Digital events are a solution for our times.
Digital events are a solution for our times.
The loss of some in-person events are worth mourning:
weddings, birthday parties, the kids’ hockey games. We miss the intimacy of family and close friends.
But is it worth fighting the inevitable digitalization that’s happening with many events and activities? Whether working from home or holding a conference to connect with employees nation-wide, digital transformation is making it possible to stay connected. Indeed, the technology is advancing at an astonishing pace to make a virtue of the virtual.
COVID-19 has forced us to be smarter, to think on our feet and to truly embrace the digital age we’ve living in. For every major event that’s been cancelled in recent months—SXSW, the 2020 Summer Olympics and the Cannes Film Festival—others, like MTV’s Video Music Awards, IBM’s 2020 Cloud Forum, and SAP’s Customer Experience LIVE 2020, went completely digital.
Has some digital event failed to impress you? It’s early days. There are bugs to work out, best practices to be developed. But think of all the in-person events that left you wishing you’d stayed home. Now factor in that many people will remain hesitant to be in crowds of any size—even after months of social distancing. One survey found that 66% of people won’t attend an in-person event without a COVID-19 vaccine in place.
Digital transformation isn’t going to stop. It will continue to meet the “always-on, always connected” expectation. International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that by 2024, “over 50% of all IT spending will be directly for digital transformation and innovation (up from 31% in 2018).” Digital transformation presents an amazing opportunity to embrace change and explore a different approach.
So how do you run an event virtually when your company expects results on par with a traditional conference?
Let’s quantify some those “results.”
What better way to increase the audience reach of your corporate event that to take it online? Wherever clients, employees or stakeholders may be—whatever device they may use—they can connect. Gone are the physical constraints of the event space you had planned. Where you could accommodate 1,000, now you can scale that up easily by at least 10-fold. Where reach used to stop at your city boundaries, now there are none. You can connect with people globally.
Major in-person events are expensive. Six- and even seven-figure expenditures to descend on Vegas or Orlando are not unheard of. Well, get ready to save big. Going digital enables you to engage more people at a fraction of the cost per attendee. These events are not without their expenses, but they are generally significantly cheaper than physical counterparts. The savings on travel, accommodations and venues alone can be eye-popping—and the main reason digital events get the green light these days. What’s more, the cost-efficiency of digital events makes them available to organizations who could only dream of planning such an activity before.
And the savings? In these days of budget uncertainty, it’s a relief to be able to redistribute the money you save to fund new priorities.
Event technology, particularly platforms and apps, enable unprecedented levels of brand control. And in a time when it’s paramount to stay front of mind with audiences, digital events make it easy to engage as often as you wish. Perhaps the best reason to consider a digital event is for the potential increase in brand awareness that results from reaching more people in more locations around the world.
If there’s one positive thing 2020 has taught us, it’s to lean into diversity, equity and inclusion.
Digital events help you to keep costs down, which often opens registration to those who couldn’t afford to attend your previous events. Online events offer many ways to leap the hurdles encountered in physical spaces, thereby enabling access for people living with disabilities. The technology enables you to offer multiple language versions, including sign-language interpretation, and schedule according to time zones. And one of the big complaints associated with large events is that attendees feel insignificant at the back of a 2,000-person banquet hall. At a digital event, your proximity to an event’s main draw is as good as anyone’s.
These days, people see events as opportunities to learn and grow. Much of the knowledge that’s conveyed at events comes from keynote speakers—experts and leaders worth making time to see and hear. The keyword for lining up a slate of speakers is availability. In the digital world, in which travel means walking down the hall to your home office, speaker schedules are opening up and costs are going down. Now booking the thought leaders and entertainers you want is easier and less expensive.
Events tend to be awareness builders rather than revenue generators. All the more reason to be able to measure their performance. This may be the most compelling reason to go online. Digital event platforms and apps are rich in performance data. Depending on the platform you use, interaction metrics will tell you everything from the number of attendees to the popularity of speakers and document downloads. Engagement surveys let you collect feedback immediately after events—even in real time.
Ready to go digital?
Digital events score high on just about everything except the “press the flesh” meter. So how to proceed? Few organizations have event expertise in-house. Talk to your event planners. Learn about the options for event-management apps and platforms. Don’t be intimidated by the choices. There’s something for every price point.
At Stiff, we have helped companies big and small adjust to the new virtual realities of COVID-19. We see digital events as an opportunity to innovate—to help you make new and meaningful connections with your audience and deliver a powerful individual experience for each attendant.
Read about our work with the David C. Onley Initiative.