How to deliver virtual events: the right approaches for marketers

Kate Pluth

20 April 2020

Live physical events have been an essential channel for marketers forever. Even the emergence of digital channels and experiences hasn’t dented their importance to marketers. 

In 2013, 73 percent of marketers agreed that trade shows, conferences, conventions, and channel events were either very valuable or essential to doing business, and between 2017 and 2018, the number of companies organizing 20 or more events per year increased by 17 percent.  

But, if events can’t be in person, as Michael Dell recently said, “the show must go on and, with Microsoft committing to digital-only events until July 2021, its clear that major corporations are determined to push ahead with using virtual events to replace physical onesHaving a place and time where people can interact is an essential element of building relationships and cultivating business opportunity. 

With increasing numbersubjected to stay at home orders as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, every marketer is rushing to pivot the plans they already have for physical events to be conducted virtually. Despite the challenges, it’s been interesting to work with our clients to achieve the same levels of engagement, inspiration, community building, and qualified demand generation within these new confines. 

Will virtual events become the norm? 

We’re all seeing the phrase ‘the new normal’ increasingly bandied about as we move further into the world of distanced working and virtual workplaces. It begs the question, as we become familiar with this way of working, will it really become an established part of the new normal? 

This question is most prevalent in the world of conferences. Well before COVID-19 in September 2019, Gartner predicted that online meeting solutions will rapidly increase over the next four years, and by 2024, only a quarter of enterprise meetings will take place face-to-face.  

The pandemic is now completely reshaping event marketing forever, not to mention conventions in how we work in general. If anything, social distancing measures are more effective as a catalyst for new ways of working and conveningfar more so than simply Working from Home initiatives alone.  

While we know face-to-face interactions can’t be replaced completely, a new level of comfort with the notion of virtual meetings, makes establishing a virtual event strategy an imperative not just today, but for tomorrow, too.  

For Metia as an organization, video calls have quickly become the norm for every team member (+661% in month one of WFH)Any initial discomfort in showing ourselves on video versus voice only (our previous norm was voice-based conf calls), disappeared almost immediatelyIt’s unlikely that we will now forget this virtualization of our workplace. We will be all much more comfortable with virtual interaction when we’re allowed back to our desks, or when we work from home in future. 

It is crucial marketers learn from their own experiences and these bigger trends to prepare for the changes ahead of them. 

Will 2020 be remembered as the definitive mass early adoption cycle? 

Marketers must reflect on this difficult moment as a forgiving test period. Now you can learn not only from your internal experiences but from those of your customers and other marketers around you 

Bear in mind, right now, user expectations will accommodate and forgive those annoying technical glitches and scaling problems inherent with every wave of technology change 

Metia’s Vice President of Insights Liz High couldn’t have said it better: “Brands that double down on the innovations defining the ‘new normal’ will be the ones that accelerate us into the ‘new future’.  

For additional insights on running events virtually take a look at some more of our recent posts or get in touch via the contacts form. 

These are the posts: 

How to make your virtual events a success 

31 tools and platforms to host events online 

And here is the contact form. I’d be delighted to answer any questions or comments.