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Cathy Song Novelli, SVP, Marketing and Communications, Hubilo
If you’re waiting for things to return to pre-pandemic normal, I have bad news: it’s not happening soon. With new variants cropping up just as vaccines became available for Covid-19, and people getting increasingly used to working from anywhere, virtual solutions are trends that every organisation needs to have in their long-term strategy.
Two-thirds of US company leaders polled in late August have delayed plans to return to the office. US airlines’ “shoulder season” – the period between Labor Day and Thanksgiving – is typically a business travel boom. This year, airlines cancelled flights that never filled. Groups large and small have already started cancelling in-person events in Delta-variant hotspots.
Virtual event technology is no longer the short-term fix businesses believed they’d need for only a few weeks in March of 2020. It is catalysing a new way of working, learning, entertaining, communicating and marketing that will continue long after we’ve moved past the Covid crisis. The global virtual events market size was valued at $114 billion in 2021 and is expected to achieve a compound annual growth rate of 23.2 per cent from 2020 to 2027, according to Grand View Research last year.
We are living in an age of virtual connection. Every day, we seamlessly move from sending a text to the group chat before posting on social media and then meeting friends in person. Many event planners and marketers stumble when they try to squish real life into a digital box. At Hubilo, we don’t believe in replacing traditional events. Rather, we believe that people need more than one way to engage and connect in the same way that you can watch your favourite sport live, on TV, in a pub, or on your phone.
When you begin thinking about virtual events as a new channel, rather than being just a replacement for the traditional in-person event, it’s easy to understand the massive potential. In much the same way that we couldn’t imagine how a company selling books online would redefine how we shop more than 20 years ago, we are just beginning to see how virtual event technologies can and will impact how we live and work.
Imagine if sales kickoffs didn’t have to be compressed into one week, once a year with a huge expense attached, but instead could be a continuous virtual sales training and engagement hub that happens as frequently as your company desires.
Imagine how many more employees could be engaged and inspired in a townhall, and how meetings could be more inclusive because everyone could attend and engage.
Imagine the carbon emissions that could be reduced if fewer people had to travel to destinations, and could engage as effectively from home.
Imagine meeting with your favourite musician backstage in a virtual room after hosting a watch party from your house.
And imagine the treasure trove of data and insights for event organisers that now comes from being able to track audience’s engagement levels, what they looked at, who they spoke to and what was most commonly responded to during presentations. This data can be used to personalise more event experiences at scale, making every event more relevant and engaging than ever before.
We’re just beginning to scratch the surface about what virtual event technology can do for all of us. But what matters most is that connection isn’t necessarily dependent on physical proximity. People find love online. They order shoes and perfumes online. They watch TV and movies online, exercise online and so much more. Hubilo-hosted medical conferences have shared live surgeries to demonstrate the latest medical innovations to other doctors, and product launches with drag queen hosts that made people get out of their seats and dance. And these all happened virtually. It’s not necessarily being there that makes an experience memorable, but the engagement with others – that’s what blows an audience away.
That’s what makes Hubilo so special. Our team helps event planners incentivise engagement by gamifying the experience and adding personal notifications with the largest suite of engagement features industry-wide. While other platforms still don’t allow for photos or emojis in the chat window, Hubilo has scores of them. Many tools are still text-only in an era where Gen Z kids send memes to their grandparents with a heart emoji – and grandma sends a Bitmoji back. A seemingly basic feature of digital life hasn’t attached to a now-everyday tool of digital connection.
For marketers used to measuring event success through half-filled-out attendee experience surveys, a virtual event presents a bonanza of data and insights that can accelerate pipelines and drive revenue. In addition, virtual events produce a ton of multi-use content. With the transcript from any event you can generate several blogs, e-books, social media content, videos for the YouTube channel, quotes for the annual report and so much more. By analysing that transcript even further, marketers can generate and execute new campaign ideas quickly.
Although many of us may dread the uncertain season ahead of us and the virtual fatigue that comes with it, there is some good news. We may not go back to the way things were, but that may not necessarily be a bad thing either. Does anyone actually want to go back to the days when your selection of what to buy was limited to what only your local stores carried? Do we want to risk late fees rather than just watching movies online? Do we only want to connect with people like us, or do we value the ability to connect with a more diverse and wider audience on our terms?
Virtual event technology is going to make staying at home way more productive and less of a grind than it was, whether you’re watching surgeons or drag queens. If, through its use, we end up understanding the true value of connection in our distance from one another, isn’t that a transformation worth celebrating?
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Originally published on Business Reporter