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Are Virtual Events Here to Stay?

For over a year, the world has seen how virtual events do what in-person events can’t: Reach far wider audiences and build awareness in ways we hadn’t previously imagined.

It turns out they’ve been much more than a substitute for in-person events during a pandemic. From a business perspective, a live-streamed show or virtual summit offers a lot of advantages that ensure the audience will stick around even after herd immunity is reached. They’re accessible to more people and places, lineups of speakers are easier to book, and they offer an extended lifetime for on-demand content.

There has been quite a bit of analysis of the use of virtual events during the pandemic, and the results probably won’t shock you. According to LinkedIn’s State of Virtual Events Report:

  • Most event marketers globally (75%) plan to continue running virtual events in the future.
  • The average event marketer plans to run more virtual events (40%) than in-person ones (34%).
  • In the aftermath of the pandemic, only a quarter (25%) planned to hold hybrid events.

So, where does that leave marketers now that the world’s economies are opening back up?

How Virtual Events Will Evolve

What specific type of virtual event continues will depend on how much it’s working now. Along with its other report, LinkedIn’s pocket guide to virtual events notes how the pandemic has changed what audiences demand. At the top of the list are “concise, video-driven experiences that are imaginative, entertaining and come with TV-standard production.” So, it stands to reason that marketing teams will innovate their formats accordingly.

On a broader scale, consider Spain an example of what worked and will continue to work. Virtual event marketers there viewed the medium’s ability to broaden their reach as even more important than its being an answer to Covid-related limitations. Yet they were still able to engage consumers successfully at every point of their audience’s journey. The areas where they excelled will likely be replicated elsewhere by others hoping for online event success, by:

  • Prioritizing promotion beforehand
  • Using engagement as an internal KPI during the event to measurethe performance of a specific internal goal
  • Touching base afterward

Another way to think of your post-pandemic virtual events is this: don’t view them in a vacuum or create them for the sake of having an event. Be sure your virtual event will function as a catalyst for growing the number of touchpoints you hope to create with your prospects. When you also use sales as an internal metric, you’re more likely to see an improvement in overall sales performance.

How Marketers Can Approach Virtual Events Moving Forward

Some marketers have been viewing virtual events more as a specifically targeted tool than a comprehensive antidote to limitations posed by Covid. And that’s a pretty smart approach. Much of the world remains in flux, so naturally, businesses need ways to reach people that can adapt to the circumstances of the moment.

You may end up using a combination of virtual and physical events targeting different areas. Marketers will use virtual means to target the upper funnel and reach users before they are aware of the brand or product. That’s because live video and on-demand follow-ups can work over a longer timeframe than a physical event. Meanwhile, in-person events will focus on what they do best: one-on-one interactions with buyers and targeting shoppers with the potential to buy.

What About In-Person Events?

As long as there are living, breathing extroverts in the world, we will continue to have in-person events. In the LinkedIn guide, interviews with 1,830 marketers responsible for events in 13 different countries shined a light on what’s to come in the world of traditional events. Most respondents still said they want in-person events to return to a primary role. Marketers and sales teams miss “serendipitous encounters, organically generated opportunities, the extended attention you get from attendees and the excitement generated by sharing a room with big-name speakers.”

In other words, some things can’t be pulled off quite as well online, no matter how strong your wi-fi and marketing team are.

This past year has truly redefined what we mean when we talk about events, and the story isn’t finished yet. Neither is the pandemic. As long as your team can bring people together online, build excitement, engage audiences, and strengthen relationships, virtual events can play an important role in your future marketing plans.

At Connections Marketing, our team has the expertise to create a host of strategies – both virtual and in person – in marketing programs to drive sales. Our experts can discuss crafting a marketing plan that matches your specific needs. Contact us today to find out more!

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