At this year’s International Confex, there was much discussion in the seminars about how virtual events are changing the way people meet. But is this change for the better or is it detrimental to the industry? Kevin Leaver, weighs up the facts:
There’s no doubt about it, the options that are open to event organisers are changing. Conferences and meetings now have to accommodate an audience that has technology at its fingertips ready to log on and receive content whenever it wants, wherever it wants and however it wants.
In this case you might say that virtual conferences could be the ideal solution to increase attendance and enable a larger audience the opportunity to experience the content, especially when virtual events are often inexpensive compared to live events and can offer more flexibly and convenience to both speakers and ‘attendees’. What’s more, international delegates could also attend with the ability to go back and listen at any time if the session is recorded.
But, consider your audience’s needs: is face-to-face interaction an essential element of your event? The answer is probably yes to the majority of events, for example networking, seminars and workshops, teambuilding sessions, and exhibitions would arguably never work as an entirely virtual event. Experiential events such as product launches could also never be replaced. Such events are designed to bring elements to an audience that can’t be achieved online, appeal to their senses and allow them to interact with the company and its products.
A hybrid event, however, could serve two audiences; those who can’t attend the physical meeting as well as providing extra content whilst in the session for attending delegates to bring a different dimension to the experience.
If we take a large-scale conference, for example in which you present and discuss your company’s current initiatives, your latest project could be filmed explaining how it works with exclusive content available via an app or webinar for those who cannot attend as a ‘virtual reality’ experience. While, for those attending the face-to- face conference, augmented reality could be used to bring the video to life in session, providing an incentive to attend by enhancing the live event.
The possibility of hybrid conferences and meetings is now completely feasible for the majority of event managers given that you’d struggle to find a venue now that doesn’t have the technical capacity to deliver this. At Millbrook Venues we have a dedicated venue technician for every event to allow clients to maximise return on investment and make the most of their conference.
It’s clear to see that hybrid events are undoubtedly going to become increasingly frequent in our industry as they offer event organisers the option to reach a wider audience at low cost and allow delegates that can’t attend to derive some value from the content. Furthermore, the technology offered at the live-event, if a hybrid platform, will make the event stand out from the rest.
At present, I think there is still demand for a face-to-face experience no matter what type of conference or meeting you may be attending, and delegates expect this to be continued and enhanced post live-event using the available technology.
Having said this, I truly believe that the emotive response that is linked to the memory of a live experience, the experiential element, cannot be replicated; the buzz of the event, the atmosphere created by other attendees and the fundamental two-way interaction.
However, I’m sure in another five years my opinion may be different as technology advances and the needs of the consumer change yet again!