Why are virtual conferences better than in-person events? [Benefits & ideas]
There will probably always be a dispute between the proponents of virtual events and in-person conferences. Both sides of the argument have some valid points. We also don't think it's right to say that webinars and online meetings don't have their flaws. Nobody's perfect, but that doesn’t have to stop you from striving to be.
What are the main reasons why companies distance themselves from digital events? One of them is that they think of running an online conference like a copy-paste equivalent of what they traditionally organized. If you change this approach, you might be surprised about how beneficial your virtual event can be!
As stated in the title, in this article we've collected the advantages of hosting such meetings and sprinkled them with some outstanding ideas for the format.
Provide an entirely new experience, not a replacement
We believe that a virtual event should never be a simple reflection of a traditional one, but a unique experience running on its own terms. Webinar platforms offer a variety of features that can create new opportunities. Many actions that they make possible would be impossible in real life, such as precise analytics and sharing digital assets simultaneously with other attendees during the workshop.
So how can you benefit from making your digital event exceptional?
5 surprising benefits of online events
More precise management
During in-person events, you know exactly what your position is. However, you can't assign specific roles to different participants in order to give certain people access to some functions and deny it to others. And that's all possible with digital conferences! You can divide attendees into presenters, hosts, and audience members to be sure that no one will have access beyond their permission level.
A new level of interactions - a handy panel discussion format and Q&A sessions
Although you might think that in-person discussions are better than those held online, it isn't necessarily true. During standard events, Q&A sessions were primarily held at the end or while a talk was ongoing. The audience could ask questions in two ways: raising a hand or submitting their questions in advance for the presenter to answer at the right time.
During digital events, you can try out different Q&A session formats, such as:
real-time polls and surveys
answering questions written in the chatbox (presenters can pick the most interesting ones if there are too many, thus improving the quality),
giving the mic to the audience (without the need to maneuver between the seats and attendees) and listening to their questions.
All of these encourage a larger number of participants to actively participate in discussion sessions. Plus, you don't have to worry about those who talk a bit too much - you can kindly thank that viewer for their contribution and mute them.
Instant content repurposing
Content repurposing is a great tactic to save time by making the most of what you've already created. It's about using existing material in different formats such as posts, articles, or webinar shortcuts, for example. You can find out more about the benefits of this method and how it's done in this article.
If you run an online event, you don't have to take photos because screenshots can show whatever you need - stages, speakers, or how participants work together. Thanks to that there's no need to upload files to your computer, as you can use every digital file you've created for the conference as well as presentations from the speakers if they permit you to do so. Also, you can show the event preparation process because you have instant behind-the-scenes material in a digital format. What's more, such files may form a great basis for an evergreen webinar!
Make them want to hit the call to action button
Every marketer and salesperson knows about the potential power of a good call to action. With virtual events, you can create a special button that simultaneously pops up on all attendees' screens at an appropriate time. That's a special feature that you can't make use of during in-person conferences.
Flexibility even with bigger events
You can run virtual events for both small and large groups, whereas an in-person conference for over 50 participants could quickly become a logistical nightmare.
With a robust webinar platform, you can easily make the communication fluid and facilitate team meetings by assigning roles and planning Q&A sessions like in the above examples. You can also reduce reaction times and logistical costs since you can set everything yourself.
No more second-guessing - or the numbers don’t lie
What's great about digital marketing and online events is that you can measure nearly everything and make conscious decisions based on the numbers. That isn't always possible with in-person events as some processes can’t be automated.
Automation systems gather data while you focus on the event’s value
Virtual events are built on digital data, meaning that every piece of information is processed within a software system. There’s no scanning of badges as people enter the conference room but just one click on a URL. Not you, nor any of your employees, will have to type information from paper forms, as everything is online from the start. You can also search for the right data immediately if necessary.
With such information gathered in one place, you can also build a pipeline based on quality leads that can convert for your business. What's essential in this regard is that you can take into account the companies your participants work for, their job titles, as well as which sessions they attended, and topic areas they are interested in. This information is crucial to use later when you try to reach them.
Measuring results is easier
The type and amount of data you follow depends on the platform you use for running your event and the KPIs you set yourself. Nevertheless, all of it is collected without your input. Everything is done online and can be tracked easily. This includes information about the payment types your participants used, which part of the event was the most engaging for them, and much more.
If you don't know which metrics to follow precisely, you could, for example, measure attendance numbers, time spent online, sessions attended. You might also want to analyze the answers from real-time polls or text chat questions and comments. You can also ask your software provider to create a solution tailored to your needs if you need to measure a specific KPI.
