Still thinking about going Virtual or are you ready to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty?

It is easy to make the same mistakes here that one makes in a flesh-and-blood event. The blood shows immediately though. So execute a virtual event smartly.

A lot of event bandwidth and goals are being digressed towards the virtual mode after precautionary and regulatory measures are forcing many big and small events to surrender to the global outbreak’s impact.

The event industry will have to swallow this impact hard. After all, it is a lot of money and business we are talking about here. As much as $621.4 billion (US) of direct GDP that business events are worth! Yes, they contributed a total GDP impact (global gross domestic product) of $1.5 trillion. On a global level, business events totted up to more than 10.3 million jobs directly and affected a total of 25.9 million.

The study ‘Global Economic Significance of Business Events’ from Oxford Economics (EIC and its partners) showed that fifty countries accounted for 96 percent of the overall $1.07 trillion (US) in direct spending. China was in the top five. Asia emerged as the largest region in terms of business event participants – almost one-third of 1.5 billion total worldwide.

So it is understandable to hear the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) get serious about the economic impact of Coronavirus – ‘the situation is really in its early stages, and it’s very uncertain about how far it will spread and what the macroeconomic effects will be in China and its immediate trading partners and neighbors and around the world.’

That is why going virtual seems to be the second-best alternative here. It is a lot of money and economic impact riding on a postponed or cancelled event.

The question is how to make this money still work. How to ensure that the virtual event really leverages its technology edge without sacrificing the intended outcomes of a physical event?

Like account-based-marketing, it all depends on what you measure and how well you measure it. So when it comes to a virtual event, take the inch-tape to these areas:

  • Obvious advantages like – Cost savings, travel time saved, geographical coverage, time-zone flexibility and Audience tracking
  • Event customisation – because technology not only makes it possible but also makes it very granular – deep to the level of individual participants
  • Intimacy – Virtual events can immerse attendees in a variety of formats thanks to AI, VR, and AR that can hop a lot of customer-experience hoops. This makes it possible for virtual events to really raise customer engagement
  • Elasticity of formats and tools – It would be silly to use the best of technologies without playing with their sheer diversity and adaptability to a multitude of event needs, audience type and session goal
  • Storyboarding and contextual experiences – Templates and augmentation allow event planners to really dip in their attendees in the mood, environment, and mind space they want – a virtual event can easily convert absence of real environment into a rich and immersive environment
  • Live and post-event action: It becomes very simple and real-time to track individual and go down the funnel of sales and lead management by using virtual event agents

That said, it is easy to relax too soon thinking it is ‘just a virtual event’. Simply picking any virtual tool will not do the trick. One needs to pay ruthless attention to some easy virtual-pitfalls

  1. Copy-pasting a physical event whiteboard to a virtual event strategy – it’s similar but not the same. Orient the goals, formats and execution well to the new set-up
  2. Scalability can be a hiccup – That’s why pick experts who have handled these events at a considerable scale and for a variety of customers
  3. Over-estimating technology and inadequate testing of basic networking, connectivity and device-readiness – Do not go lazy, the old rule still applies. Test everything. Before the curtains roll
  4. Settling for crude technology – Just because no one can see it live does not mean any average VR tool or chat system would do. A small oversight on any part of an event experience can cost attendee’s attention and word-of-mouth in an expensive way
  5. Taking content for granted – Not being there means the content has to work extra hard to keep everyone in their seats. It is easy for fatigue and disillusionment to come in when one is browsing a virtual event. Taking care of real-life distractions. The monotony of virtual content can be quite tricky. Best left to experts.

So if you have made the choice to go virtual, you are already on the right track. Just make sure that the execution aligns with the new strategy. The goals and challenges, like the humans you are engaging, are still not-all-virtual.

With just a button to press and not a flight to catch. All the more easy to capture, or otherwise? You decide.


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