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Agencies 4 Growth Festival Logo

Will 'unbelievable demand' for virtual conferencing change industry events forever?

In the space of a few working days, the coronavirus crisis has triggered the biggest experiment in remote working in modern history, as millions of workers in the advertising and marketing industries grapple with wi-fi woes and childcare while trying to stay productive, stay informed and stay on top of their working lives.

To accommodate their newly homebound audiences, live events businesses have been rushing to restage industry conferences and talks online. One business affected by this huge shift is Hopin, an online events platform that launched just 10 months ago.

“Hopin gives people the ability to host events across the globe that allows people not just to stream content but to network with others just like they would in real life,” according to Johnny Boufarhat, founder and chief executive officer of Hopin.

The service has been working to keep up with demand, he said, as conferences and events investigate digital alternatives to their live events.

“It's been unbelievable for us, actually. We were born as a remote company so we were built to deal with this. But the amount of traffic we've had with people looking for alternatives – we've had unbelievable amounts off people reaching out,” he said.

“We've seen a lot of major conferences adapt to online. I think that for networking-focused events, they're going to continue being online after all this is over.”

Boufarhat predicts that his new customers will continue to enable virtual attendance once the crisis abates. “I think that’s where the trend is going. What’s better for the environment? What’s better for time efficiency?”

He said: “If the end goal is to meet someone, virtual provides that means to do that in a much more efficient way. You won't be able to go for that beer with that new contact after the event, but you'll have gained time in not having to travel. You'll lose 10% but you'll gain 10% of something else. We think that a large amount of events are going to be moving online and staying online, especially for companies that are global.”

Nationwide lockdowns and international travel bans have been more persuasive to events planners to adopt virtual conferencing than environmental concerns, said Boufarhat. “I think the business means takes over the environmental means, unfortunately. If our product wasn't good enough to replicate the physical experience, people wouldn't do it just because of the environment.

“Accessibility is the biggest driver. It's a global world and a global community. It's more cost effective and time efficient and inclusive – and a lot more people can attend and provide more value.”

You can watch the full panel session above and view more content from The Drum's Digital Transformation Festival here.

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