Top Virtual Event Trends Shaping 2024 and Beyond

In 1993, the first documented virtual event happened —  an online trade show organized by the Visual Data Corporation.

Now, decades later, virtual events may be one of the most lucrative weapons in any enterprise’s marketing arsenal.

While the popularity of virtual events may have been gradual since the 90s, it is often perceived as a serendipitous outcome of the otherwise notorious pandemic. In fact, it’s not surprising that virtual events have almost become the norm in today’s hyper-digital world, given that the groundwork was laid over thirty years ago, with constant innovations throughout.

The transformation of the events industry and its technologies over the last few years has given virtual and hybrid events an edge over in-person or physical events.

In fact, according to this AnyRoad report, 9 out of 10 B2B marketers believe that their virtual and hybrid events have been successful.

How virtual events became the lifeline for businesses during a global pandemic

While video conferencing was being used sporadically through the years, the rapid transformation started in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, when in-person interactions were impossible. Businesses, universities, schools, and organizations struggled to stay afloat and maintain the continuity and momentum of their everyday operations.  

This was when the business world witnessed a mass adoption of virtual events because it was an easy, simple, and, more importantly, cost-effective solution to an unprecedented problem.  

Virtual events and video conferencing soon became the backbone of almost every business to sustain and continue operations. As per this report, in December 2020 alone, the number of virtual events being hosted per week went up to 12,000. 

While video calls became common for meetings, the demand for virtual events and webinars increased during the lockdown, offering solutions to the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In 2020, during an interview with Forbes, Ruben Castaño, CEO of 6Connex, said:

Over the last few months, we have seen our business of virtual events grow by 1000%. We have been working overtime and hiring non-stop to keep up with the demand.” 

Starting with simple video conferences and webinars, the popularity of virtual events is growing at a large scale, and it is projected to reach $262.52 billion by 2030, registering a CAGR of 18.8% from 2023 to 2030.

Today, virtual events provide organizations worldwide with the flexibility to operate and network globally. This flexibility has removed geographical limitations and enabled event planners to host various events, from hackathons to virtual recruitment drives, on a larger scale.

The evolution of virtual events and the technology behind them

A virtual trade show in 1993 was said to be the first-ever virtual event to take place. Back then, the tech infrastructure was not as mature as it is today — neither in terms of internet connectivity nor ideal event platforms.

In the years that followed, video conferences swiftly created a space for virtual interactions. Events like WWDC23 by Apple, INBOUND by Hubspot, and Meta’s F8 Refresh are prime examples of the great shift of event formats from in-person to virtual since 2020. 

Today, setting up a meeting, webinar, conference, or even a large-scale event is easier than ever, and that too from a single location. Virtual events have become accessible to everyone, from small businesses to large corporations and educational institutions.

It is also fair to establish that, with every passing day, new technologies are driving digital progression and shaping the present and future of virtual events. Virtual events are now more than just a simple medium to connect with people. 

Today, the business outcomes of a virtual event can be anything we envision, and beyond that, we can:

  • Create an immersive and engaging event experience
  • Customize virtual events, incorporating our visions and ideas 
  • Evaluate event performance, access attendee behavior, interests, and more 
  • Generate potential leads, improve brand presence, and increase ROI. 
  • Offer a means to provide education.

Virtual events have undergone significant challenges, changes, and innovations over time. Today, virtual events are the reality of this digital landscape, not only for event professionals but also for event attendees and businesses at large.

Virtual events are now more technologically advanced, with better tools, solutions, and virtual event platforms.

The role of virtual event platforms in facilitating successful virtual events

From simple video conferencing tools, virtual event platforms have evolved into multifaceted solutions capable of hosting a diverse range of events. They have become indispensable for businesses and organizations looking for an all-in-one platform to seamlessly conduct virtual and hybrid events.

Virtual event platforms offer solutions for hosting different formats and types of events. Be it a virtual event or a hybrid, you’ve got it covered on one platform. 

Today, organizations can host meetings, webinars, AGMs, town halls, trade shows, conferences, product launches, and everything else in between. These platforms also accommodate users throughout the event journey, from planning to execution and event post-event engagement. 

Event organizers can facilitate online events with these virtual event platforms from anywhere in the world. 

