Virtual events in 2023. Why are virtual events here to stay?
Updated: May 3
The question always lurks in the background. Where did it come from and is virtual gone? Is it here to stay?
Virtual events have been around for many years, but they truly became popular with the start of the Covid pandemic. They became the only way to conduct events, especially international ones, and naturally the entire world was "hooked".
For context to our analysis of this topic we will dive deeper into the virtual part and the actual beginning of live streaming as a technology. Although the first ever streams can be traced all the way back to 1993, we will take a look at the YouTube period that opened a door and allowed people to look in the livestream direction.
In 2008 YouTube hosted its first live event, based in San Francisco, but available all over the world. Following this, a number of other companies immediately started looking into and developing their own livestreaming solutions, whereas YouTube itself did not vigorously pursue this.
Platforms like Twitch, however, gave User Generated livestream, on a global scale, a real kickstart. The ability of anyone to stream live, directly to an audience, is something that has been developing ever since and became the new way, during the pandemic, of hosting events. Events that were originally onsite gatherings of hundreds, thousands, of people started being entirely online. Then this transitioned into a hybrid model, where onsite attendance was limited. And now we are able to see the third metamorphosis - onsite events that are also providing the same capabilities virtually. This type is significantly different from hybrid, because the focus is not split either on onsite audience or on virtual audience. An event is created as a physical, onsite, event and then (almost everything without /human contact/) is digitalized.
In their essence, virtual events have grown much. Live streaming, although an essential building block of a virtual event, is not everything the audience is expecting to receive by devoting their time. For a long time now, it is also not the only form of content distribution an event organizer is exploring.
The recipe for a successful, modern virtual event includes:
Easy to access event portal with clear structure
People are often joining events from all over the world. Some areas have slow internet connections. Some users may not be using the latest hardware.
The portal built for the event needs to be so accessible, that anyone, no matter where they are, or what sort of device they are using to connect, engage and interact, are able to do so without any major interruptions.
In 2023 there are well-established best practices in regards to the layout of every event portal and these need to be followed when building one, simply because that's what people expect and will make their lives (and those of your support team) easier.
Flawless video streaming
High quality video streaming has become the norm for virtual events. Virtual events that are not supporting uninterrupted streaming simply lose viewers.
The event attendee expects a video stream that has a modern, but at the same time clean, look.
They also expect sound and video quality they can enjoy.
On demand viewing
Digitalization means a lot of things are at the fingertips of every user of a digital device. This often results in people with busy schedules dropping out of events in the middle, and something that makes professionally serviced events better is the ability to watch them on demand afterwards, with all bells and whistles.
The virtual user is no longer "bound" to the event for the entire duration. And they expect that.
Some types of evens simply require interaction options with their audience in order to be successful. Taking a live poll, asking a live question on air or having a quiz at the end of a session are things a 2023 virtual event needs to be able to provide.
For other events, interaction may not be as beneficial and it is up to the event organizer to determine what level of interaction is required for the success of their event.
Sponsors and exhibitors are a very important stakeholder for any virtual event. They need to receive maximum value for their presence at an event and every virtual event needs to have the ability to provide them with this value.
The years of a simple logo placement are long over and exhibitors now expect to have mediums of displaying different materials, information and other means of contact with the audience.
Each and every event attendee is interested by the people (or sometimes AI) speaking on the stage. It is imperative for every virtual event to feature its speakers and to do so accordingly - with photographs, biographies, links to socials and more.
The event agenda is an essential part of any virtual event. It needs to be updated regularly and people need to be aware of the changes as they are viewing it.
Registration and ticketing are often processes that make or break an event. The event needs to be easy to access, but at the same time the registration needs to be informative to the event organizer - the data collected during the registration can help them better understand their audience and make informed decisions.
It used to be common practice for some events to have registration in one place, streaming on another platform, and ticketing on third. This needs to be avoided at all costs as it leads to an incredible bounce rate. The modern virtual event needs to provide a seamless registration, ticketing and payment options, all within the event portal hosting the streaming.
/the future of virtual events
Our prediction is that virtual events are here to stay, simply because of the comfort they bring to attendees and the endless possibility they provide to events.
Streaming live, ever since it became so popular for events (and of course all of the additional development the industry saw in this regard) simply became an integral part of any event - even onsite events. And the guest expects this of any event they attend.
The question in 2023 is not "is there something online?" but "how do I participate online"? and this demand will continue well into the future.