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Events are the order of life for businesses. Conventions, conferences, product launches, etc, are avenues for people to meet and engage, make defining connections, and showcase their prowess to the world. The unprecedented onset of a pandemic has disrupted these possibilities, resulting in the cancellation of major events across the globe – the likes of which include Facebook’s F8 Conference and the Mobile World Congress.

It is impossible to have a physical live event anytime soon, which has opened doors for conferences and events in the virtual space. It may be noted that digital events/conferences are not an invention that was forced when COVID 19 came knocking; it was there ever since broadband was. And so is the case with online professional learning, casual meets, etc. 

But as they say, necessity is the mother of all inventions. The COVID-19 pandemic is causing a shift towards specialized and local digital conferences.  At a time when most in-person conferences and events are being cancelled, organizations are experimenting with different virtual approaches like zoom/google meetings, other modes of web conferencing, video conferencing, PC based virtual conferences, etc, to maintain their position as thought leaders and industry experts. 

Benefits

Let’s start on a positive note by highlighting some of the notable benefits the platform offers:

  • Paves the way for more widespread distribution of events. It is a gateway for people who couldn’t have otherwise made the journey owing to distance or disabilities.
  • Brings life to events through interactive elements that can boost marketing efforts. It provides an emotional connect, which almost always leads to increased conversion rates. (Read More – to be redirected to our Website)
  • Empowers organizers to invest more on relevant speakers who could be most appropriate for an event, irrespective of where they live and their proximity to the venue of the event.

Did you know? 86% of those who have participated in online meetings report equal or higher levels of engagement to that of in-person meetings. 

Challenges 

Despite its vast potential and benefits, the road isn’t straight for this platform. Here’s why: 

  • Many of the current event platforms could improve a lot in terms of engaging the audience. It is not immersive enough. 
  • Complicated or flaky log-in processes and event experiences rule out audiences. You have just about 30 seconds of buffer time to re-engage your audience after a technical glitch.
  • Organizers may need a lot of time to deal with the procurement, implementation, and integration process of their event technology systems.
  • Networking, which is the main purpose of corporate events, requires a change in thinking and adoption of technical tactics to flourish.

Notable Examples 

  • Netflix, the streaming service that entertained and kept people at their homes during this season of uncertainty, is doing the same for its award campaign. Through FYSEE TV, Netflix brings home everything people love about exhibitions – the screenings, Q&A sessions, and even food (through food vouchers). 
  • Brit award-winning band Kasabian rendered a toe-tapping virtual experience to music fans for their gig at the O2 Academy, Brixton. The 360-degree camera gigs and binaural audio microphones captured the gig from places that may otherwise be inaccessible to fans. The virtual show managed to significantly impact the global fan base of the band.
  • Who said that virtual events cannot draw audiences? And we are talking about the pre-COVID times here. An acclaimed electronic violinist, dancer, and singer-songwriter Lindsey Sterling’s VR violin performance brought in a live audience of 4 lakh viewers from across the globe, way back in September last year when COVID 19 was unheard of.
  •  Yard Con 2020, a Digital Conference by Watch the Yard, brought students together in an interactive digital conferencing platform. The event paired them with influential, informative, and inspirational speakers, including mental health professionals and LinkedIn representatives 
  • Jean Michael Jarre, former President of CISAC (International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers) & French Electronic Music Pioneer, held a concert on June 21st this year. The virtual event brought in thousands of viewers across both VR and non-VR streaming options (like YouTube), and featured classic fixtures of an electronic show: crazy beats, dazzling lights, colour-changing screens, and a digital trip of sorts (YouTube Link).

“When cinema first came, people thought it was a magic trick, like a circus. They didn’t think it could be art, and people didn’t understand it. I think VR is seeing the same phenomenon now.” – Jean Michael Jarre 

A Future Perspective

The event management industry is witnessing a notable shift in event meetings until 2021. A Northstar Meetings Group survey indicates that event planners are seeing increasing demands for all things digital for the next 1-2 years.

This trend is expected to continue even after the Pandemic sets sail. People and companies are getting comfortable with remote work and the trend is unlikely to be less significant anymore. Similarly, people may prefer events in the digital space due to the complete lack of travel and organization.

Smaller and local conferences could form a part of the first wave of live digital events post-pandemic. This is because it would take a long time before people and companies feel confident about travelling and attending large gatherings again.

In the lot-so-long future, the experience of virtual events would only get better. Event organizers can take heart from the fact that companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google are working on Augmented Reality glasses that would allow people to visit virtual events without a full VR headset. Currently, audiences can use a VR headset like a Vive or Oculus Quest/Rift and appear on stage, to make speeches just as a keynote speaker would do on the real stage. People can move around the virtual stage and embed presentations using Keynote, PowerPoint, or video on a virtual screen. 

Apps like Zoom and Google Meet are increasingly getting user-friendly for people, with special background orientations where people could present themselves with their best attires and background. This suggests that the future for webinars and PC based virtual conferences are bright. 

Take-Aways

As observed already, in-person events and conferences may not hit the surface again for some time, but the digital space provides organizers with a tactical advantage, especially when it comes to audience comfort. It is just a matter of time until the technology becomes mainstream. There is a lot of work to be done of course, but virtual events are here to stay and redefine the way events are organized. Physical events will not completely go out of the window, but there’s a lot to look forward to the realms of remote space.