Virtual events are still relatively new to many people. Because of this, there are lots of myths and misconceptions that probably affect how you think about them. These virtual events myths can make it seem like taking your event online just isn’t worth it. The truth is, a virtual event or hybrid event can be incredibly successful, if you approach it in the right way. It’s just a matter of debunking common online events myths to get at the truth.
Myth 1: People Don’t Want to Attend Online Events
Live events have been a mainstay of many industries for decades. And even though virtual events have been possible for a long time, they didn’t hit their stride until 2020, when physical events were forced to take a break due to COVID-19.
It’s not surprising that this is a highly popular virtual event myth. After all, if people wanted to attend online events, they would have already been popular, right?
The fact is, most people and companies tend to stick with what they know works. Many big events were slowly starting to add virtual features, and effectively becoming hybrid events. But virtual events were a mostly untried market.
But look what happened when circumstances forced events to pivot to being fully online. Many of this year’s events have reported higher attendance figures than ever—because it’s easier and less expensive to attend an online event. People who previously avoided live events because they were too far away or unaffordable are now enjoying virtual events in record numbers.
Myth 2: Planning a Virtual Event Is More Work
It’s true that planning a virtual event involves work. And some of it is work that isn’t needed for an in-person event. But the reverse is true as well: There’s work you do for an in-person event that won’t be needed at a virtual one. For instance, at a physical event you’ll need to hire a venue, vendors, and labor, and arrange accommodation and transport partners. None of that is needed at a virtual event because people won’t be heading to a live venue.
It’s more accurate to say that the amount of work needed is similar, just focused in different areas with an online event. For instance, instead of hiring a venue and service providers, you’ll be working with an online platform to host the event. Opting for an all-in-one immersive virtual events platform and an event planning company will make that work simpler.
Myth 3: Virtual Events Are Too Complicated
For some people, the idea of putting an entire event online makes it too complicated because they feel everything becomes about the tech—and if that goes wrong, your event is a bust.
But again, running a virtual event versus a physical one only means you’re shifting the focus. Virtual events aren’t more complicated; they’re just different. When you host a physical event, you don’t handle everything yourself—you have a team of people with expertise in various areas. With a virtual event, you do exactly the same thing, except now your team are tech experts as well. As long as you have the right people on board and put in the preparation work, you can handle any problems that may arise.
Myth 4: It’s Impossible for Attendees to Engage Meaningfully at Virtual Events
At big live events, where the largest companies compete to outdo one another with impressive exhibits, it’s easy to see when attendees are engaged. But at online events, you can’t physically see what your attendees are doing. Are they watching the presentation or just keeping one eye on it while they multitask? Beyond tracking clicks and engagement, it can be hard to tell, and that makes some event organizers wary about virtual events.
While it can be a little more challenging to encourage engagement at online events, it’s not impossible. In some ways, it can be even more rewarding for attendees. In fact, there are many ways to engage attendees, including:
- Q&A sessions
- Polls or quizzes
- Designated chat channels
While it’s hard to quantify engagement at an in-person event, at an online one, the ability to track clicks and views actually makes it much easier. Tracking attendee activity can provide highly valuable data that’s useful for planning future events and marketing campaigns.
Myth 5: Online Events Can’t Be Monetized
If you’ve been used to operating in the live event industry—whether it’s attending them or running them—it can be difficult to see how virtual events might be monetized. But again, the online environment is perfect for this purpose. Online advertising is so ubiquitous and so lucrative, its existence is essentially what makes the internet possible.
The keys to monetizing a virtual event are being creative and thorough. There are lots of online spaces where advertising can be displayed. And that means you have plenty to offer exhibitors and sponsors who might be interested in your event. Some options include:
- Preferred advertisement placement for sponsors on the event website, in your event app, and on the event platform
- Online banner ads and splash screens
- Advertising messages on registration screens
- Mentions in event-related email blasts
- Sponsorship messaging between sessions
- Advertising in the virtual lobby or virtual event space
- Virtual exhibits for sponsors as well as exhibitors
- Networking spaces with sponsored advertising
- Sponsored prizes and giveaways
- Sponsored speakers and presenters
Myth 6: Virtual Events Don’t Have Staying Power
Virtual has seen a huge surge in 2020 and 2021 due to the need for social distancing and other safety measures. But will they stick around? One view is that virtual events won’t remain popular in the long term because they can’t compete with the unique spectacle that in-person events provide.
On the other hand, many event organizers are putting considerable effort into building the event teams and infrastructure they need to host virtual events. Why would they want to let all that go? It makes much more sense to continue getting value from that work by making future events a hybrid of live and virtual. There are many benefits to taking an event online, and it’s possible that virtual—or hybrid events—was always the future of the industry; COVID-19 pushed it to happen sooner than it might have otherwise.
Virtual Events Are Here to Stay
The most common virtual events myths all seem to suggest that online events are inferior because they’re different from live events. There’s no question that virtual events are very different from their in-person counterparts, but the things that make virtual events different are what give them their potential. The convenience for attendees, the monetization opportunities for sponsors, not to mention the valuable data-collection opportunities, all mean that virtual events are much more than a temporary fix—they’re part of the next step for the event industry as a whole.