Six months ago, if you mentioned the word virtual event 5 out of 6 people would shrug, look sceptical or even splutter at your naïvety. Like all new innovations, trying to explain the capabilities and opportunities created by this technology was easily lost in the objections.
Not any more.
While technology companies and those used to employing disparate, often home-based, workforces were eagerly embracing this new way of communicating, professional protectionism has held other sectors back in terms of both understanding and implementation. Areas of business that could benefit hugely from the ability to disseminate large amounts of complex information, with the ability to receive live feedback and action plans were either unable to see the possibilities or quite frankly were singing with their hands pressed over their ears.
But the economic, business and learning opportunities offered by the very best virtual solutions platforms have been hard to ignore. Recent research by e-learning consultant Jeff Cobb among associations in the US showed that nearly 20% had already held a virtual conference with a further 45% planning to do so. Although it is the big organisations that have been the early adopters, this research showed that the smaller groups are also able to see the benefits that this could deliver to them and were looking to follow suit.
While virtual events can’t replace that impromptu chat, where they do win hands down is in their attendance figures. Just as many exhibitions are currently struggling to convert more than 30% of their registrations into actual visitors, virtual events are seeing conversion somewhere in the region of 70%. In fact we have one commercial event where 1300 registered and 1297 logged on to participate in the event.
But it is when you start to see organisations like the American Nurses Association adopting the technology to enable them to deliver one of their six-monthly meetings virtually and saving approximately $80K (and all those greenhouse gases) that you should understand how communicating this way removes cost directly from the bottom line, and yet affects service delivery not one iota.
Which is probably why no one is singing any more when virtual events are mentioned.
When we talk about how groundbreaking technology can fundamentally change business practices we get a variety of responses:
- Event management companies look at the virtual technologies, compare them with their live offering and are generally dismissive, despite results from our recent survey saying that 80% of event directors/managers/organisers think that virtual events represent a real opportunity for the events industry.
- Corporates who are already using or building different forms of virtual communication technologies can’t quite believe that the technology is as advanced as it is, and are entused by its simplicity and capabilities.
- Business leaders listen politely, technology isn’t their thing, then they suddenly realise just what can be delivered across their entire enterprise.
Virtual events and connective marketing are not just concepts. They are business changing reality and they are available right now.
People have been doing things virtually for a very long time already: from pilots trained in flight simulators to buying your train tickets online; building virtual farms on Facebook to checking out health symptoms on NHS Direct; we don’t even question the process. Twenty years ago the insurance agent came to your house to arrange your car insurance, now you gocompare. Was that so hard?
It’s time to embrace virtual technologies to create collaborative communities that make a real difference to the way the world does business.