Yes, Covid-19 is now endemic. It’s not a pandemic. That said, no one likes to get sick – whether the illness is the flu, a stomach virus, Covid-19, pink eye, strep throat or a cold.
And hopefully we can all agree on this – illnesses spread more and increase in winter.
After Covid-19, it makes sense that many people still don’t want to get into large groups, in confined indoor spaces, unless an event really, really matters to them.
However, you can still connect with customers, like minded souls, vendors, partners and more by hosting virtual events. While most people roll their eyes about the idea of a Zoom media, they’re more open to the idea of a virtual event – that they can pop into and out of.
So here, we’ve listed the benefits of virtual events, and the best virtual event platforms.
Table of Contents
The Benefits of Virtual Events
Virtual event platforms offer ways to conduct information sessions, product showcases, live e-commerce auctions, conferences, trade shows, webinars, and meetings, making it possible to connect with a huge audience from the comfort of our own germ-free homes. And if you are overwhelmed by the idea of hosting a virtual event, we can handle the set up, event and post event evaluation for you.
More Participants From the Whole World
One of the most significant advantages of virtual events is that the participants’ geographical locations don’t matter. As long as you don’t need to deliver a product to a person face-to-face, or the person needs to get tangible goods from you, participants can be anywhere. The only issue to consider when it comes to location is time zones.
Hosting in-person events can be costly, with expenses for decor, venue rental, travel, accommodations, food and drinks. Virtual events significantly reduce if not eliminate these expenses. Everyone wins – the organizers and the participants. Cost savings are particularly important for small businesses, non-profits, schools, startups, and organizations with limited budgets.
With no need to travel or take time off work, participation becomes more feasible for people who might be interested in your event.
Enhanced Data and Analytics
Virtual events provide a wealth of data of participants and analytics that can help organizers improve future events. These insights include where participants live, what attracted them to your event, where they found out about your event and more. You also have their email addresses, which you can then potentially reuse for marketing purposes. With this data in hand, organizers can refine their strategies and create more targeted events in the future.
Traditional in-person events often leave a significant carbon footprint due to travel, printed materials, and on-site energy consumption. Virtual events are by nature eco-friendly. And concern for the environment is of huge importance to almost everyone.
Low Pressure Networking Opportunities
Just because an event is online doesn’t mean people don’t interact. Many platforms offer networking features, such as virtual lounges, chat rooms, chat boxes, breakout groups and one-on-one video meetings. It’s not exactly like face-to-face networking, but some people actually prefer that. People who are introverts may actually enjoy communicating with others at a slower pace, in quieter atmospheres and even through typing instead of talking.
Virtual events are incredibly flexible, allowing attendees to drop in and drop out when it suits them best. You can even record sessions so that people can watch it on-demand later. You can also use clips from the sessions on your social media and website.
Easy Way for Those Seeking a Better Life Work Balance to Participate
Traditional events often demand extended time commitments due to travel and on-site requirements. Virtual events reduce financial and time investment, as attendees can join from the comfort of their homes or offices. This is particularly important in a world where people are increasingly valuing work-life balance.
Unlike physical events that are one-time occurrences, virtual events are usually recorded (although you should make it clear in writing and orally that events are recorded) and can be repurposed. This allows organizers to extend the lifespan of their content.
The Cons of Virtual Events
Virtual events have undeniably changed the landscape of gatherings and conferences, but they are not without some negatives. After all, historically, people are used to mingling in person. Eye popping demonstrations don’t pack as much punch through a screen. And people are easily distracted when they’re at home.
Limited Personal Interaction
One of the primary drawbacks of virtual events is the limited personal interaction. Unlike in-person events, virtual gatherings don’t have spontaneous, face-to-face interactions that often lead to meaningful relationships. Sure, you can put people into virtual groups. But there’s none of the random small talk that happens in elevators or when people bump into old acquaintances. The absence of handshakes, eye contact, and spontaneous conversations can make events feel less fun and meaningful.
Technical difficulties can be a significant source of frustration during virtual events. Internet connectivity problems – on either the presenter’s end or the attendees end – are very common. Then there are audio or video issues, and platform glitches can disrupt the event’s flow and engagement. Conversations aren’t as free when people forget to unmute themselves. That’s why it’s good to have IT professionals on your side, to handle tech issues in the presenter’s room, and to handle any tech issues attendees may be having.
