How to Create Value-Packed Digital Event Experiences

Daniel Temkin
Updated December 16 2021
Daniel Temkin
Updated December 16 2021

Although the shift from in-person events to virtual ones has largely been driven by the realities of COVID-19, there are good reasons for industry events to have a significant digital component even after the pandemic is behind us.

 

More specifically, what does the future of industry events look like? Although we can’t always predict with certainty, we can look towards sentiment among event professionals to gain some sense of where to expect the future of these events to lead. This also allows us to improve our understanding of the direction events should take going forward, so that we can optimize our events to generate audience engagement and achieve our business goals.

 

One key is to gauge this sentiment reliably through data—which is why we recently published The State of Virtual Events 2022, an insightful report sharing the results of a global survey of more than 1,250 event organizers and attendees.

 

That’s also the reason that we were so excited that Laura Ramos, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester, led a valuable session at our recent Virtually Live! event. In her presentation, Laura shared hard data from a survey of marketing and event professionals conducted by Forrester in Q3 2021 (Forrester’s Q3 2021 B2B Enterprise Marketing Events Trends Survey). In addition to those metrics, she provided context, explanation, and a narrative from which we can all gather useful ideas for making our digital-forward events as successful as possible.

 

Here’s a recap of the session.

See where the industry’s heading.
Download The State of Virtual Events 2022.

Get the Report

Virtual vs. in-Person: The Big Picture Among Event Professionals

It’s no secret that the entire field of virtual events largely took off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Forrester’s research underscored how fundamentally this shift has impacted our idea of what it means to organize or attend an industry event. No less importantly, it showed strong indications that this is far more than a temporary trend.

 

For starters, 85% of respondents to Forrester’s survey said they had run a virtual event in the previous 12 months. And looking forward, 63% said they plan to conduct either the “same or more” virtual events during the next 12 months. Meanwhile, 62% said that the role of events within their overall B2B marketing mix will expand in the future.

 

But perhaps the most surprising of Forrester’s findings is the eagerness of event professionals to return to running in-person events. Specifically, 85% of respondents said they plan to hold an in-person event in the next year, and 11% said they’re already holding in-person events.

 

At the same time, these professionals showed a strong sense of the key advantages of enabling individuals to attend industry events virtually. Their responses to Forrester’s survey showed that they tend to see four main advantages to including more digital components within their events:

  • The ability to have increased reach and a larger audience (cited by 76% of respondents)
  • The ability to make their event content accessible to attendees in various locations and time zones (cited by 59% of respondents)
  • The ability to gather more data about their audience’s interests and content consumption (cited by 57% of respondents)
  • The ability to make the event content available after its original broadcast has passed (cited by 52% of respondents)

 

The Challenge of Audience Engagement

Forrester’s findings show that the essential trend to expect for the future is a major shift towards hybrid events. Most respondents (58%) said they expect all events to be hybrid within two years, while half (50%) of all respondents said they expect hybrid events to deliver greater ROI than events typically did before the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, 67% said that by organizing “digital-forward hybrid events,” they expect to be able to reach audiences that are more qualified.

 

On the other hand, we see that many virtual events fail to actually engage those audiences. As Laura highlighted in her presentation, one major problem here is that many virtual events are made available for free, and these free events tend to offer lower levels of innovation and creativity. Forrester sees that tendency as contributing to “virtual event fatigue” among attendees.

 

As she explained, part of this problem stems from a failure to sufficiently distinguish virtual events from webinars. In fact, 60% of Forrester’s respondents cited differentiating their virtual event experience from that of a webinar as a top planning challenge.

 

That presents a critical question for event professionals: How can you make sure to offer your hybrid event’s virtual attendees an experience that’s worth paying for? Whether or not you actually charge for your event, how can you make it deliver the kind of high-quality content that attendees would be willing to pay for?

Create digital experiences that wow audiences with Kaltura Virtual Events.

Learn More

Innovative Ways to Overcome “Virtual Event Fatigue”

The answer to this question that Laura presented is that it boils down to content. Specifically, content needs to be engaging, pushing attendees to participate actively and to socialize with each other.

 

To accomplish that goal, she emphasized three essential things that event professionals need to do:

 

How can hybrid events actually achieve these three goals? One important step is to present the event’s virtual component to its at-home attendees within a visual format that simulates the in-person experience and makes them really feel like they’re part of an in-person audience. That’s something that some virtual events are already starting to do in innovative, powerful, and effective ways.

Produce events with Kaltura Virtual Events that are forever memorable with simple registration, inherent engagement, and personalized agenda.

 

Along with an innovative use of digital technology, delivering an engaging visual experience also requires high-quality production value. Taken together, these elements contribute to an ability to “produce television-quality content”—a capability that 52% of Forrester’s respondents cited as important for future events.

 

Achieving the ROI Potential of Digital-Forward Hybrid Events

The main challenge for hybrid events going forward will be delivering the ROI that this format is capable of. Although half of Forrester’s respondents expect hybrid events to deliver a greater ROI than pre-pandemic events did, we also see that hybrid events are significantly more expensive to run than fully in-person ones. This includes the production costs of turning event footage into high-quality video to be watched on demand in order to support marketing and sales goals, as well as the technology required to deliver an engaging virtual experience.

 

In addition to delivering engaging and enjoyable user experiences, achieving the ROI potential of a hybrid event requires the effective collection and use of data. In part, that’s because data can help you measure the ROI of your events, so that you can make sure you’re on the right track. Even more importantly, your data can help you to actually gain more business benefit from your hybrid events by gathering useful insights into your audience.

 

Then, you can use those insights both to deliver a personalized event experience and to improve your marketing across the board. The key to making that happen is integrating your event management platform into your martech stack.

 

These data-focused steps can help you ensure that in addition to offering great value to your audience, your hybrid event offers a high ROI to your company.

Up Next: Top Tips for Planning a Hybrid Event

Read Now