Virtual Events: Past Present & Future

By Event Concept

Virtual Events: Past Present & Future by Event Concept

We find ourselves in a strange new reality. As events professionals, we are reeling from the shock of our meticulously planned, lovingly crafted live events disappearing overnight. In our 25 years in the events industry, COVID-19 is not the first crisis we have had to ride out, but its impact has been the most quickly felt, and likely to be long lasting.

As we have all reacted to the situation, the past few weeks have seen a flurry of pivoting to virtual solutions. As the immediate panic dissipates and we acclimatise to a new normal, we’ve taken a step back to ask ourselves how virtual events might integrate into the future of our industry in both the short and longer term.

What is a virtual event?

There’s a lot of discussion about virtual events, but what exactly does that term mean? Whatever your view on what constitutes a virtual event, we came to the conclusion that the virtual event of the past is not the same as the virtual event of the present and different again, to the that of the future.

Virtual events - Past

We are regularly asked to stream a live event and it’s something we do quickly and easily, allowing guests who cannot attend in person to watch the event as it happens. Recordings of live sessions can be shared post-event and used to extend the reach to other audiences beyond those who physically attended.

It was less common to be asked to consider how a guest not in the room, would engage with the audience or the content in real time. However, we find ourselves in the present, unable to hold the live event which presents us with a new challenge.

'There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen' VLADIMIR ILYICH LENIN

Virtual events - Present

With social distancing in full swing and the future unclear on when we will be able to revert to any kind of physical event, we are supporting our clients to deliver their message in new ways.

In the present, events are 100% virtual. The immediate and total shift from live to virtual events will, undeniably, have demonstrated to even the most sceptical that there are great benefits to be had from hosting an event virtually; global reach, content capture and easy ROI reporting at the most basic level.

We’ve pivoted entire series of events from live to virtual, quickly and with great success. It can be done, and you can still deliver a message to your intended audience with impact. Our recent work with the University of Cambridge as an example.

If COVID-19 is to teach us anything, it is that virtual events can work in a way which we’ve not been ready to experience until now. The challenge for event professionals who thrive on creating beautiful immersive experiences, is how to translate that experience into a virtual event. We are working on new platforms and new ways to engage audiences so watch this space.

'Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced' JOHN KEATS

Virtual events – The short-term future

When lockdown is lifted and life starts returning to 'normal' will virtual events remain king, or will the world of live events snap back to its' pre-Corona habits?

We believe the answer is neither and both. Looking at the next 9-12 months, the prudent choice for event organisers, particularly in the conference, exhibition and brand activation markets, is a hybrid strategy. Running an integrated virtual solution alongside the live event.

The short-term future remains uncertain. Having a well thought through plan to pivot from a live event to a digital one at short notice will allow brands to continue to move forward with lower risk. Many of the elements of a live event can be built and utilised in a virtual option ensuring budget isn’t wasted and impact isn’t reduced.

In a landscape where travel is limited and working from home is the norm, creating engaging and accessible virtual solutions will be key to brands extending their events to a wider customer base. There can be no doubt that its time to think more creatively to ensure our content, messaging and immersive experiences still resonate on a personal level.

We may have to consider new angles, such as social distancing for some months to come, but it is all possible with thoughtful planning and innovative design.

Virtual events – The long-term future

During our research we asked clients what they thought the future held and did they think that virtual events would be so widely adopted that live events would be replaced? The answer was resoundingly, ‘no’.

Whilst it is accepted that virtual events have an important part to play in delivering messages to audiences when we cannot be together, human beings thrive on relationships that are nurtured and developed face to face.

We predict that the conversation will not be about whether to have a virtual event or not, but that events will naturally evolve into a hybrid offering, delivering increased flexibility, broader reach and the ability to provide a sustainable option.

The Coronavirus pandemic is the largest challenge the events industry has ever faced. As a creative industry we are well versed in dealing with the unexpected twists and turns of live events and pivoting on the spot to find solutions – this situation is no different.

To find out more about Event Concept's Hybrid & Virtual Events please click HERE

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Event Concept
Event Concept is a creative event production house bringing innovative design and technical precision to events across the globe. We specialise in bespoke event production for brand activations, live events, award shows, conferences, luxury receptions & dinners and private celebrations.