To date, the focus of online conferences has mainly been to replicate as closely as possible the experience of a classic in-person conference, but in a virtual venue. Is this the best way to go about it though?
Digital conferences are still in their infancy, but we have seen an explosion in activity as more and more events move online. Along with this, we are beginning to see mature digital platform tools that are transforming how we think about online conferences.
Digital event platforms allow organisations to reach much wider audiences more often and in ways that are just not possible at in-person events. Let’s explore some other advantages.
1. Quick turnaround
Anyone who has been involved in organising an in-person conference knows that it is a huge undertaking. Conferences can take years to organise and have thousands of moving parts that need to be selected, organised, reviewed, signed off and delivered. And who can predict what the landscape will be like in 2-3 years?
With digital events, turnaround times have dropped dramatically. In the hands of experienced digital conference organisers, the timeline for large-scale events has dropped from years, down to mere months. This time compression allows for numerous knock-on savings as well, with fewer suppliers to organise, less overall labour, and a more direct and standardised process.
2. Wider audience
A major challenge for conference holders is the loss of in-person registration fees. These can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars per delegate and are often a vital source of income for organisations. While the loss of in-person income is real, there is a new opportunity to collect the same or more fees by leveraging the scalability of online events.
There are many limiting factors for in-person events such as flights, accommodation, space, seating etc. the list goes on. These restrictions can mean that even if a potential delegate may want to attend, it can be out of reach. In general, none of these constraints exist online.
Is your conference normally only accessible to 200 PAX? Maybe it’s time to push the limits and aim for 20,000 virtual attendees instead! Is it ordinarily a European conference? Widen your net globally!
Unlike in-person events, virtual platforms can provide unlimited seating, low ticket prices, and instant access. This can be a huge win especially for organisations whose focus is on disseminating information to a large audience.
3. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
Before COVID-19 was the main concern organisations were focused on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Initiatives like reducing carbon footprints, diversifying audiences, and improving accessibility were all-important. The good news is that these topics are once again bubbling to the surface and there is a growing appetite for conferences and events to meet the needs of CSR.
Digital platforms are able to greatly assist in achieving many CSR objectives organisations set. The energy costs of a virtual conference are a fraction of an in-person event, particularly when flights are factored in. There is minimal waste and even the content can be recycled. Events can be broadcast to remote communities and speakers who otherwise would not have a voice can now share ideas with the world without leaving their homes.
4. Direct engagement
Virtual events are a dream come true for sponsors as they provide dozens of places to easily include branding. In physical events, much of the sponsor’s spend go into printing physical signs that are often only seen by a small, untargeted – and unquantifiable – segment of attendees.
In a virtual environment branding is much more cost-effective and easy to incorporate. Sponsors can even produce digital content, such as videos and speaker sessions, which can be reused at other events. In the past a sponsor would need to spend a lot of money for a relatively small impact. Now they can reach a bigger audience more easily and more sustainably than ever before.
Which brings us to analytics. Do you want to see which banners delegates are viewing most? Which exhibitor’s brochure was downloaded the most? Most importantly do you want to be able to calculate your Return on Investment (ROI) quickly, easily and with concrete numbers? Then virtual platforms are your answer.
Exhibitors can test out different brochures and digital microsites to see what attracts the most interest. Delegates can find the suppliers they want and interact with them instantly. While some exhibitors complain of lower ‘foot traffic’ we are seeing greater numbers of quality leads requiring less effort and less spend to achieve (which can be rolled into sponsorship instead for maximum impact!)
Moving a conference to a digital conference platform provides a plethora of new features that in-person conferences cannot match. By leveraging these differences we can create unique, engaging and relevant experiences that allow organisations to meet and even exceed their conference goals more easily than ever before.