Virtual events are advantageous for SMEs on several fronts; they’re cost efficient, effective in generating leads and lead data, and have the potential to reach a wider audience.
With more and more companies resorting to virtual events, “EventTech” companies have also ramped up to make virtual events as effective or even better than offline events.
Think of all the conferences or trade shows you’ve wanted to attend but couldn’t because it was too far, too expensive, or you simply weren’t available then.
Now, imagine you can attend those very conferences from the comfort of your workspace or living room with a steaming cup of coffee in hand.
This is what the pandemic brought about.
With the whole world going into a global shutdown and travel coming to a complete halt, marketers and even seasoned event organisers were forced to find creative ways to take their events online, and continue to keep it as engaging as it would be offline.
Virtual event statistics from 2020 to 2022
In 2020 alone, the market size for global meetings, incentives, conferences and events shot up to US $1 trillion! (Source: Statista). Two years since, the demand for virtual events still hasn’t faded. In 2022, the share of virtual marketing events is projected to be at 40% of the overall marketing events industry.
The effect of virtual events on SMEs
Among those who have benefited most from virtual events are small business owners. SMBs rely heavily on networking and trade shows to connect with their existing and potential customers.
A study shows that in the last two years, 55% of SMEs hosted virtual events primarily to educate, engage with and retain their customers (Source: Bizzabo). Since SMEs work on tight budgets, virtual events have proved to be cost effective and efficient on several fronts.
5 Benefits of Virtual Events
Here’s why virtual events were a hit with SMBs in the last two years, and there is no reason why this should not continue.
The floor is open for more speakers to lead the conference
Since geography is not a barrier and there’s no travel involved, it opens doors for speakers from across the globe to join your conference. This may not have been possible with offline events if the speaker was unavailable due to distance, travel or geographical constraints.
There’s no cap on the number of attendees
Usually, in offline events, there’s a cap on the number of people who can fit into a conference hall or an event site. Virtual events break these barriers and open the floor for more attendees to be part of the conference. This means, SMEs are able to reach out to a higher number of their target aidience across geographies and create a better reach for their products and services.
There are no logistical constraints to tackle
From scouting for an ideal venue to arranging transportation for speakers and event setups, offline events can be quite a hassle and require a lot of time, planning and coordination. These logistical constraints are almost absent in virtual events.
On the other hand, the logistical planning in virtual events is focused on tasks like ensuring the speakers have a proper microphone and connectivity during the event, the meeting platform is functioning smoothly throughout and such.
The cost saving is higher
SMEs save on venue, catering, manpower, and transportation costs when they host virtual events. This also means that entry costs become lower, thus allowing more people the affordability to attend their events.
There’s more solid data available on event outcomes
One of the best advantages of virtual events is that it’s easy to draw event statistics – how many people attended the conference? Which geographies were the participants from? Which booths did the participants engage with the most? How many attendees were part of each of the event segments like round tables, webinars or product demos? These are critical data points that companies can use to better understand their audience and deliver far better outcomes in future.
The Challenges of holding Virtual Events
While virtual events come with several advantages, they still fall short on some features that offline events provide, like networking opportunities, keeping the audience engaged throughout the event, and gauging how the audience is responding to the event. To cover these bases, it’s important for SMEs to move beyond just conferencing platforms to adopting holistic virtual event technologies to manage their event from start to finish.
6 Things you should consider for your virtual event
Building an event website
This is applicable for virtual and offline events. Having an event website with information around the objective of the event, the speakers, the agenda, the entry fee, and other features is an effective marketing strategy to attract your audience. The website gives them all event related information in one place. And if you’ve hosted this event for several years, this is your chance to showcase your past success in the form of videos, testimonials and data.
Creating a registration platform
A registration platform is a “must-have” resource in helping you gather data about your attendees, be it their professional background, where they are located, or what their interests are. It can also give you an insight into how many people are likely to attend your event and how many are first-time attendees. The important thing to remember here is to make sure the registration process is robust and easy.
Marketing your event
Marketing a virtual event is relatively easy when compared to marketing for offline events because the audience has more flexibility in terms of choosing to attend the event from right where they are. Data also shows us that the time taken to market a virtual event is less than that required for offline events – 3-6 weeks at most in the case of a small event, and six weeks if it’s a large event.
Marketing is, nonetheless, necessary. So, what channels do you use? Statistics tell us that 60% of virtual event organisers have found significant registrations coming in through social media promotions. But 70% of marketers have indicated that they found email marketing to be more effective than social media channels. (Source: Markletic).
Creating an event specific mobile app
Surely the webinar, conference or trade show you’re hosting is not a one-off thing. So, why not create an event app where your audience can access information and updates about your event on event day and all year round?
For example, on the event day, you can use the mobile app to have your attendees pay for the specific sessions they want to attend, or send push notifications on upcoming talks during the day, or set limits on how many attendees can be part of a session.
Once the event is over, you can segment the knowledge shared by speakers or experts during the event and send it as short videos, snippets, blogs or tips from time to time. This will keep them engaged even post-event and create top of mind recall before you host the next one.
Collating event feedback
One of the constraints of hosting a virtual event is that you may not be able to gauge how your audience is responding to the sessions. In such cases, having event feedback can be a great way to stay on top of collecting data around how your sessions are going, and what the attendees’ expectations are.
Going one step further with third-party integrations
There are a number of interesting and useful third-party integrations that you can incorporate into your virtual event. For example, if you have participants coming from regional locations who are not familiar with a common language like English, your participant can speak in a local dialect and Kudo will translate it for the speaker in real-time.
Restream is another app that will live stream your event on social media channels, to give wider access to your event, content and speakers. Vimeo is another great platform to help you run a virtual event with a combination of pre-recorded sessions and live sessions.
And lastly, there’s of course Hubspot which offers a number of tools like integrating your new attendee data into your existing customer pool, integrating your existing customer base into the virtual event platform to create an attendee list for your event and so on.
As our marketing data expert at Merit puts it: “Even as the world resumes to normalcy (fingers crossed!), virtual events, with their numerous benefits around cost saving, wide accessibility and effectiveness in tracking leads, are here to stay.” There is no doubt that SMEs are in a sweet spot where they can choose to host a combination of virtual and offline events, to get the best out of both worlds.
Merit Group’s expertise in Marketing Data
At Merit Group, we partner with some of the world’s leading B2B companies. Our data teams work closely with our clients to build comprehensive B2B marketing contact lists that provide a direct line to their target audience.
If you’d like to learn more about our service offerings or speak to a marketing data consultant, please contact us here: https://www.meritdata-tech.com/contact-us
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