The current pandemic has forced event organizers to dramatically change their approach for the sake of the health and safety of their attendees. As per WHO’s recommendation on postponing or reducing mass gatherings which have the potential to amplify the spread of the virus, most event organizers made one of the following choices:
- Cancel the event for this year
- Postpone the event to a later date hoping the pandemic will end soon
- Convert it into a virtual event
According to the global association of the world’s leading trade show organizers and fairground owners, UFI, at least $26.3 billion worth of contracts were dropped as shows didn’t take place as planned.
Choosing what to do with the event is not easy. However, there are some vital questions you could ask as an organizer that would help you make informed decisions. For instance:
- If you cancel an event, will you be able to retain the attendees for the next year?
- If you take your event online, would you want to host the same set of attendees, or open it up to a global audience?
- How do you conduct an event virtually and still keep it relevant, especially now that your online event invites a wider demographic?
You might want to run your events online instead of canceling, just to ensure your attendees won’t forget you next year. However, if those events fail to provide value, you risk losing the reputation you’ve built with your attendees so far.
Canceling your event would mean refunding the sponsors and attendees. Running the event virtually would mean cutting down the ticket charges because you are not giving your attendees the experience you promised. Most organizers would just want to break even at this point.
There are other stakeholders who’d have to be answered or repaid, including suppliers, venue owners, speakers, exhibitors, or even venue decorators. We’ll talk about negotiation techniques and tips to handle each of them in subsequent blog posts.
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What should virtual events provide to compensate for the live events that have been canceled?
Most events that have been made virtual are run as a series of webinars recorded by the speakers in a distant location. However, events are supposed to be about experiences—forming personal connections and learning new insights to improve their business.
These are achieved when people network in real-time and learn new things that work for their business.
Create online experiences
Though technology providers try to handle the immediate need with video conferencing apps and other sets of communication tools, the real challenge lies in mimicking the experience of being present at an event. Today’s average virtual attendee can be seen with headphones on, watching a webinar, with a bowl full of popcorn at their side—a long way from the professional atmosphere of a live event. Creating an experience is not all about sights, sounds, and fun extras. It’s about the unified message that attendees take from the event.
Where buyers and sellers meet
For some brands, events can be a marketing activity, while for others, it may be a place where buyers and sellers meet and create new business connections. A good virtual event management tool should have features that let attendees to communicate with each other, so buyers and sellers easily strike up a conversation.
Seamless, fail-proof technology
Hosting your events online means they’re not confined to the area where you’re hosting the event, so they’re available globally. Since online events have the potential to gather a larger audience, the technology you use to host these events must be able to host a large number of attendees in its system without any breakage.
The impact of an event
Events are about engaging people and keeping them interested. Games, presentations, quizzes, speeches, and polls make your attendees feel included, which keeps them involved and engaged in the event for a long time.
Reduce the ticket price
However grand and engaging your virtual event is going to be, it won’t cost you as much as you would have spent on a live event because you don’t have to spend on the venue, transport, infrastructure, and so on. Since your expenses to run an online event are much lower, you have an opportunity to offer tickets at a fraction of the original price. If you have sponsors, you might even be able to make your event free for attendees.
Will virtual events ever replace live events?
However exciting the virtual event space gets, the emotional experience of meeting another person with similar interests will never fade out. It’s like asking someone if Netflix would replace movie theaters. No, not unless the focus lies entirely on the content and not the experience. The fear of losing human interaction is a major reason that a substantial amount of events still haven’t moved online.
If anything, virtual events are going to add to the live event experience, bringing in more audience, and introducing different opportunities for interaction. When all this ends, we are all going to be happy to meet each other again—in person. Events are going to be big, with a combination of both online and offline versions of the event. There will be more reach, retention, and recognition in each venture. Event organizers have to open up to a much bigger market to cater to.
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