Virtual events have been gradually gaining popularity over the past five years. As you likely know, that growth exploded in 2020 as socialization, learning, and work activities shifted onto digital platforms. Don’t expect them to go away anytime soon though. Virtual events are here to stay! The global virtual events industry is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 23.2% from 2020 to 2027. Organizations are taking employee trainings, conferences, marketing events, and internal company events digital to adapt to the new distributed way of life!

There are a number of benefits to conducting your event virtually or at least including a virtual component. Here are the top 3:

Lower Costs – Event organizers and attendees can reduce their costs by opting for virtual events. Organizers can still generate income through sponsorships and ticket sales, but their operating costs are generally lower. Eliminating travel, venue, catering, insurance, and event staffing costs allows for higher ROIs to be achieved. Virtual events can be an economical method of delivering high quality content to the audience without racking up expenses. According to Wild Apricot, 84% of companies spent less to run virtual events than in-person events.

Though, if you’re conducting an in-person event, consider adding a virtual component. As mentioned above, it is cheaper for attendees and event owners alike, but it’s also more accessible to attendees in many other ways. If your attendees can’t take the time off work, can’t be separated from their children, or have additional accommodation requirements, a virtual events or events with virtual components may be their preference.

Larger Reach – Virtual events remove geographic and financial barriers while providing a more inclusive experience. No travel is required, so you can reach a much wider audience. Attendees do not need to worry about booking hotels or buying expensive flights to experience the full benefits of your event. This is perfect for including working parents, international audiences, people with disabilities, and remote employees.

You’re also not stifled by venue capacity concerns, so you can open registration to a larger number of attendees. Plus up to 20% of virtual event engagement can occur after the event through interactions with on-demand content, so attendees with scheduling conflicts or different time zones can still be reached.

Enhanced Insights – When you utilize virtual tools to run your event or supplement your in-person event, you can gain access to a wide range of useful insights and analytics. These insights will help you understand how attendees engaged with the event content, with each other, and so much more. In today’s world, data is paramount. You can use this data to improve future events, identify and target your most engaged leads through follow up, and measure the success of your event through key metrics.

If you’re ready to start reaping these benefits by putting on your own virtual event, there are several types to choose from. Each virtual event type has its own merits, but it’s important that you choose the best one to help you reach your goals and that your audience will respond to. Below, I’ll talk about each of the 5 most common types of virtual events.

Types of virtual events
86% of B2B organizations see a positive ROI on their hybrid events, as found by a Markletic study

1. Webinar

Webinars, also referred to as workshops or masterclasses, are the perfect way to reach potential customers and create a marketing funnel. Webinars are inexpensive and provide minimal barriers to entry for companies and event planners. If you’re new to the virtual event space, this is a great place to start.

Webinars can be streamed live to encourage participant interaction and allow the host to answer questions. The host generally presents information on a topic, product, or service over an online conferencing platform and attendees can chime in to ask questions verbally or in the chat. Webinars typically last 30 minutes to an hour. Be sure to leave time at the end for questions, as 92% of webinar attendees want a live Q&A session as part of a webinar.

They can also be recorded and made available as on demand content. This allows you to create a collection of evergreen webinar resources that can be watched by potential customers at any time. You can also sell recorded informational evergreen webinars on an ongoing basis to consumers. Webinars are great because they can easily be adapted to different purposes, audiences, goals, and revenue streams.

A common use for webinars is lead generation. They are effective tools for creating a pipeline of potential customers. According to WebinarCare, 40% of webinar attendees convert to leads across all businesses surveyed. They also found that webinars were particularly effective for B2B (business to business) marketing. 73% of attendees at webinars aimed at B2B marketing converted to leads. For B2C (business to consumer) webinars, you can expect slightly lower conversion rates of 20-40%.

2. Virtual Summits

Virtual summits provide an opportunity for speakers, sponsors, and organizers to establish themselves as thought leaders. A virtual summit brings together expert speakers to share educational content and answer questions.

Summits are generally conducted in an interview format, with a host interviewing each speaker. Some summits have speakers give presentations instead. Like webinars, virtual summits can be recorded and made available as on-demand content after the event.

Virtual Summits establish your company as an authority in the industry. Through working with high quality summit speakers, you gain credibility, expand your network, and brand presence. If each speaker shares the virtual summit to their network, you will gain a lot of fresh eyes on your content and branding. If executed correctly, this can turn into a great marketing funnel.

