Events aren’t what they used to be. The process of planning, organizing, promoting and executing industry events has been transformed in response to the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
New research from LinkedIn, based on interviews with more than 1,800 marketers with responsibility for events across 13 countries, shows how rapidly things have changed. Of these, 85% had held a virtual event in the last year and 28% said that between 91-100% of their events are now virtual.
Although 75% of the marketers surveyed anticipate continuing to host virtual events over a year from now, 78% said they wanted in-person events to return to a primary role once it’s safe to do so. As we begin to emerge tentatively from the pandemic crisis, event marketers anticipate that, in the near future, 40% of events will be virtual, 36% will be in-person and 24% will be hybrid events, combining the best of both worlds.
LinkedIn predicts that many organizers of live events will also deliver a ‘digital twin’ event or, at least, an online component of the same event, that allows organizations to get more from their investment.
So, what elements of virtual events are marketers most keen to retain?
The best of virtual events
One key benefit of virtual events is that they make it easier to deliver a world-class line-up of participants than ever before, allowing organizers to secure guest speakers and experts from around the world that would have been beyond their reach with a live session. Online events can also be scaled to accommodate many more attendees than your live-world venue ever could.
Online events also have a longer shelf life than in-person gatherings and, as a result, many organizations are finding out how they can extend the value of their content beyond the event itself. More brands will repurpose their event content into post-event campaigns to retarget attendees with supplementary content or to get in front of other people in their target audience who may not have been able to attend their in-person experience.
In addition, virtual events can open up the experience to more and more people in an inclusive way. The fact that virtual events make it possible to access content from the comfort of home along with closed caption and transcription technology make them indispensable to the modern marketer.
The research found that 42% of organizers will continue to produce virtual events because they are more environmentally friendly than in-person sessions, eliminating the need for transport, and cutting down on single-use plastics and other disposable collateral often found at live events.
Virtual events, by their digital nature, offer event organizers more sophisticated methods of measuring success and the chance to build an online community that can be engaged long after the event has ended.
The skills challenge
A successful virtual events marketer doesn’t just organize events – they produce and direct video content, grasp the pros and cons of different technical platforms, know how to moderate online comments and discussions, and put together digital marketing campaigns that amplify the impact of their content.
If you are a marketer who has built their expertise in organizing world class virtual and hybrid events, you will most likely have one of the most coveted skill sets in the industry right now.
LinkedIn’s research revealed that 36% of event organizers want better online advertising skills to drive attendees, 40% would like more technical knowledge of event platforms to elevate their events and 36% would like to be better at adding more interactivity and networking to their events.
There are also lots of organizations committing to upskilling to meet the demands of the new ways of working with 81% of event organizers saying that they plan to upskill to meet their virtual event ambitions.
An interesting point to note is that the research suggests we’re likely to see virtual and physical events taking on distinct and complementary roles within marketing strategies. Virtual events work best for targeting the upper funnel, engaging a wider audience while making far fewer demands on their time, and doing so over a longer timeframe through live video and on-demand follow-ups. This will free in-person events to focus more on lower-funnel objectives, prioritizing quality time with those closer to a conversion.
This is not a pivot
"As we approach 2022, virtual and hybrid events are no longer a substitution for anything else. Nor are they a temporary pivot. Instead, they represent a new reality that unlocks exciting possibilities for many more organizations than ever before to successfully leverage the power of business events," says Rebecca Harmer, head of LinkedIn Marketing Solutions Events, EMEA & LATAM, at LinkedIn.
LinkedIn, as a well-trusted online partner to business, has created a new product offering to allow businesses of all sizes to harness the benefits of virtual and hybrid events. Find out more here.
LinkedIn will be joined by a panel of experts at the upcoming B2B World Fest on November 9-10 to discuss this topic in more detail. To find out more and register to attend, click here.