Everyone buys a ticket online, so you can obtain the data you need
For traditional events, some people may buy a ticket on the spot, and you would miss the opportunity to gather their data. This is particularly true for expos, festivals, and concerts, as people might want to keep hold of a paper version of their pass as a souvenir.
They don't leave any information about them this way, as there's no form to fill in. And we all know how useful email addresses can be for retargeting or sending newsletters. You can also save money on print, as the tickets are sent digitally via email. This might be one reason why 84% of organizations who ran a virtual event in 2020 reported that they spent less money on them than in-person conferences.
A variety of formats to try without a huge budget
Increasingly more virtual events are being created, so you need to do something extra special in order to attract an audience. Participants can easily switch between tabs, and they won't hesitate to do so if your conference isn't engaging or valuable for them. Many events rehash the same topics with the same speakers, using the same format. Sounds boring even now, doesn't it? Digital conferences have to lift their game to keep people interested. If you're wondering how to do so then read about unusual event formats, pick one, and give it a shot.
(Not so obvious) types of virtual events
If you think you've seen it all before and find every virtual event similar to the next, create something that's a little unorthodox and make it stand out from the crowd. The digital world makes it possible to try out different event formats without the need to have a huge budget. What exactly can you organize?
A speaker session - invite one person or several people to share their knowledge or experience in a particular category. You can do this in the style of an interview or leave the stage entirely to the guest speaker to give their presentation and have a panel discussion afterwards.
Networking sessions - this type of event is a chance for groups of professionals to gather together, make international connections, and grow their network.
A seminar or half-day event - your conference doesn't have to last for a few days or even one entire day. It's better to focus on the quality of the component parts rather than trying to achieve a certain time-frame. Shorter formats can provide more valuable, condensed knowledge and save your attendees’ precious time.
VIP experiences - exclusive content can be a great way to attract specific clients. Some people are willing to pay more to get the chance to meet a famous person. Organize a closed event with someone popular among a specific audience to narrow your target group and gain quality leads.
Open Days - virtual alternatives to the physical institutions of open houses. They can be a great opportunity to show your facility to those who live abroad or in another city and are considering moving to your place. It's worth trying out for universities that are open to international students, who often can't attend a one-off event in person.
Career Fairs - during a time of remote work, many people (if not more than before) are still looking for jobs, and such events can show them the best positions that the market has to offer. They’re perfect environments for both job-seekers and employers. Fairs can break down geographical barriers and extend the reach of potential employers. You can also maintain the valuable engagement that attracts prospects by using interactive features (e.g. webinars, live chat, 1-on-1 meetings in breakout rooms). Organizing such fairs can empower employees to make more informed decisions and increase their awareness of the demands and possibilities of other workers.
A variety of presentation forms
It’s not only the format of the whole event that matters. You can also experiment with different presentation types. Some of the most creative include:
Pecha Kucha: 20 slides shown for 20 seconds each.
Lightning talk: lasts for 10 minutes overall.
- PowerPoint Karaoke: presenters see the slides for the first time when they are speaking and therefore need to improvise.
More ideas to make the most of your event
If that's not enough, here are three more ideas that can boost your event:
If you want to raise brand awareness and your goal is to reach more people, stream panel discussions to extend the reach of physical events that you're already hosting.
If you decide you need fewer leads but more quality ones, considering selling tickets. Gate exclusive events with a pay-to-attend model show your audience that they can expect something more special than from open-access ones. You can increase accessibility while also generating revenue.
To add more value to your event and increase attendees' ROI, include certification as part of your online conference.
Are you ready to run your event?
There are so many options to choose from when planning an online event and many reasons to try out a virtual version. The examples mentioned in this article are just a few of the possibilities and you can adjust them to your own ideas.
No matter what kind of digital event you decide to run, remember that a lot will be riding on the software provider. Technical aspects should be a help not a hindrance. LiveWebinar is a customizable platform that can be adjusted to your vision. If you are wondering what it can do, don't hesitate to present your dream event to our team and we'll do our best to turn it into a reality. If you want to see what we've already achieved, we've prepared an appetizer about our virtual event solutions.
Digital Marketing Specialist at RTCLab, where he co-creates the LiveWebinar platform, enabling webinars and effective remote communication. He has been working in the IT industry since 2012 as a marketing specialist. In previous companies, he played the role of a Scrum Master and learned the life cycle of a SaaS (Software as a Service) product from the bottom up. As an enthusiast of combining various fields and approaches to problem-solving, he looks to Agile methods and adapts their elements to the daily work of a marketer.More posts