To say that the event game has changed in the past two years is, at this point, likely a bit of an understatement.
In March of 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to make its way across the world, in-person events of all types weren’t just difficult – they were essentially impossible. Yet at the same time, many industries depend on trade shows, experts, and similar events to make contacts, network, generate new customers, and more.
The solution quickly became virtual events, and with that, an entire online event industry was born.
The good news is that what many first saw as a “means to an end” quickly turned into something of a cultural revolution. Live streams and other types of virtual events are now a way of life – and that is exciting for a wide range of different reasons that are worth exploring.
The Current State of Virtual Events
Especially given everything going on in the world right now, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that virtual events were incredibly popular throughout the course of 2020. Virtual event statistics estimated that 52,000 happened on just one platform alone – a massive 100x increase from one year prior.
All told, roughly 85% of people think that these online experiences are here to stay – even after things “return to normal” in the wake of the pandemic. Because of that, budgets for online experiences in 2022 and beyond are expected to grow – and that is very much an opportunity just waiting to be taken advantage of by savvy brands.
The Cost of Virtual Events in the Modern Era
Another recent study indicated that 45.9% of event planning professionals rely on in-house production when putting together their virtual events. According to event management statistics, approximately 32.5% are said to be outsourcing this aspect to external production companies.
Another study revealed that 41.5% of event professionals said that they were willing to pay up to $5,000 for the technology needed to run these virtual gatherings. 19% said that they would be willing to pay upwards of $15,000. They also said that if they were given a 10% increase in their overall budget, about a third of professionals would use that money to increase their overall use of technology.
21.6% say that they rely on virtual event tech providers to help put together their events. But regardless of which camp a business happens to fall into, one thing is clear: virtual events aren’t just a “stopgap solution” any longer. They’re something that has been embraced by professionals and consumers alike due in large part to the fact that they’re helping create newer, more modern, and more engaging experiences on a regular basis.
Types of Virtual Events: An Overview
All told, there is a wide range of different types of virtual events that brands can choose to engage in depending on their needs – and on the preferences of their audience.
Webcasts are chief among them, which allow businesses to broadcast pre-recorded content to very large audiences via platforms like YouTube or social media networks like Facebook. Slidecasts are another example, which are almost like enhanced podcasts, because they include both an audio and video component.
Webinars have been a staple of online content distribution for years, but they’re certainly picking up steam in the new era of virtual events due to their versatility. They’re similar in nature to live-streaming events, which are perfect for both conveying important information to an audience and also creating a sense of urgency among them. People need to tune in at a specific date and time to catch the event live, which also makes them more likely to watch for longer periods than if they were viewing something that was pre-recorded.
Live-streaming events in particular, have been growing in popularity over the last few years. One recent study indicated that live video consumption grew by 93% year-over-year in 2019 alone, with the average person watching at least 26.4 minutes per streaming session. All told the live-streaming industry is anticipated to grow to a value of $184.27 billion by as soon as 2027 – pointing to a technique that is certainly going to become an even more essential part of marketing as time goes on.
Truly, the potential of virtual events is something that knows no boundaries. Between on-demand user content, virtual meetings and conferences, and virtual summits, the power of teleconferencing has ushered in a bold new era with regard to how we connect with one another. Many are even participating in not only virtual trade shows and expos but online job fairs as well.
The Power of Live Stream Event Technology
There are a number of different platforms available that support live-streaming events, including but not limited to ones like:
- Microsoft Teams.
- Facebook Live.
- Instagram Live.
- YouTube Live.
Thanks to options like these, it’s been estimated that about 73% of event planners have been able to move their events online since the start of the pandemic. Another study indicated that during 2020, there was a massive 290% increase in the total number of virtual events hosted compared to just one year prior. Indeed, an estimated 93% of companies held at least one virtual meeting during that year.
Platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams tend to be ideal for virtual meetings, conferences, and things of that nature. They include features like “breakout rooms” that allow you to separate attendees into groups, which is perfect for collaboration based on a particular topic.
In terms of usage statistics, it’s been estimated that Zoom alone saw an increase from 10 million meeting participants in December 2019 to 300 million by April 2020. Microsoft Teams added 95 million new users in 2020, making it one of the fastest-growing applications of its type during the pandemic.
Facebook Live and Instagram Live, as the names suggest, are ideal for live-streaming events when you want to attract the widest possible audience while leveraging the full power of two of the world’s biggest social media sites in order to do so. Facebook Live reached two billion viewers last year alone, which makes sense given that people watch live videos for up to three times longer than those that have been pre-recorded.
Most virtual event technology providers offer integration with many of these live-streaming tools and platforms. They also include integration with various registration tools and mobile event apps, all to carefully recreate the experience of an in-person event as closely as possible.
When it comes to live-streaming in particular, two of the most common features available from event technology providers like True Film Production include the ability to offer both live and pre-recorded sessions, along with multi-stream tracks that support multiple languages to create a more inclusive experience.
Roughly 58% of all virtual technology providers offer both native apps and web-based solutions that allow attendees to access a virtual event. More than that, about 32% of the remaining platforms offer web-based solutions that users can interact with via a web browser – including those built into mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. This means that almost 90% of people will be able to participate in an event on any device that they want – which is something that helps to increase user satisfaction as well.
The Biggest Challenges with Live Stream Events
Having said that, there are certain challenges with live stream events – especially when it comes to engaging attendees. Approximately 39% of event planning professionals agreed that engagement was the biggest challenge for these types of events, along with the biggest contributing factor to their success.
Because of this, audience participation is key. Live question-and-answer sessions are common because they turn an event into a far more active experience. Product reveals are also beneficial because they drum up anticipation and create a sense of urgency. Online chats, forums, and other communication-based communities are also effective solutions to this problem.
Ultimately, the technology itself is sometimes one of the biggest hurdles when it comes to virtual events. Over half of all industry professionals said that matching live engagement to sourcing virtual event technology is the most frustrating part of this post-pandemic experience.
The biggest challenge of all for event planners has always been staying on budget – 25% of those who responded to one survey agreed with that sentiment – which is why it’s good news that virtual events tend to be less expensive than their in-person counterparts. There is no conference center to rent, no booth to staff, and no time required to set up and tear down a presentation. If nothing else, it levels the playing field between those large corporations with massive budgets and their smaller counterparts who need to stretch every dollar – a very exciting position for SMBs to be in.
In the End
Overall, the global virtual events market side was valued at $77.98 billion in 2019 – a number that is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 23.2% between now and 2027. Virtual events filled a very specific need at the onset of the pandemic, yes – but they also proved to be enormously popular. That is one trend that shows absolutely no signs of slowing down anytime soon.