The numbers are in on virtual.
After being immersed in all things virtual the last four months through my work with the Virtual Edge Summit, it was interesting to attend IAEE last week and be brought back into the world of association and for-profit trade show producers who still havenâ€™t decided if virtual is â€œthe real deal.â€ I was happy to see weâ€™ve moved past the â€œcannibalizationâ€ conversation, but stunned by how many are still undecided, unimpressed or generally uninspired to go virtual. I feel like Iâ€™m back in the 80s discussing whether or not shows need Web sites.
And Iâ€™m probably just as passionate now as then about the value of this technology. Friends, the numbers are in:
- 3 of 4 brand marketers expect trade shows to include virtual, according to the Event Marketing Institute.
- 60% of marketers expect to increase their spending for virtual events, according to BtoB Magazine and UBM Studios.
- 71 percent of exhibitors like virtual for its ability to add participants to an event, says a B2B Magazine and Freeman study.
- More than 75 percent of respondents to a TSNN/Onstream Media survey say they plan to participate in a virtual event in 2011.
- 75 percent of those in the same study, who have participated in a virtual event, deemed it a success.
I spoke with a lot of you in New Orleans this week, and I totally understand your hesitancy. You donâ€™t have the bandwidth to add another event to your plate. Â Your exhibitors wonâ€™t buy one more thing from you. Thereâ€™s no way your attendees would go. If it doesnâ€™t turn a profit, youâ€™ll be out on the street. I get it. Really, I do. I was in the same place before I produced my first one.
Hybrid Events = ROI
But think about this. You spend a year working on the education at your event. From surveys of current year attendees, you concept next yearâ€™s sessions and put out a â€œcall for papers.â€ You meet with education committees and spend months crafting content and recruiting speakers. You work with those speakers, honing their presentations and editing their PowerPoints. On the day of the event, a group of people spend an hour in the session, and youâ€™re done. Thatâ€™s it. Itâ€™s over. Whatâ€™s the ROI on that?
Why not livecast that session to the 70 percent of your potential audience thatâ€™s at home? Add a few more sessions, let the home audience send in questions, and whatâ€™ve you got? A hybrid event! Charge a fee for the virtual attendees, and youâ€™ve got a great new revenue stream, too. It really doesnâ€™t have to be more complicated than that.
Conclusion and a Prediction
After 21 years of covering the industry, Iâ€™m not one for making predictions in print â€“ comes back to bite me too often. But I feel completely safe in saying that within two years, Iâ€™ll bet you have at least a hybrid event as a part of your show. Itâ€™s just the next logical step. Like I said when I saw my first zero-depth swimming pool, â€œWhy did it take us so long to think of that?!â€
Virtual Edge Summit â€“ January 2011
If youâ€™re one of the unimpressed, undecided or uninspired, make plans now to come to the Virtual Edge Summit in January in Las Vegas (itâ€™s co-located with PCMA and will also have a virtual component). The education will be unsurpassed. From strategy and project management to booth/sponsorship sales and audience acquisition, youâ€™ll get all your questions answered.
- The Numbers are In: Virtual Events are The Real Deal - December 14, 2010