Attention, trade show attendees: How would you like to attend your next conference while basking on a beach, in an airplane, or even in bed?
The likelihood of doing so is increasing due to the rapid growth of a wide range of virtual business events, according to a new Unisfair survey of 550 marketers. That’s not to say in-person trade shows and business meetings will disappear, but they are likely to be made more effective for all concerned-- providers and attendees--as hybrid physical-virtual approaches become more commonplace.
Unisfair’s survey, released last week, found that 60% of the respondents plan to increase spending for virtual environments and events, and 67% is contemplating hosting 10 or more virtual events, in the next 12 months.
“Virtual engagement is not just a replacement for a physical event, but is a new channel for reaching your audiences,” said Joerg Rathenberg, Unisfair VP of marketing, in an interview with CMO.com. “The research indicates that virtual events are being adopted across industries and enterprises and will continue to be the preferred way to meet, market, collaborate, and educate for both hosts and attendees alike.”
In addition to finding that most providers and attendees like virtual events for trade shows, training sessions, networking, customer engagement, the survey uncovered some surprising findings. When respondents couldn’t attend a physical event, they were able to be just as effective attending virtually, even from bed--where 27% said they were while participating. Four percent said they attended virtual events from airplanes, prompting Rathenberg to predict more opportunities as the still embryonic use of Wi-Fi in passenger carriers takes off.
“The days of the large, monolithic trade show is in decline,” he said, noting the ease with which attendees can log onto a virtual event. “You know everything about attendees--when they come, when they leave, their email addresses. The really cool thing is that you don’t have to bother them to get the information.”
With more detailed information, providers can more accurately tailor future meetings, such as creating four or five highly focused regional meetings to take the place of one large meeting, Rathenberg said.
While the survey found evidence of growing usefulness for business providers, respondents, too, like virtual engagement. Virtual event sponsors have wide latitude to provide a variety of settings, and Rathenberg pointed to the case of a business that created a virtual beach.
“Most companies were nervous about creating a beach, but when one company made a virtual beach, they found that [attendees] reacted well to it,” Rathenberg said. “You can make it look like a beach or the Javits Center in New York, and you can repaint rooms.”
Nearly 60% of the respondents said they liked virtual events because they were able to multitask. A total of 46% of the respondents said they expect more than 50% of corporate events will be physical-virtual hybrid affairs within two years. Most respondents said they look forward to being able to attend virtual events on mobile devices.
Read related article by Joerg Rathenberg: "Always-On: The New Virtual Marketing Paradigm."