Turn on your smartphone, tablet, or laptop, and you won’t have to look that far to find an event that is online and in progress.

In May 2018, the whole world turned on their computers to watch Warren Buffett’s comments at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder’s meeting. And in September 2019, Apple’s iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and Pro Max launch event kept 1.8 million people glued to their screens as the event was live-streamed for the first time.

As data becomes more affordable, it grows clearer that the future will be all about remote participation as was prevalent in 2020. After some crystal-gazing into 2021 (studying the developing trends of recent years), here are the key developments in the digital event landscape that signal why the surge in virtual 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 ten times more on live videos than on regular videos, with other social media networks like Instagram, Twitter, and an image of a person recording a showYouTube closely following suit.

With over 80% of poll respondents favoring a good quality livestream to a company’s blog or social media post, we can safely say that providing a compelling live feed — like discussion sessions, webinars, virtual product launches, and tutorials — will take center stage in 2021. In a survey by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, 44% of respondents stated that they watch more livestreamed events on their devices than live TV. According to Cisco, 82% of all internet traffic by 2022 will be consuming videos.

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 up 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 2021 and even that has 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 while allowing millennials and remote supporters to participate at their convenience.

Marketers are getting serious about attendee trackingan image of data

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 former’s ability to track leads, quantitatively measure event performance, and gauge event ROI down to the most basic statistics.

For 2021, it’s expected that attendee tracking at events will hit fifth gear, owing to the decreasing costs of using RFID/NFC and the continued rise of on-demand content. These tools, which 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 in on providing a customized experience to event attendees. This will particularly play out in post-event follow-ups, where companies 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 a follow-up.

As this follow-up strategy furnishes higher value call-to-actions — given that the material is relevant to the audience — they will be relied on heavily. While tracking behavior during the virtual event is one possibility, event hosts can also conduct polls and surveys, and capture detailed information at registration to gather enough insights about their attendees for a customized follow-up strategy.

What’s Next?

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.

Planning a Virtual Event in 2021? This cool infographic will get you started on the planning checklist.


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