Maintenance of Attention
Keeping participants engaged throughout a virtual event can be difficult. There are so many other things for attendees to do when they’re not in the room with the presenter. It’s easier for attendees to become distracted, multitask, or disengage when they are not physically present in a conference room or exhibition hall. And people just find excuses to not pay attention at home or when they’re in the office. They can check email, or go for a walk if the weather is nicer than expected. Or maybe catch a new episode of the Real Housewives.
Screen Fatigue and Unknown Mental Health Effects
Prolonged screen time can lead to screen fatigue, a growing concern in the age of virtual events. People just get tired and bored staring at a screen for extended periods. Sitting at a computer for too long can cause eye strain, fatigue, aches and pains and for some people – depression. One best practice is to not require everyone to turn on their cameras. Some people get overly anxious seeing themselves. Some people are embarrassed about their backgrounds. And let’s face it – some people may not want to get out of pajamas.
Lack of Spontaneity
In virtual events, spontaneous interactions and networking are often limited to scheduled breaks or specific breakout sessions. The absence of impromptu discussions and casual bathroom conversations can hinder the exchange of ideas and creativity that often occurs at in-person events.
No Hands-On Experiences
For certain types of events, such as demonstration expos or hands-on workshops, virtual platforms may not be fulfilling. Attendees may miss out on the opportunity to touch and feel products, test software or technology, or participate in interactive demonstrations. If you have a lot of tactile products or demonstrations, you may want to send attendees samples ahead of time (if that’s feasible) or keep sessions that require touch short.
Virtual events can be susceptible to security issues, such as unauthorized access, data breaches, Zoom bombs and cyberattacks. Some hackers have gotten into virtual events, and bombarded attendees with hateful comments in the chat room. Ensuring the security of event platforms and the privacy of participant data is a growing concern for event organizers. You can limit the number of attendees, require registration and more to prevent security issues.
Don’t assume everyone has the greatest computer at home. Not all potential attendees have access to the technology – hardware or software – required for virtual events. Some individuals may lack a reliable internet connection, suitable devices, or the skills necessary to navigate the virtual event platform. Older audiences may (not necessarily but may) be less tech savvy.
Our Favorite Virtual Event Platforms
Zoom is a household name, primarily known for its video conferencing capabilities. However, it’s also a powerful virtual event platform that has gained immense popularity during the pandemic. It offers various features such as breakout rooms, chat, and screen sharing. Zoom Webinar, a specialized version, allows you to host webinars with hundreds or even thousands of participants. With integrations, analytics, and a user-friendly interface, Zoom is an excellent choice for a wide range of virtual events. The only real downside is this: People have become quite familiar with the term “Zoom Fatigue.” Sometimes, seeing that it’s on Zoom may detract them from applying.
Price: Zoom Webinars start at $149 per year for a 500 person limit.
Hopin is a virtual event platform that has quickly gained recognition for its comprehensive suite of tools. It supports live streaming, breakout rooms, networking lounges (something Zoom doesn’t do well) and virtual exhibitor booths. Hopin’s is user-friendly, making it ideal for conferences, expos, and webinars.
Price: You can get a quote on their site or contact them.
Remo provides an interactive and immersive virtual event experience. They even offer virtual tables and chairs so people feel more “in person.” Remo’s whiteboard and screen sharing features also make it an excellent choice for collaborative projects.
Price: Starts at $350/month
Cisco Webex includes options like breakout sessions, interactive polls, and secure attendee registration. Webex’s focus on security and integration with other Cisco tools makes it a preferred choice for organizations with stringent security requirements, such as finance and health fields. It’s also one of the most affordable options.
Price: Plans start for free.
Microsoft Teams does more than you realize. They also host virtual events. as well. Integration with Microsoft 365 makes it seamless for organizations already using Microsoft’s suite of tools.
Pricing: Starts at $4 per month
The virtual event platform you pick depends on the specific needs of your event, the size of your audience, and your budget. We can help you figure out the best platform based on your brand, style of communication and budget. And of course, we’ll help run the event and lead post-event analysis so you can do the next one better.