Virtual events thrive amid coronavirus outbreak

In-person events are being cancelled or postponed due to the virus.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

NEW YORK: As corporations pull back from in-person conferences amid mushrooming coronavirus infections worldwide, they are resorting to virtual events.

Intrado Digital Media, which provides services for webcasting and live streaming, said the number of virtual meetings it has executed in China skyrocketed 193% year-over-year in February. That same month, the number of participants joining virtual events shot up 978% compared to the same time period last year.

The amount of time spent in these meetings in February increased by 1,118% compared to January 2020, and was up 400% compared to the same time period last year.

Ben Chodor, president of Intrado Digital Media, said clients are not only turning to the firm’s services for conferences in Asia-Pacific, but also those in the afflicted region going abroad and vice versa.

LogMeIn, which makes software that manages remote access for companies, told PRWeek via email that its communications and collaboration products saw a 20% spike in usage rates worldwide, with traffic doubling in Asia regions, driven by companies flocking to remote work options and virtual events.

The spread of coronavirus, which has resulted in almost 100,000 in infections and more than 3,300 deaths, has rattled attendees at some of the world’s marquee events. Apple, Netflix, Facebook, Intel and Twitter have all withdrawn from South by Southwest. The Austin, Texas, event is still planned for March 13.

Google made its Cloud Next conference in April a digital-only event and cancelled its developer conference I/O, amid coronavirus fears. Facebook also cancelled its F8 developer conference. The Natural Products Expo West postponed its trade show after more than 300 vendors withdrew.

In addition to these high-profile event cancellations, Chodor said companies are also using virtual events to host shareholder meetings, investor roadshows and healthcare education events.

“If they don’t do something virtually, they already have an audience interested in their content,” Chodor said, adding event organizers have to consider their sponsors’ needs. “They still need to deliver that content to their audience.”

Inbound lead interest in virtual events has more than tripled between January 2019 and January 2020, Chodor said. Organizers for events as far away as December have asked about the company’s services.

Chodor said he believes coronavirus may cause event planners to reconsider implementing a digital element in their work.

“Going forward, you aren’t going to produce a physical event where you don’t have a virtual component,” Chodor said.

LogMeIn, Intrado, Zoom and other companies have offered to lift time limits and schedule training sessions as their clients weather the crisis.

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