During the worst of the novel coronavirus global pandemic, many organizations and companies were forced to take their conferences virtual or cancel them altogether. For event producers who didn’t have prior experience with the benefits of virtual conferences and hybrid events, they didn’t know what to expect in terms of participation or satisfaction.
Many had an an “ah-ha” moment, though, when they realized the benefits they could reap from virtual conferences as well as the many hassles of traditional events they avoided.
Here’s a run-down of our top 8 reasons to leave traditional conferences behind, and embrace the advantages of virtual and hybrid conferences:
One of the biggest benefits of ditching in-person conferences and going virtual is much greater accessibility since travel and lodging are effectively removed from the equation. This means a lot more people can participate in a virtual event from all over the world who might not otherwise be able to afford it. This is true not just for regular conference attendees, but also speakers and presenters.
Many conferences that went virtual during the peak of the pandemic saw record-setting registrations for their events, especially those that also went with reduced registration fees or no fees at all. The boost to their brand awareness they achieved by doing so was staggering in some cases.
If you go with an all-virtual conference event and remove all the costs associated with in-person events in terms of travel, lodging, catering, venue rental, and so on, there’s a clear pathway to big savings in both time and money.
If you go with a hybrid event, however, the calculus is different because you have costs associated with both the in-person and virtual aspects. Depending on the specific mix of traditional and virtual, a hybrid event may cost significantly more than an all-virtual event. In the final analysis, however, many have decided that the extra boost in wider participation and brand awareness due to the accessibility factor of virtual participants still made it a worthwhile undertaking.
3. Participant Engagement
Prior to the pandemic, uptake of virtual conferences was growing, but there were many who resisted the trend because they weren’t convinced a virtual event could be as engaging for participants as an in-person event. The good news is that the technologies and techniques of engaging participants, including the all-important networking function for conferences, have come a long way in recent years for virtual events.
With a virtual events platform with the right features built into it, concerns about engagement of and interactivity among participants have largely been erased. From chatrooms and message boards to live presentations with Q&A, break-out sessions, and gamification, virtual conferences can be just as engaging as in-person events.
4. Big Data
In-person conferences present all kinds of challenges when it comes to collecting data about the conference. Evaluation forms are tossed in the recycling bin, you won’t necessarily know which concurrent sessions participants attend, and so on. All this happens way more seamlessly and successfully in the virtual environment. The right virtual events platform has powerful data collection built in, along with powerful analytics to help you make sense of the data generated.
Virtual conference participants can be given all sorts of pop-up opportunities to provide feedback in real-time during the event and are more likely to provide that feedback because of how easy it is for them to do it. When your virtual events platform can easily track every presentation viewed, every click made, documents viewed, chat-room engagements, and so on, you’ll know far more about your event and the interests of participants than you could ever find out during or after an in-person event/
5. Convenient Content Consumption
One of the biggest benefits of virtual conferences is that they can offer a variety of ways for participants to access content with greater convenience than most in-person events. When participants wish they could access slides or other content from concurrent sessions they couldn’t attend, the virtual platform can make such content accessible with a simple click.
With many in-person events, participants must settle for whatever notes they took or conference proceedings that may not be available for weeks or months after the event, and which may not include all the information presenters made available on physical paper handouts.
Coordinating security at a traditional in-person conference can be a real hassle, but it’s something that must be done. The same holds true for virtual conferences, but it’s much easier to handle the cybersecurity of a virtual event depending on the platform you use to host the virtual event.
Not all virtual event platforms are created equal, but the best ones have made the security of your event and all the data it generates a top priority. Be sure to carefully examine the cybersecurity measures and features of any virtual event platform before using it to host your conference. When you choose the right platform, you don’t have to lift a finger for cybersecurity because it’ll be built into the platform itself.
7. Environmental Impact
When you think about all the travel, whether by plane, train, or automobile for speakers, presenters, and attendees to physically come to a traditional in-person conference, you’re looking at major amounts of carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to air pollution, global warming, and climate change.
This doesn’t mean a virtual conference is free from environmental impact. After all, digital technologies use a lot of electricity, much of which is still generated from burning fossil fuels. However, it’s safe to say a virtual conference has a much small environmental “footprint” than most traditional conferences.
Eliminating the travel factor to attend a conference by shifting from traditional in-person events to virtual events is good not only for the hosting organization or company, but also for participants. It means less time off from work, fewer arrangements for childcare or pet care, less personal risk that comes with all forms of travel, and so on. From a logistics angle, signing on to a virtual conference is a whole lot simpler than attending a traditional in-person event.
When you look at the eight advantages listed above of virtual conferences compared to traditional conferences, it’s easy to see why many businesses and organizations plan to stick with virtual events or hybrid events for the foreseeable future.
They are a powerful way to engage your audience while at the same time expanding the reach of your brand by allowing many more people to participate. Just keep in mind that not all virtual platforms are equal.
Be sure to do a thorough comparison of the top virtual & hybrid platforms before making a final decision.