By Michael Doyle
I’ve been heavily involved in virtual events since the early 2000s, actually anything related to digital events as the category is quite broad stretching from webinars to perpetual, event-based environments and communities. When I started the Virtual Edge Institute and caught the attention of PCMA (Professional Conference Management Association) who were very astute and saw the value of extending the reach of in-person events for their members and importantly for their member’s event programs, I thought online events and physical event extensions would be huge.
What event or meeting planner or any marketer for that matter, wouldn’t want to leverage the power of reaching the billions of people that have access to the Internet but can’t attend an event or meeting in because of cost, time or schedule conflicts? Instead, online events and live streaming of events experienced steady growth but always played second fiddle to in-person get-togethers.
Then, life happens and for one reason or another, people cannot meet in person. Today it is the coronavirus, in the past it was 911 or the great recession or volcanos that disrupted travel and people were forced to meet, network, sell and learn online. Major events like Mobile World Congress, Facebook, Apple, Cisco and Google all canceled or postponed, It’s not just mega-events and venues, smaller events are getting canceled as well.
There have been organizations that saw the value of convening online audiences and incorporating online participation into their event and meeting portfolios. Cisco, Microsoft, Amazon, Dreamforce. IBM and many others large and small have leveraged the incredible reach of their events engaging hundreds, thousands and in cases, millions of online participants.
Its situations like coronavirus, which totally changes the focus from in-person events and meetings to online, that change has sent many organizations scrambling to replace their events and meetings and deal with massive travel restrictions while still keeping in contact and engaging with their customers, prospects, employees, members, stakeholders, and even students.
No one is happy we are again in this situation, and personally, it is going to hurt my new event venue in Silicon Valley (Blanco) for sure, but we have been building it with the very intention of opening a venue that is built for live streaming the event, networking and learning experience too much larger remote audiences.
Virtual events seemed to be on a growth trajectory beyond the tech sector before the current health and travel crisis and if history repeats, we’ll see a lot more people adding online event and meeting programs to their permanent marketing, sales, learning, and development mix.