Going beyond the webinar
It’s not surprising that webinars and so called ‘virtual events’ have become such an important part of the marketing mix in 2020, as the pandemic has limited travel, face-to-face meetings and physical exhibitions across the world.
Forward-looking organisations were already moving towards replacing some of their physical events with digital alternatives even before the pandemic hit earlier this year, with a view to reducing their carbon footprint and increase their efficiency. Anyone working from home will know how much more they get done in a day without travel (home-life responsibilities notwithstanding!).
On this basis, webinars, online meetings and virtual events are likely to continue to play a key part in business life when the world eventually returns to ‘normal’ – sometime during 2021 we all hope.
The question is, however, are these alternatives really a satisfactory replacement for meeting customers, colleagues and prospects face-to-face?
What is a ‘virtual event’ really?
In my view, this all depends on the format of the event. If a ‘virtual exhibition’ is simply a website with each exhibitor managing their own webpage with a live chat feature, or a Zoom call with keynotes and breakout sessions, then the short answer is no.
However, there are a number of solutions out there – such as our own VCX Quantum – that creates a bespoke virtual environment similar to a modern computer game, where visitors can create an avatar and walk (or fly!) around an exhibition, conference or meeting; attend seminars; talk to other attendees as easily if they were face-to-face; and visit branded exhibition stands to collect product marketing collateral for later – then yes.
Saving time, money and the environment
This type of innovative approach is currently novel, meaning people want to attend just to experience it, but I believe digital events will only grow in popularity. Not only because they save time and money on travel, accommodation and exhibition/event space, but because you can create a truly immersive brand experience not possible in the real world.
We all look to next year with the hope that there will be some return to normality where we can once again have the choice and freedom to travel, meet friends and family, and work from a desk that’s not wedged in the corner of the bedroom.
Back to normal?
But will we be rushing back to spending time on the road or in the air when we could meet customers and colleagues face-to-face without leaving our desks? I for one think we’ll see a continuation of this seismic shift toward virtual events, even after this is over.