While there are still many uncertainties on the horizon, most event professionals agree that virtual events and conferences have distinct advantages over in-person events.
For some, virtual events are merely a backup plan if meeting in person is not possible. Others are planning for a hybrid approach right from the outset, not least because it means a wider reach. And yet others are choosing to stick to a virtual-only format. Even setting aside social distancing requirements and travel restrictions, there are logistical, economic, and environmental benefits to virtual events.
The upshot? Virtual conference engagement is here to stay. With that said, there is a steep learning curve for virtual event planners who may be inexperienced with the format.
When in-person conferences were the norm, event organizers could rely on AV teams to ensure that on-stage presentations went smoothly. Plenary sessions were mostly handled by the speakers themselves. Now that many events have pivoted to a virtual format, organizers have to take a more hands-on role in managing the quality of their live sessions and organizing the entire run of the show.
Conference live streaming technology has come a long way since the glorified Zoom calls of 2020. Attendees now expect virtual content to be as engaging as in-person presentations — or better. In an increasingly competitive online virtual event landscape, failing to captivate them with professional, polished live stream production means they might not be back next time.
The Cost of Low-Quality Live Stream Production
According to recent EventMB research, engagement was ranked the highest challenge when it comes to virtual events and the inability to match onsite engagement value ranked among the highest frustrations with virtual event tech. Why is this such a problem?
Streaming services like Netflix and educational series like TED Talks have set a high bar when it comes to consuming content online. Attendees need more to stay engaged. A virtual event on Zoom that consists of two poorly lit speakers in their living rooms talking to each other may as well be a podcast — at least then you can walk the dog.
Virtual event competition.
Virtual events need to be able to compete with both distractions at home and other events. The fact is that the virtual event marketplace has removed barriers to entry, and competition from other online content — much of which is free — is rising. Virtual event planners need to differentiate from the deluge of online content, and high-quality production is a key point of differentiation.
Event brand credibility.
Similarly, with new events popping up, attendees are looking for a way to determine which content is the most authoritative. A professional-looking stream on a dedicated platform can convey the sense of professionalism you need to separate yourself from the chaff. The last thing you want is for your brand to look unprofessional or unpolished.
The Race Is on for Better Virtual Event Live Streaming
So what exactly has the competition been doing, and how can you keep up — or even lead the pack?
Just as event technology has advanced by leaps and bounds over the past year, many event professionals are adapting just as quickly.
Several other positive trends are also gaining momentum. Fewer and fewer of EventMB’s respondents now think of virtual event tech as “untested”. Similarly, only 9% said that “lack of tech knowledge” was their biggest challenge (compared with 21% less than a year ago). Additionally, more than twice as many planners said that their own virtual events exceeded their expectations.
What’s the Secret to Virtual Event Success?
What happened to account for this growing sense of success? Was it simply a question of event planners adjusting to new technology? That is without a doubt part of the answer, but there is more to it than that. Event planners can’t be expected to raise the quality of their virtual events without having the budget to match.
Returning to EventMB’s survey, the number of respondents relying on free virtual event tech went from 14% in Q3 of 2020 to merely 9% in Q2 of 2021. In other words, it looks like many event planners — and the finance departments who set their budgets — heeded the warnings about ‘Zoom gloom.’
What’s more, the number willing to spend $15,000 USD (or more) showed a 70% increase. Almost a quarter of respondents now fall into this top category, compared with only 14% less than a year ago.