The event industry, like so many others, has been rocked by the global pandemic. Conferences had to be completely overhauled in order to exist in a virtual space. While the segment has been hit hard, conference producers are fighting back even harder to present well thought out, content-driven, (of course) all-virtual events.
It should come as no surprise that virtual conferences will be the norm well into 2021. Northstar Meetings Group’s Northstar’s Pulse Survey found that a strong majority of planners (71%) intended to resume face-to-face events no earlier than the second quarter of next year. Given the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, in-person conferences will not take place in the foreseeable future.
As virtual conferences aren’t going away for at least the beginning of 2021, we decided to take a look at what’s good and what’s not so good about them.
Virtual conference pros.
- Reduced costs. Reduced registration rates allow people who might not otherwise be able to participate the opportunity to expand their industry knowledge through virtual attendance. Furthermore, a broader audience can be reached since there are no travel expenses incurred; companies may be willing to send additional people because of those savings.
- Access to more content. Pre-recorded presentations and on-demand viewing allow for watching on your own time, which means access to more content. Additionally, with on-demand capabilities, there’s no need to choose between presentations that are offered at the same time.
- Networking platforms. The ability to easily connect with fellow attendees through a conference networking platform makes it easy to schedule one-on-one meetings or to facilitate small breakout groups. Attendees can also engage directly with conference speakers and key industry leaders through these platforms.
- Virtual exhibiting/gamification. Virtual exhibit halls are being designed to give attendees the feel of actually being at the event. Some conferences incorporate gamification by using an app that includes tailored games—such as trivia questions and scavenger hunts—to help increase audience engagement within a virtual exhibit hall.
Virtual conference cons.
- No face-to-face interaction. Sometimes the best connections are made during organic conversations that arise while exploring an exhibit hall, standing in the lunch line, or walking to a presentation room. We’re also missing those post-conference happy hours and outings, which have always been an opportune time to catch up with old friends and make new connections.
- Traveling to a designated location helps make conference sessions the top priority in an attendee’s day. When virtually attending, it’s easy for people to multi-task, playing the conference in the background while catching up on day-to-day tasks.
- Virtual exhibiting. Even with gamification and other incentives, it can be challenging to get attendees to engage with virtual booths. Plus, there is no swag being handed out – admit it, you miss going booth-to-booth in an exhibit hall to collect pens, thumb drives, and all things tchotchke-related.
The similarities between an in-person conference and a virtual conference are that you get out of it what you put in. Virtual conferences still provide a key platform for spreading brand awareness, networking opportunities, and developing lead generations. Both attendees and presenters simply have to put in the time and effort to make the connections, and it’s definitely different than when physically at an event.
We at Praxis are still sponsoring conferences and sending our colleagues to attend virtual events. Get in touch with us to find out which conferences are on our calendar. And, until we’re able see you in-person at our exhibit booth, stay safe and keep washing your hands. Praxis-branded sanitizer, anyone?