Live, in-person events have traditionally been the format for most business networking. Let’s face it, when many of us think of Las Vegas, conferences and trade shows come to mind before casinos and shows. Major real estate and technology trade shows are held annually in Sin City, but virtual versions of the same events certainly don’t have the same pizazz!
Nonetheless, 2020 was the year we all needed to make the jump to virtual everything for our health and safety. Virtual offices, Teams staff meetings and Zoom networking events quickly became the norm and were much appreciated during the unprecedented shut down of our everyday lives.
Facing the unknown, many major trade associations and event organizers were able to effectively pivot, taking large trade shows and quickly turning them into virtual events. Business was still getting done, contacts were still being established, and deals were still being made. New and improved virtual conference platforms featured custom avatars, virtual conference rooms and video panelists zooming in from all over the world.
Many participants found the virtual event world to be positive and recognized that virtual events break down the barriers of place, cost and time by offering a digital venue for anyone to connect and providing on-demand content that attendees can access from any location. Travel costs were a huge savings for attendees, offering opportunities for some to attend conferences that might have been constrained by budgets previously. In some cases, registration and sponsorship costs were greatly reduced as well.
On-demand sessions were popular among presenters and participants creating a lot of useful content. According to event platform, Bizzaboo, about half of their 2020 events were conferences and a large percentage of their host organizations made content available on-demand, with 80% enabling at least one on-demand virtual session for attendees.
With first-time virtual attendees, technology frustrations were not uncommon. The newer platforms offered exciting virtual experiences, but for many participants working from home with possibly less than ideal technical situations, navigating new and sophisticated virtual trade show events proved difficult.
Most Michael Mackenzie Communication clients found better access for participation, but as some clients point out, costs to prepare presentation materials and time “away” from the office for virtual attendance were considerations. The unknown level of participation and the lack of in-person feedback was a drawback as well.
For the majority of business networkers, there is just no substitute for the good old-fashioned face to face experience capped off with a solid handshake. There were some who sat out the experience of virtual events or grew weary of the constant screen time as the pandemic kept us mostly grounded close to home.
Although virtual and hybrid events continue to be common in 2021, as organizations await health recommendations and a decline in travel restrictions, for the first time in recent months we are beginning to see live conferences on the calendar this fall for several clients. The hybrid conference with in-person and virtual options seems to be the norm for events in the second half of 2021.
Even for 2022, a few conferences are still taking a wait and see approach before making final preparations. No doubt, memories linger for event planners of the difficult transition from fully planned live events forced to rapidly transition to the virtual format.
While some organizations will continue to offer virtual or hybrid platforms in the near future, many of us are anxious to get back to pre-2020 networking and events. Event planners report that live trade shows are back in business this fall although online sessions are still available at many large events. As health guidelines continue to evolve, and the appetite for travel and live interaction increases, it might be a safe bet to gamble on the 2022 conference in Las Vegas!
This post is courtesy of MMC Media Relations Manager Malinda Lackey