Captivating an audience to be inspired, motivated and engaged with your brand and vision can easily be achieved through live events such as conferences. But what’s the future for expanding the opportunity to empower and educate your people? In this blog, we take a look at how virtual conferencing has it’s place in the marketing plan.
The travel ban and subsequent lockdown brought on by the Covid-19 epidemic has had a major impact on events globally. Everything from Mobile World Congress, to the Olympics has either been cancelled or postponed. For vendors that have had partner and customer conferences and meet-ups planned for months, the prospect of all that hard work resulting in nothing is a difficult pill to swallow. These conferences are often the best opportunity to reconnect with your network of peers, learn about new industry trends and techniques, and even just come across solutions you weren’t expecting to find. Equally, for many companies, conferences are an important source of new leads, and the immersive and exploratory nature of a conference is difficult to replicate on a series of siloed pre-recorded sessions and online reports. In a catch-22 situation, with the economy growth expected to slow, many businesses are in need of the positive outputs of an event more than ever.
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So your event’s cancelled – but it’s not all over
The great news is that today technology offers us the opportunity to have the closest thing to a physical event – a virtual one. Rather than delaying an event, businesses can now use virtual reality conferencing to simulate an event and create a truly immersive experience using interactive tools that incorporate audio, video, demos, and webinars, as well as chat and poll functions. This means an event can keep the same format, with keynote speeches, simultaneous breakout sessions, and workshops as well as providing opportunities to network and build relationships in virtual lobbies and at an expo. The virtual conference can carry through the event theme, company branding and host sponsorship from supporters and exhibitors.
For organisations that have already put steps in place to engage with brand ambassadors, or invite customers or prospects along to interesting training sessions or panel debates, this enables a much smoother format switch rather than having to overhaul and reschedule an entire event into the future.
With virtual conferencing, it can take a relatively short time to design and set the technology up, to your exact requirements. So that new product launch, company kick off, celebratory event or education sessions, doesn’t need to be removed from the marketing plan all together – a new and interesting ‘version of’ the original plan can be created instead and still move your business objectives forward. And let’s face it, people need variety in their day and working week, so will welcome a change of pace and an innovative initiative that will spark some new motivation and interest.
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While nothing can replace the impact of a face-to-face event, a virtual event gets closest to the real thing, or can even be a supplementary option when physical events start to come back to the agenda. Virtual conferencing can be used as an annual occasion, or alternatively they can support your physical event by being used to continue the conversation online, post event. Host smaller spin-off training sessions or touch points with brand ambassadors throughout the year, to keep engagement high and your brand front of mind.
For businesses that are using events to reach new audiences, having virtual events planned in parallel to a physical one means that you can reach audiences that wouldn’t have otherwise been able to attend. People who aren’t able to travel or could find it more difficult, people who have physical disabilities – you’ve opened up channels to a whole new group of additional attendees and decision makers.
A virtual conference also has the added benefit of being a completely environmentally sustainable option, so if you’ve worked hard to make your physical event as sustainable as possible, by reducing the use of paper, and single-use plastics, an additional quick-to-set-up virtual event is doing nothing but adding to the benefits.
In this time and place of uncertainty, one of the only constants that’s unlikely to change is that people will continue to rely on technology to work, go about their daily lives, as well as build and strengthen relationships. Now is the time to adapt and ensure that you’re continuing to strengthen your network, and meet the needs of your customers, employees and partners through the opportunities that technology is enabling. You never know, you might even discover how to make the traditional approaches even better for the future.