By optimizing event platforms, businesses gain access to numerous features and functionalities to fulfill their specific event goals and objectives, including:

  • Event setup and management: Event platforms facilitate the seamless setup and management of virtual events. Users can schedule sessions, tailor events, manage content, and more.
  • Registration management: These platforms provide robust registration management capabilities, allowing businesses to create customized registration forms, manage attendee data securely, and track registration metrics to optimize attendance and participation.
  • Event marketing: Event platforms offer features for promoting virtual events, such as branding components, custom email templates for personalized invitations, and social media integration, helping businesses reach their target audience effectively.
  • Lead generation: These platforms enable businesses to generate leads by capturing attendee information. This helps organizers track engagement, monitor their interests, and identify potential prospects during the event.
  • Attendee engagement: Virtual event platforms offer a range of interactive features and engagement tools, such as live polls, Q&A sessions, gamification elements, and networking lounges, to keep attendees actively engaged throughout the event and enhance their overall experience.
  • Event data and insights: By leveraging virtual event platforms, businesses can gather valuable data and insights on attendee behavior, session popularity, engagement metrics, and overall event performance.
  • Pre-, during-, and post-event support: Virtual event platforms provide comprehensive support before, during, and after the event, offering round-the-clock assistance and technical support. These platforms help you engage with attendees after the event, keep them interested, and help you explore the potential therein.

Benefits of virtual events

Virtual events have become a medium for global networking, transforming how businesses, organizations, and institutions work.

In this new era, we can optimize virtual events for various purposes, including education, event marketing, lead generation, and more. Let’s now explore how shifting to virtual events can positively impact your business and how you can leverage virtual events to maximize your potential.

Cost savings 

The evolution of virtual events throughout these years has led to significant cost savings for event organizers and businesses by eliminating the need for venue rentals, multiple vendors, travel expenses, and other associated costs. 

Virtual events have reduced overhead expenses while offering dynamic features and an engaging event experience within designated event budgets.

Global exposure and reach

The raging success of the virtual events space underlines the transformative potential of virtual event platforms. Businesses can seamlessly engage with their global audience and employees, rising above geographical boundaries and participant limitations. 

This expanded reach opens up new opportunities for networking, collaboration, and business growth on an international scale.

Technological advancements

The evolution of virtual events and the constantly evolving needs of users have heightened the need for technological advancements and innovations in the industry. 

These emerging technologies are focused on addressing user demands to the last detail, from strict security measures to AI-driven solutions, empowering users with best-in-class capabilities and cutting-edge solutions. 

Reliable pipeline generation

Pipeline generation is one of the major benefits of hosting virtual events. About 87% of marketers consider the opportunities generated by virtual events to be a success factor. 

Virtual events not only generate potential prospects but also ensure a good conversion rate, significantly improving ROI. Almost 74% of event planners claim to have witnessed a good ROI in just six months.

Branding and customization possibilities

Branding and customization have become integral aspects of virtual events. Custom branding features encompass various aspects of an event, including registration forms, emails, event landing pages, in-event personalization, and more.  

Today, through virtual events, organizers can easily enhance their brand presence without spending any extra penny, unlike in-person events.

Better engagement and networking opportunities

Enhancing attendee engagement and facilitating networking opportunities are central objectives of virtual events. Online and virtual events offer flexibility to incorporate various interactive features to engage their attendees.

With features like emoji reactions, live polls, Q&A sessions, virtual breakout rooms, networking lounges, speed networking, and more, it becomes feasible for attendees to collaborate and engage with each other more actively.

Future-proof your event strategy with the right technology

It is fair to say that technology has fully transformed the event industry, offering better tools, feasible solutions, and advanced features to meet every business’s specific needs and requirements. 

With an increasing demand for event technologies, there is a growing emphasis on creating immersive experiences. Here are some of the most promising trends and emerging technologies that can be optimized to future-proof your event strategies: 

Augmented and virtual reality 

Augmented and virtual reality are evolving technologies expected to hit $71.2 billion by 2028. These technologies create immersive and interactive experiences for attendees and empower event organizers to improve their events, branding, and promotional strategies for brand launch or product launch events.

AR and VR are used to create real-life environments by using 3D animations and holograms, allowing participants to effectively engage with the event content and enjoy the experience.

Artificial intelligence

AI-driven solutions are transforming virtual events by automating tasks, personalizing attendee experiences, and providing valuable insights through data analysis. 

