The Evolution Of Virtual Events And Their Business Impact
For generations, people have had the desire and need to meet and do business. Trade shows and conferences are popular examples of this human behavior. To bridge geographic distance and avoid costly travel, engineers came up with a number of technologies, ranging from the telegraph to the telephone to most recently the internet.
Phone conferences became a convenient way to for businesspeople to share voice communication in a larger group. Soon, web conferencing added the capability to share pictures and slides and collaborate on a given topic. Increasingly available bandwidth then allowed sharing of live video streams, from simple webcams to sophisticated video devices. Now, all of these technologies have been combined, allowing people to meet in virtual business environments.
Virtual events, taking place on web-based platforms, have enjoyed dramatic growth and acceptance in companies around the globe. By combining aspects of web meetings, webcasting and social networking, virtual events offer a unique attendee experience.
But, virtual events were just the beginning. Now, companies of all sizes are moving towards always-on virtual environments to reach more people, reduce customer acquisition cost and stay connected with their audiences around the globe. Persistent virtual environments have emerged as a powerful platform for companies to connect with customers and prospects anywhere and anytime.
For example, in response to decreased travel budgets and increased pressures to remain in the office, last year IBM created a persistent, â€œalways onâ€ Virtual Event Center to more effectively engage with worldwide clients and prospects across all lines of businesses. The experiment has been a success so far with IBM reaching 18,000 clients and prospects through 80 virtual events run from 26 countries distributing more than 15,000 documents to visitors. In an interview with Direct Marketing News, Cheryl Max, Director of Corporate Functional Capabilities at IBM, said that the challenge with virtual events is engagement.
While it’s easy to run into someone in a hallway at a face-to-face event, virtual platforms are different. â€œYou have to create the right triggers and opportunities for people who are participating to engage with the speakers and one another,â€ Max said.
Companies like IBM are leveraging virtual environments to facilitate continuous conversations between their audience and their brands. Whatâ€™s more, the technology allows them to collect unprecedented marketing intelligence, while reaching much wider audiences. And it helps mature leads without the constant barrage of email and phone calls that are part of more traditional marketing initiatives.
Another trend in the virtual event space is the combination of the physical with the virtual, creating hybrid events. Marketing departments have found this to be a promising way to revive stagnant trade shows and conferences and increase attendance as those who canâ€™t attend in person, can participate virtually.
Whether hybrid, persistent or one-off, virtual business events and environments are on their way to becoming an indispensable component of every companyâ€™s marketing mix.