The world has shifted from in-person to virtual conferences and it’s been interesting to see how virtual spaces can still provide the genuine connections that we seek when attending a physical conference.
From Simulated Live to Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), physical conferencing spaces are being replicated in a unique digital format and even improved upon to offer attendees something beyond what traditional events can provide.
Here at Accelevents, we believe that virtual conferences are here to stay.
Let’s break down why:
How digital conferences work
Digital conferences are conferences hosted through a digital platform or virtual event technology. These conferences might have a similar structure when compared to a traditional conference but the event is hosted in an entirely online format.
Digital conferences can be live-streamed or presented in a webinar or simulated live format. They can also be part of a hybrid event format to allow an online audience to participate in events taking place in a physical location while still observing mandated gathering restrictions.
When hosting digital conferences, conference organizers rely on event technology. An event organizer might use a digital event platform like Accelevents, which is a virtual conference platform that facilitates event ticketing, event registration, attendee management, and additional functionality for a virtual meeting.
A digital conference may be organized into different parts and breakout sessions and arranged in terms of ‘rooms’. Each room would have a live presenter or presentation, live chat, and room moderator. Other rooms in the digital format might exist with aviators and AR sets.
In either case, a virtual space aims to organize the conference into a virtual format while still providing an experience similar to what can be had in a physical space. This creates a positive virtual experience and improves attendee engagement.
Benefits of virtual conferences
While providing similar opportunities to traditional events, virtual conferences offer attendees, businesses, and brands unique benefits.
Here are some of those benefits:
1. Accessibility: One major complaint with regards to traditional events is that they do not provide as many avenues for people with disabilities or people who need accommodations to attend the event. Travel and venue accessibility can pose real issues for people when going to an in-person event.
Because the event is online, it allows for more people, even those who are economically disenfranchised, to attend because there are fewer outside factors to contend with.
By avoiding plane or motor travel, the cost of accommodations, and the cost and effort of taking time away from work, the event will be available to more groups of people. Most likely this will lead to a more diverse audience as well!
2. Scalability and size control: When conferences are largely online, event planners need to consider the size of the conference in terms of the event technology’s capabilities. If the event size gets too large then servers will crash and people will be turned away.
The good news is that professional event software is built for this purpose and can handle the large online volume and allow for scaling up when needed. Therefore, if event organizers want to promote the event to a wider audience, the online format is the way to go.
On the flip side, you can market your event and expect a large number but then easily scale it down with this same software.
Adjustments to crowd sizing, up or down, will not impact a virtual conference as much as it would an in-person event, With scalability in your control, you can host more large events virtually while still keeping under budget!
3. Sustainability: By simply providing an online space to meet, a digital conference means that conference attendees don’t have to travel to a venue and meet at a physical space.
Because travel and hospitality efforts expend energy and waste, some of which can be more damaging to the environment than others, by hosting an online conference, you are encouraging a more sustainable event environment.
4. Affordability: By and large, a virtual conference is far more affordable than a physical conference. Not only does it cut down on costs for the venue, staff, and hospitality rentals, but it is also more cost-effective for attendees.
They usually pay a small amount for registration which allows them to save money that would normally be spent trying to get to the event.
Not only does this save on registration costs and budget for a bigger ROI, but it is also encouraging people who might not normally be able to afford to attend because of registration fees or transportation costs. This will increase the diversity of your virtual audience and provide a boost to ticket sales.
5. Expanded scheduling and pre-recorded content: One of the biggest, and least, talked about benefits of an online conference is the possibility for an expanded schedule.
Since an online conference can host a live session via live stream, a recorded in-person session, or a Simulated Live webcast, the event brand can consider the functionality of the event and offer a variety of content types.
For example, a virtual conference can be pre-recorded and completely virtual and posted to a virtual calendar as if it were live. This is called Simulated Live and it allows for greater flexibility in the conference schedule while maintaining audience engagement through a simulated live experience. This also allows for the conference to be shown as live-ish even when the keynote speakers are a completely different timezone from the viewers!
Other benefits include allowing the event brand to pre-record content and then offer it as a content library for future use!
6. Data and Analytics: A virtual platform will automatically collect attendee analytics in terms of their demographic information but also the rate at which people attended your event, the times, durations, and sessions enjoyed.
The data collected by a virtual events platform can be used to promote future events, future marketing campaigns by that brand, and to speak more intelligently to the event brand’s target audience.
Despite being forced into a virtual event environment because of COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders in many states, virtual conferences offer unique benefits and opportunities for industry leaders to break out of the common mold and give attendees a unique and memorable virtual experience.
Benefits of virtual conferences long after quarantine
Virtual conferences provide a lot of value to event organizers and attendees alike.
While COVID-19 facilitated the transition to virtual, things were already slowly headed in that direction.
The key to a successful virtual conference is in convincing the attendees that the format provides as many valuable experiences as a live event.
The increases in virtual opportunities have shifted funding to AR and VR scenarios so that these technologies can be explored more thoroughly to create a more in-depth virtual event experience.
When, or if, life ever goes back to normal and physical events are allowed, a virtual event might be just as marketable, if not extremely competitive, due to the numerous benefits an online experience can provide.
Accessibility, affordability, and sustainability are going to remain important factors, and as VR and AR worlds expand and develop greater functionality, virtual events are going to allow event brands to reach audiences they had never before thought possible.
Why virtual conferences are here to stay
Based on these benefits, as well as the growing funding and technological opportunities that present themselves with virtual events, it is clear that virtual conferences have a permanent place in the market.
While virtual conferences will not completely replace physical conferences, they can expand a brand’s audience, allow more to attend a conference, and provide several professional benefits like networking through VR and AR simulations.
And with growing issues related to climate change and environmental concerns, reduced economies, and potential fears of traveling still lingering past the COVID 19 pandemic, it is clear that virtual conferences are here for the long haul.