To learn more about what you can expect to achieve with a virtual summit, check out our blog on The Vision Council’s Executive Summit. The average attendee at the summit made 29 connections and the event achieved high levels of engagement.

3. Virtual Conferences

A virtual conference provides all of the traditional benefits of a conference, in a more flexible and accessible format. They are often multi-day events and feature keynotes, panels, networking opportunities, product demonstrations, and other educational content.

Virtual conferences provide lead generation and generate brand awareness for exhibitors and sponsors. For attendees, they provide opportunities to network with others in the industry and learn from respected thought leaders.

Booking high demand speakers can also be easier for virtual events. Notable speakers have busy schedules. They may not have time to fly into a conference for multiple days but finding an hour or two to speak remotely is less challenging. Having prominent and respected names helps attract attention to your event and your brand.

Virtual conferences also benefit from their ability to provide a customized experience. According to a survey by Demand Metric 80% of respondents found that personalized content was more effective in achieving their marketing and business goals than impersonalized content.

Social27 Recommendation and Prediction Engine provides personalized content and connection recommendations to attendees throughout their event experience. Based on their interests and activity, they will be directed towards Happy Hours, speaker sessions, sponsor and exhibitor booths, sponsored content, and other event content. Helping them get a more tailored event experience.

Virtual events can also personalize content to the audience by collecting information, questions, and feedback from participants prior to live sessions. Speakers and sponsors can then adjust their presentation and discussions to their audience.

4. Virtual Trade Shows

Virtual trade shows are a newer event type. They gained traction as an alternative to cancelling trade shows during the pandemic.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, exhibitors reported that cost and difficulty measuring ROI were their two largest problems with trade shows. As discussed at the start of this blog, virtual events provide solutions to lower costs and gain more detailed success metrics while maintaining high rates of engagement. Travel and lodging generally accounts for 14% of exhibitors’ trade show budgets. Shipping supplies to and from a physical trade show accounts for around 10% of the exhibitor’s event budget. By eliminating those two things, you save a quarter of your expenses.

But does that savings come at the cost of engagement?

The answer is no. Event owners can use interactive content, polling, Q&As, gamification, and so much more to capture their audience. As many as 59% of event organizers utilize gamification strategies to boost attendee engagement.

With the right strategy and tools, it’s easy to engage with attendees at virtual events and trade shows.

Social27 Event Platform has features designed to help exhibitors expertly showcase their products and services in a virtual format.

Our platform features Virtual Exhibitor Booth Microsites. These microsites allow exhibitors to share information about their products and services on their own designated page within the event platform. Exhibitors can designate a virtual booth representative to answer questions and engage visitors, curate content Playlists and downloadable resources, and allow attendees to scan their badge at the booth to request more information on the displayed products and services.

5. Hybrid Events

If you’re not ready to go fully virtual, consider going hybrid. Hybrid events bridge your in-person event strategy with virtual engagement. They provide greater customer retention, boost long-term engagement, enhanced relationship building, and maximize your event content!

Virtual options for attendance provide greater reach and accessibility. Companies have identified hybrid events as a solution for engaging international audiences and distributed workforces. However, not every attendee prefers fully virtual. Hybrid events leverage the benefits of virtual events while enabling those who prefer an in-person experience to have one. Virtual components can be used to engage attendees before and after the event, for more meaningful long-term engagement.

Hybrid events can deliver powerful ROIs. Markletic found that 86% of B2B organizations see a positive ROI on their hybrid events. Hybrid events allow for easier digital engagement and post-event follow up to stay connected with leads and interested buyers.

The rise in popularity of hybrid events has also caught the attention of large sponsors. 80% of corporate sponsors are interested in sponsoring hybrid events. These sponsors like to see data before sponsoring. They want to know about attendee engagement. The enhanced data that you collect from your virtual and hybrid events will help you demonstrate to sponsors that your events are worth sponsoring.

Plan Your Next Event With Social27

Social27 Virtual Event Platform can help you create engaging experiences for any of the above virtual event types.

Our platform provides you with valuable insights to help you engage attendees and monitor the success of your event. Deliver tailored and meaningful content to your attendees through relevant recommendations. Keep them engaged long after the event through post-event resources, on-demand viewing, and the development of long-term connections.