globe.
In the UK, Conference News website reporting that over 100k jobs are due to be lost with venues losing up to £2.4 million in lost revenues which in some sections has spelled the end for some smaller venues and events spaces.
+ $1.5t Corportate Events Contribution to the Global Economy [trillions]
+ 1,100% Increase in YoY online events - April '19 vs April 20
+ 52k Some Online Suppliers Hosting as Many as 50k + Events
The Audience Response
Figure: Google Trends Graph – ‘Virtual events’ Global Search Term
Whilst some companies are finding this incredibly difficult, the digital world has experienced a surge in online events. People not being able to meet in large numbers has resulted in an upward trend, with Forbes reporting that since COVID-19 has taken hold, there has been 1000% increase in the number of events companies such 6connex has been hosting when compared to pre-covid levels.
Adapting to the 'New' Normal
Other platforms such as The Virtual Show, Adobe Connect and Accelevents which started life as webinar platforms have since adapted to the need for fuller, online conference experiences. Hosting a conference online now is now not as simple as broadcasting speaking events with a single screen and broadcasted over Zoom or YouTube – brands and event organisers need to offer an experience akin to if the user is there.
Brands now need to offer the technology to allow small groups to communicate, integrating speaking table technology such as Jitsi, which allows users to chat to one another whilst a conference stream is happening. There is also a need for virtual lobbies, exhibitor halls and spaces where users can network with one another.
Helping our Partners to Develop Virtual Platforms
At Radiator Digital, we are lucky to work with one of the world’s premier exhibition spaces, Edinburgh International Conference Centre, or EICC for short! When the pandemic hit, like many spaces which host events and conference their challenge was to replicate the world class experience they deliver in person and take it online so they can continue to offer a service which has allowed them to adapt to the current world we live in.
The solution we developed must showcase the EICC brand, whilst at the same time, be adaptable to accommodate the virtual/hybrid event needs – specific to each client. EICC’s ‘Make it Edinburgh Live’ portal has been designed to support these varying client needs; supporting integration with 3rd party technologies such as Zoom and Jitsi and we have also created an event maps feature which showcase promotes exhibitor booths in an interactive, visually engaging way. Enhanced features in the pipeline include a business card swapping service, allowing delegates to connect and exchange details, arrange meetings to chat– all of with the aim of boosting the overall user experience, the ability to connect and exchange ideas.
In addition to developing this virtual/hybrid events platform with the EICC, our Team has partnered with International virtual events provider, Malga. We have worked closely with their Team them to develop a digital presence to promote their virtual events platform and book a demo of this leading product, which allows event organisers to realise fully integrated events for their clients at a time when a new and innovative approach to traditional events has had to be embraced. We look forward to sharing our work upon the websites launch.
So, what makes a successful online event and what should you consider ahead of developing a platform to host conferences which you can upscale and continue to earn revenue:
- Make it Simple to Market
- The people who are best placed to promote an event are those who have a stake in it. Ensure they have the appropriate brand toolkit from logos to tone of voice so they can share through their channels – make it available online!
- Ensure Stream Provider / Partner is on the ball
- Live video enhances the experience of an event [especially if it’s a conference] so choose a stream provider you can rely on and has significant tech support on hand.
- Utilise the Medium to the Fullest
- With events and conferences going online you can utilise the opportunity to do thinks you may not have before! Utilise data to upsell talks, engage with users via email, talk directly to a mass audience who are in your [virtual space] to connect and find out what they want or need moving forwards.
- Make it Inclusive
- Ensure the website is capable of being inclusive and accessible as you would the in-person events you host. Ensure site fonts are large enough for readers and allow text sizes to be adjusted. Also, ensure your speakers are diverse so as many voices are represented as possible.
- Encourage Engagement
- Create and deliver as many opportunities for your event to engage your attendees. Ensure your platform either has a facility where users can connect either in virtual chat rooms or through chat boxes. Encourage people through the presentations to contribute and answer provocative questions! Also try polls, live tweeting, and quizzes to name a few!