Turn on your smartphone, tablet, or laptop, and you won’t have to look that far to find an event that is live and in progress. In January 2017, Donald Trump’s inauguration broke all records, becoming the most live-streamed event in the history of live-streamed television and not so far ago in May, the whole world turned on their computers to watch Warren Buffett’s comments at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder’s meeting. As data becomes more affordable, it becomes clear that the future will become all about remote participation.
After some crystal-gazing into 2018 (read studying the developing trends of the recent years), here are the key developments in the digital event landscape that signal why the surge in Virtual Reality-based events will only get bigger.
Live streaming is on the rise
Live streaming has a "can't miss" factor that taps into people's FOMO (fear of missing out). According to Marketing Profs, Facebook users comment 10 times more on live videos than on regular videos with other Social Media Networks like Instagram, Twitter and YouTube closely following suit. With over 80% poll respondents favoring a good quality live stream to a company’s blog or Social Media post, we can safely say that providing compelling live feed like discussion sessions, webinars, virtual product launches and tutorials will take center stage in 2018.
With most Social Media Networks having announced their ‘Happening Now’ feature, it’s almost mandatory for marketers to broadcast some aspect of a corporate event onto the company’s social media accounts to generate buzz when the event is in progress. These changes have led to many companies opting for hybrid events to entertain remote audiences at trade shows and conferences with others switching purely to virtual fairs for corporate events.
P2P Virtual Campaigns are picking momentum
Only until a few years ago, nobody would have thought that a peer-to-peer fundraiser could be conducted virtually. People coming together to run a marathon or ride their bicycles across the city for charity is such a communal activity and it wasn’t plausible that a DIY approach would deliver the same results here. Come 2015 and even that changed. With the growing popularity of wearable fitness tracking devices, it has become a lot simpler for nonprofits to arrange P2P campaigns for supporters where they virtually participate in their own time from wherever they may be.
Virtual P2P campaigns have proven their worth in the United Kingdom, with events like the British Heart Foundation’s My Marathon and Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Running Down Dementia. Sensing this trend, many software companies are beginning to invest in the development of peer-to-peer fundraising applications that sync with wearable fitness trackers and enable users to raise funds based on how far they run or ride, the number of steps they take or the number of calories they burn.
Other companies are developing similar technology that makes it possible for fitness-minded participants to build their own DIY campaigns or participate in virtual activities that are organized by nonprofits. With these virtual P2P events, organizations can deliver on the sense of community that drives the campaigns whilst allowing millennials and remote supporters to participate at their convenience.
Marketers are getting serious about attendee tracking
Tracking attendees has been a hot topic of discussion in the event tech industry for several years. Perhaps the most important benefit of virtual events over physical ones is the ability of the former to track leads, quantitatively measure event performance and gauge event ROI down to the most basic statistics. For 2018, it’s expected that attendee tracking at events will hit fifth gear owing to the decreasing costs of using RFID and NFC and on-demand content consumption on the rise. These tools, that can only be manipulated in a virtual environment, help track event attendance, visitor traffic patterns, and engagement levels while providing statistics that can easily be translated into ROI.
Hyper-personalization is becoming the norm
Event marketers will continue to hone on providing a customized experience to event attendees. This will particularly play out in post-event follow-up where more companies will send personalized content to their visitors based on their interests collected at the event. Since executive reports from the event can show which user engaged with what content at the event, it becomes easy to share relevant material with them during follow-up. Since this follow-up strategy furnishes higher value Call to Actions given that the material is relevant to the audience it is being shared with, they will be relied heavily on.
Where tracking behavior during the virtual event is one possibility, event hosts can conduct polls, surveys and capture detailed information at registration to gather enough insights about their attendees for a customized follow-up strategy.
For event managers, the continuing growth of virtual events creates new ways of connecting with larger audiences. In a recent survey conducted by the PCMA Education Foundation, it was found that 67 percent of respondents expected to leverage technology to remotely participate in events for the coming three years. However, making the most of this trend is not as easy as going live on Facebook for your regular event. To truly engage audiences in the highly competitive digital landscape of today, you need to deliver a top-notch virtual event experience that is geared towards delivering value to its visitors.