The Rise of Virtual Events

08-Oct-20




Virtual. Online. Digital. Broadcasting. Live streaming. Webinars. Social media. Hybrid…. Over the last 7-8 months, the events industry has taken on a whole new language as far as I’m concerned. My feelings are mixed on how to interpret the extreme changes that have taken place and the rise of virtual events. On one hand, the pause on live events and physical experiences has left a huge number of talented professionals without work. On the other, we are seeing (more and more) an exciting new division of events unfold. A chance to reach further audiences, making the future far more collaborative and inclusive. In this article, I am going to address the rise of virtual events and the pivotal role it will play in the next 6 -12 months.

 

Covid-19

To keep this section short and sweet, we know the devastating effect this pandemic has had on the events industry. The live events industry continues to be denied any kind of support from the government. Recently Boris Johnson announced further restrictions on the hospitality industry and has pushed back the reopening of events until likely the springtime (subject to positive change). Since March, roughly 37% of all scheduled live events were delivered virtually. Be it through immersive 3D environments, webinars, live streams or presentations. Since the recent announcement, it is my view therefore that close to 100% of all events scheduled for 2020 and early 2021 will be delivered virtually. So this is it…. virtual for a little while longer!

 

Trials and Tribulations

Virtual events or webinars are nothing new. However back in March, many in the industry did succumb to a knee jerk reaction of “oh shit, we need to deliver these existing events/exhibitions any way we can”, without necessarily considering the effectiveness/engagement of those experiences beyond the event. A call for “virtual event designers” with software like Unreal Engine, Twinmotion and Unity flooded the market and for the last few months, I haven’t heard any more need for that… I am yet to see a 3D immersive virtual experience done well that has been delivered cost-effectively. I am of course happy to be corrected on that though! 

After some trial and error, I witnessed agencies begin to step back and take a look at how digital experiences can be engaging, educational, interactive, rewarding and influential. Educating clients early proved to be key in finding a strategy and generating that buy-in. Content is key here and is the only way to deliver a captivating experience for the customer/attendee. Often keeping it simple is best, so we now introduce Live Streaming and Broadcasting…. A sure-fire way to deliver a talk, presentation, speech, award, conference, meeting etc. It’s been a bumpy road, however, Live Streaming and Broadcasting is king at this moment in time.

 

Live Streaming and Broadcasting - Hybrid

Whilst live events or broadcasting events has been part of the live events world for many years, it is now that it’s proving to be the most valuable way of engaging customers, employees or delegates. The demand for specialist production companies to deliver these projects has seen a massive uplift in the demand for a new alternative pool of talent. What was once a need for highly creative 3D experiential designers has been replaced by Vision Mixers, Streaming Producers, AV Technicians and Camera Operators etc... Having attended a number of these professionally managed and delivered Zoom or Teams events I can say that there are some talented individuals out there that can take your creative content and create a seamless and interactive virtual experience. Yes, the budgets don’t match up to creating a live event, however, the % profit margins are essentially better!

Live events and Broadcasting will carry the events industry mantle for the foreseeable. Fingers crossed, we will see the live events industry return in the early spring of 2021 and create an exciting fusion of the two worlds. Hybrid events. Why is this exciting? In my view, it only adds value to an event or experience. Live streaming or creating a virtual experience will allow a greater reach to a wider audience, whilst live events will be able to generate the depth of experience for those fortunate enough to attend. 

 

Sustainability

Covid19 has accelerated the global events industry’s look into its environmental impact. Now is the time for action and the time to give to finding ways to combat climate change. This has been a long time coming and it is promising to see 12 of the UK’s leading events agencies joining to create Isla. Isla is a collective organization whose aim is to ensure that consistent measures and processes are enforced to create the least possible environmental impact. 

What does this have to do with virtual events? Simple, virtual events or live streams will provide an alternative for many events that often require global travel but not that many attendees. As we rebuild our industry, virtual will prove pivotal in that process. Live experiences will be more creative, more targeted and more environmentally friendly, with there likely being less of them compared to pre-2020.

 

So…..

In summary, virtual events are here to stay. They will compliment live experience in the best possible way, making events more accessible creating greater ROI for brands. We all love ROI, don’t we! The virtual events industry is only going to grow year on year. We have come a long way from dodgy Zoom pub quizzes with mates during lockdown. Forget about those, my advice would be getting yourself signed up to some virtual live streaming events and educate yourself during these tougher times. Live events will be back but for now, sit back in the comfort of your own home and get attending.



This blog was written by Archie Harvey, Team Leader - mustard XP. As well as running the team he also recruits for all positions within 
Exhibitions, Experiential, Events, Museums - Live & Digital within London. Whether you are a client or a candidate please reach him on 0117 284 0071 or at archie.harvey@mustardjobs.co.uk. 

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