Today, 86% of event apps use AI in some form, like chatbots, smart matchmaking, or 

content creation; AI-powered tools are being utilized to enhance efficiency and engagement in virtual events.

System integrations

Seamless integration with existing systems and tools is a key trend in virtual events. System integrations enable organizers to leverage data from various sources and enhance the overall event data flow. 

Integrations with CRM systems, marketing automation software, communication tools, and social media platforms streamline event processes and workflows and improve communication between event stakeholders.

All-in-one platforms

Keeping pace with the evolving needs of virtual events, all-in-one platforms emerge as a one-stop solution for hosting various types of events, from webinars to hybrid conferences.

Many platforms offer integrated features and functionalities such as event mobile applications, online or on-site registration, API integrations, live transcriptions, live streaming, networking tools, and more to streamline the event planning process and execution.

Hybrid event models

Hybrid event models, which combine virtual and in-person components, are gaining traction as a flexible and scalable approach to event planning.

Hybrid event technologies enable organizers to maximize reach, engagement, and ROI while accommodating diverse audience preferences and constraints. 

Social media

Social media platforms are pivotal in influencing the trajectory of virtual events, providing robust tools for promotion, engagement, and community development. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, the widespread adoption of social media for various purposes is undeniable.

Social media platforms effectively draw the desired audience, offering convenient avenues for experiential marketing, event promotions, and hosting live webinars.

Gamification

Gamification techniques have emerged as an essential technology to increase attendee participation and retention at virtual events.

By incorporating elements such as leaderboards, quizzes, games, challenges, and rewards, organizers can incentivize engagement, drive desired behaviors, and create a more enjoyable and interactive event experience.

Data and analytics tools 

The demand for advanced data analytics capabilities has surged, empowering event organizers to monitor real-time data, generate reports, monitor attendee behavior, and make data-driven decisions. 

Real-time event data enables organizers to assess event performance, analyze attendee behavior, and pinpoint areas for enhancement.

Blockchain for security

With the growing importance of data security and privacy, users seek virtual event platforms prioritizing security features such as encryption, authentication, and access controls. 

Blockchain is emerging as a much-needed technological advancement in virtual events, offering enhanced security, transparency, and data integrity. As per this report by MarketsandMarkets, the global blockchain market is set to generate revenue of over $94 billion by the end of 2027, with a CAGR of 66.2% from 2022 to 2027.

Blockchain-based solutions provide a transparent and immutable record of transactions, ensuring the integrity of event data and safeguarding against unauthorized access or manipulation.

Live transcription

Live transcriptions or closed captions are gaining popularity due to the feasibility and flexibility they bring to the event audience. This empowers event organizers to reach wider audiences, overcoming language barriers. 

Numerous virtual event platforms offer live transcription capabilities in various languages, catering to the evolving preferences of users and their diverse audiences. 

HD live streaming 

The rise in demand for virtual and hybrid events has increased the need for high-definition live-streaming capabilities. HD live streaming is essential for hosting live events, delivering high-quality video content, and providing immersive experiences in virtual events to a broader audience. 

Event mobile application

Event mobile applications have become vital for enhancing the virtual event experience. These applications, commonly provided by virtual event platforms or all-in-one event management solutions, offer a range of features tailored to streamline event participation. 

Disrupting the industry and shaping the future of events

In today’s digital landscape, the availability of a mobile application, alongside browser-based access, is essential for ensuring the accessibility and flexibility of virtual events. These applications empower users and attendees by providing seamless access to event content, networking opportunities, interactive features, and more.

The evolution of virtual events may have been slow initially, but who’s to refute the irrefutable disruption it has created, marked by innovation and adaptation?

From simple webinars to virtual conferences, incorporating dynamic features and cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and virtual reality in virtual event platforms has enabled organizers to deliver truly immersive experiences.

While in-person events are still an integral part of this event industry, 90% of event organizers say all large-scale events will be hybrid or virtual in two years. 

To remain at the forefront of this rapidly changing digital world, it is vital to embrace the latest trends and technologies. Many other technologies have been introduced, and numerous others will be introduced in the coming time, continuing the ever-evolving cycle of virtual events.

Dive into our comprehensive guide to discover expert strategies and tips for turning virtual events into profitable ventures.

Edited by Jigmee Bhutia

 
Reference

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