One thing we can say for certain is that we have learned so much in so little time. I think of virtual events as an emerging market. And they usually do just that, emerge. They take their time. There is a ramp up period. There is research, development, customer buy in, etc. Emerging markets follow a very standard set of rules that could take years to finally get into the everyday lives of consumers.
Virtual events have been around for a while, albeit in a very niche role. The platforms that executed these kinds of events were very specialized. There were a few, very good, very expensive platforms that worked great. The platforms had a very targeted role they helped their customers with. They played in their own little world for quite some time and were very happy.
Now queue 2020.
Suddenly, virtual events were thrust into the mainstream world. They became the “it” thing and everyone had to educate themselves on what the hell a virtual event entailed. What we saw was both the consumer AND the provider having to adapt at lightning speed.
There was no time to let the emerging market of virtual events take its natural course. Prior to March, the virtual event industry made up 1%, maybe 2% of the live event industry… now, it is 100%. I can’t recall any industry having that kind of dilemma, an overnight flip of the switch.
And since April of 2020, things have changed drastically for virtual events. And they will continue to do so. Platform companies are offering better, easier, more affordable services to anybody that is willing to listen to their pitch. A/V companies have done a 180-degree shift to provide support to their customer base. And event planners have learned, and are continuing to learn, how to do make a virtual event successful.
So with all that in mind, I thought I would share with you the 5 things that the team at Synergetic has learned since this all began back in April of 2020:
- Virtual events will not replace the in-person event, ever! After sitting through just a few virtual events, I feel 100% confident that this will not be a medium that sticks around as a replacement for in-person events. Sure, virtual events will increase their market share from the 1% or 2% that they had, but not by much. I also do not think we will see a strong hybrid component to in-person events. There is no replacement for physically being with other people.
- There is no one size fits all platform. You have all seen this firsthand. Platforms are good at some things, bad at others, wonky at even more. Each day, another 5 pop onto the scene. I know I can’t wait until we use the word “platform” for what it was intended to be in the live event world – “A raised level surface on which people or things can stand.”
- “Engagement” is not what we thought it would be. We keep hearing this word over and over. “We want engagement”, “We need to have engagement”, “Viewer engagement is key”. And we keep hearing afterwards what customers thought was going to be engaging, was not. Engagement has nothing to do with buttons to hit, or polls to take, or questions to ask. Engagement is derived from producing amazing content. And sadly, the content for virtual events has not evolved.
- TV producers are necessary. A producer is an integral part of a successful virtual event. And this is becoming more and more apparent. To keep the viewers attention, we need to be creating events that look like TV shows. We have figured out that we cannot take the in-person event and make it a virtual event. It does not translate well. So who better to accomplish that than an experienced producer. Our customers are seeing the night and day difference between a virtual event that has a producer and one that does not.
- There is way more stress. Good lord is there more stress. We are not in the same room as everyone else. We can’t use our silent gestures that communicate so much while doing so little. We can’t put our hands on anything. And let’s not even talk about being at the mercy of the internet. It has most of us losing sleep at night. Can we just go back to having everyone in tech world, on com, being able to touch each piece of equipment that is being used?!
And one extra:
- The keynotes are bad. The keynote that was given at the in-person event cannot be given the same way at the virtual event. To be honest, much of the content at the in-person events was boring too. Now, it is even more boring. If the content is not being adapted to going virtual, viewers are not going to stick around. We are seeing how the content needs to be changed to fit an audience that is sitting at home, susceptible to so many distractions.
Lets see what happens in the next 6 months of the virtual event world!