Looking Ahead at Virtual Meetings and Events – The Million Dollar Question
Planning for a new state of being when it comes to live meetings and events is like an industry-wide craps game, except with no rules, a genuine state of overall confusion, and very little actual fun to be had. Exciting right?!? Welcome to the ever-evolving Meetings and Events industry in quarantine / post-quarantine reality.
Looking Back at Virtual Events
Virtual events have existed for quite some time. Prior to 2020, virtual events were typically a luxury add-on to a live in-person event. The focus was on the live event but maybe there would be a stream to involve a few rogue board members or executives, or loop in some important donors who couldn’t attend the event live. Like an after-thought, the virtual portion of many live events existed with minimal attention or fanfare around it.
With quarantine, however, a new daily reality of thinking about and researching virtual events has arrived at the forefront. Virtual has moved from an unnecessary “nice-to-have” addition (only when budget allowed) to the very reality we’re in now where virtual is the event – and the entire budget.
Looking at this history, I wish we could all go back six months and say, “You might want to get a plan in place for bringing virtual into your event arsenal. You’re going to need to know a lot about this soon.” If only, right?! Hindsight is truly 20-20.
The Future of Online Events
Six months from now, what will we wish we, in the events industry, were considering in this moment to help us at that point in time and beyond?
The necessity to plan all events virtually has forced us to find ways to connect people around causes or conversations in the only ways we can right now: online.
The unknowns regarding the resurgence of COVID-19 cases and the shifting guidelines surrounding large gatherings and travel have resulted in most companies and organizations declaring that all of their events will be strictly virtual for the foreseeable future.
The industry has shifted from virtual events existing largely in the background of a larger live event, to virtual events moving center stage. It seems that even now, no one is spending time planning for a live portion of their next event. I get it, why spend time planning for something that right now is not an option in any context?
The Million Dollar Question
So, what is the million-dollar question? The one we should be thinking about today so we aren’t left wishing we had six months from now? Here it is: How can we add small components of live events to the planned, broader-scope virtual events? What if virtual and live didn’t have to be mutually exclusive?
Yes, hybrid events have always existed as we talked about earlier, but what if virtual was the primary component of the event yet there were smaller live get-togethers in various venues, maybe even in various cities, that allowed for social distancing regulations but didn’t discount the value of people actually gathering together?
Why not plan out virtual events with at least the possibility of a live component in mind? If connection is the sustaining power of events and there is nothing like truly like the power of live, then why not at least remain open to the possibility of redefining live events? No one is looking to take unnecessary risks with in-person meetings today but everyone is excited to harness the power of live and add it to the larger virtual event. We have moved from predominantly live to virtual, but it won’t be long before hybrid events are king. Live will support virtual to create new connections and ever-increasing engagement, not the other way around.
In six months, I truly expect this type of hybrid event to not only possible but the best solution for connecting and engaging attendees. Whenever your next event, virtual or hybrid, contact us to get Show Ready.