Virtual and Experiential Events: Is this New Normal Here to Stay?

People at an Expo


As leaders in customer experience strategy and business-to-business marketing, few things are more important to our livelihood than staying current in a constantly changing world. That said, we’ll be the first to admit we talk a lot about life after the pandemic – and with plenty of good reason. One of the most important topics clients approach us about as of late is what it truly means to be connected virtually, the right way.


The Rise in Virtual Meetings


Briefly ponder the fact Zoom (NASDAQ: ZM) went public in 2019 at $62 per share, nearly an entire calendar year before the coronavirus became a widespread disaster. At its peak in 2020, Zoom stock skyrocketed all the way up to $559 a share. This speaks volumes about the direction of virtual communication.


Most of us have gotten used to Zoom or one of its offshoots (such as Microsoft Teams and GoToMeeting, among others) as a part of our usual work routine. Likewise, in a post-pandemic world, everyone across multiple industries, from oil and gas to other B2B companies, has placed an emphasis on mimicking real-world event experiences. These are being brought online, whether through the use of video, animation, or other methods, providing versatile ways to interact with others.


Breakout rooms are used to further conversations. We book individual meetings by looking at colleagues’ schedules in Outlook. All of this is moving into a world where we imitate real-world experiences as much as possible.


The Advantages of Virtual Events


Event companies are doing their best to overcome technological limitations since there will be an aversion to business travel for quite some time. The pandemic has negatively impacted numerous businesses financially, and as travel is deemed frivolous, there will continue to be more hybrid events. This takes things beyond just Zoom conversations or Facebook Live: virtual events and tradeshows can and will stay the new normal.


With global companies investing millions in sending out invitations for these virtual events, celebrities and motivational speakers alike have pivoted as well to the virtual format. Streaming media has become so popular that all companies are jumping on the bandwagon, in part to avoid the rising costs of airfare, hotels, and being disengaged from the workday. With conferences being recorded and made available digitally, they can be accessed in perpetuity with the click of a button. By watching at our own leisure, increases efficiency and makes our time easier to manage than when planning expensive, obtrusive trips.


Experiences All the Way


There has also been a huge uptick in virtual training over the past year. Certification through corporate means is being completed virtually more and more often, integrating rich media and 3D and motions graphics, all as part of the immersive experience.


With VR and AR (Augmented Reality) picking up too, many companies are using green screens to animate backgrounds and keep people engaged, creating memorable experiences beyond a simple phone call or email.


On the customer experience side of things, prospective buyers are accepting online tradeshow events, and extremely valuable art is now even being purchased in live virtual auctions. In 2020, the NFL Draft canceled their elaborate, multimillion-dollar presentation on the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas by instead going virtual. In 2021, the league shifted to a hybrid model where players and fans were able to choose between virtual or in-person attendance, which ultimately seems to be a fitting compromise going forward.


The Future of Communication


It seems unlikely any event will ever be completely 100% in-person ever again, yet it’s foolish to say in-person attendance will become a complete remnant of the past. It’s in our nature to use all five of our senses, and meeting in person will always be important, albeit less frequently.


Given these opportunities like never before where any two – or two million – people can meet face to face despite an entire ocean-spanning thousands of miles being between them, it’s safe to say virtual events are definitely here to stay.


How we communicate both personally and professionally has changed substantially. Let’s start a conversation. Speak with our customer journey team for getting your go-to-market strategies on track.