What do brands do with their event budgets? How do you engage in a meaningful way without the face-to-face? Though thrust upon us, it seems virtual events quickly found their place in our norm. Point in case, since January 2020, we have seen a nine-fold increase in Tweets about virtual events, ranging from organisations taking their flagship customer events to the digital sphere, to watch parties for new TV series and fan Q&A sessions.
That said, now that markets across the region are beginning to relax their regulations, allowing for the gradual resumption of physical events, it begets the question—what will the future of events hold?
There's no denying that virtual events have numbers on their side—turning what might have been a room of 300 into a room of three million. They aren't bound by geographical boundaries, and allow for greater inclusivity and diversity. For example, #YouBelongInTech, a cross continental virtual gathering, successfully brought influential leaders from diverse backgrounds, across time zones and around the world together in one space to discuss the topic of women in tech.
On Twitter, 60 percent of people feel more connected to others when they watch live virtual events. Indeed, connecting with like-minded communities has never been easier. For example, sports fans are engaging with players and teams as events are live-streamed, making fans feel closer to the stands while supporting real-time conversation at scale.
Of course, it needn't stop with the event itself. By creating a larger, engaged community online, brands now also have the opportunity to extend the longevity of a conversation pre, during and post-event in the form of having a more accurate mailing list for marketing or developing repositories of on-demand content where people can gather information, network and relive the event's best moments.
For instance, Salesforce decided to develop a new virtual series to bring brands together for inspiration, entertainment, and support in changing times. It developed a Live Event page for the series, creating a central destination where people could find streams, see highlights of the conversation, and share their thoughts.
The human touch
Despite the impressive features you can add to a virtual event, brands will likely still lament the energy of fans, the serendipitous encounters of passers-by, and a more tangible way to interact with their audiences.
With technology, brands have found ways to somewhat create new human touchpoints. From actively engaging with their audience to keeping up the energy through positive discussion of current issues, to aiding the discovery of other like-minded people through hashtags—some of these may replicate elements present in a physical event.
The future of events
We know a concert with thousands of people singing along to their favourite song will never be the same online. But with physical events undoubtedly reducing in size and cadence for the foreseeable future, brands will have no choice but to look at a hybrid model for events if they are to reach their audiences on the same scale as pre-pandemic.
That said, while born out of necessity, perhaps this will lead to greater, more memorable experiences overall. The past six months have forced the world of events to innovate, teaching us that there are a multitude of opportunities to be had by leveraging connectivity. If anything, combining the effectiveness of live events with the versatility of digital is the best-case scenario—as opposed to a stop-gap solution until we get back to 'status quo'.
We cannot do a like-for-like, but we can certainly strive to deliver emphatic and resounding experiences for both the physical and virtual attendee.
Click here to subscribe to the FREE Asia PR & comms bulletin to receive dedicated news, features and comment from the region straight to your inbox. Make sure you register for the site to access more than one story per month.
To submit a news, comment, case study or analysis idea for the Asia bulletin, email Surekha.Ragavan@haymarket.asia