Virtual events are on the up, but there are challenges inherent for organizations shifting to them, per a new report [pdf] from PathFactory. Here’s a roundup of recent changes, barriers faced and best practices, according to the study.
In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s no wonder that virtual events are a new staple in B2B organizations’ strategies. Alongside the upheaval of the exhibition industry, in-person events have been stopped in their tracks as the world was told to stay at home. Among the 200 B2B professionals surveyed in May of this year, some 9 in 10 (89.1%) reported that the number of virtual events that their organization hosted or were a part of had increased in the previous 90 days.
By some margin, webinars or webinar series have been the most popular virtual event format for the B2B organizations surveyed (94.6%), followed by small-scale, single vendor virtual events (68%), and virtual chats such as coffee talks and fireside chats (62.2%). Large-scale, multi-vendor virtual tradeshows have also been popular, as cited by half (49%) of respondents.
As can be expected for any new venture, organizations are facing challenges as they increase their involvement in virtual events. The report identifies pre-event challenges that are not only affecting the average company, but those enjoying attendance rates of above 75%. The top challenge impacting both of these groups shows up as a short timeframe to promote the event, but other challenges include underperforming emails or digital ads, and an inability to target or get to the right audience for the event.
One notable difference in the experience of organizations with over 75% attendance is the challenge of a lack of consistent messaging for the event – 36.4% of these respondents cited this challenge compared to 1 in 10 (10.2%) respondents overall.
Unsurprisingly, during an event not all organizations are achieving the attendance rates they might hope to. The largest share (44.2%) of respondents claim that their typical attendance rate for a virtual event is 26-50%, while around 4 in 10 (38.8%) are reaching 51-75% and just 7.5% are achieving attendance rates topping 75%.
Respondents also report a struggle to keep audiences engaged during an event, with the top challenge being a lack of audience participation (42.9%), followed by a lack of interactive audience tools (34%) and audience drop-off mid-event (34%). Not only that, but fewer than 1 in 5 respondents rated their post-event engagement at 6 or 7 on a 7-point scale. In fact, the majority (51%) rated it their engagement a 3 or lower on the scale.
What Can Be Done to Improve?
When asked to respond as an attendee of a virtual event, around two-thirds (67.5%) of respondents shared that having live participation opportunities (such as Q&As, polling, chat, quizzes etc.) would make them want to stay, listen and engage. They were also positive about listening to speakers cover topics that are not openly discussed (48%) and having supplementary content available to read/download in-session (40%). However, just 9% showed enthusiasm for visiting virtual booths/sponsor events as a subset of the overall event.
Post-event, the top method respondents are using to drive engagement is promoting the on-demand webinar recording (70.7%), while other popular tactics include creating a nurture program curated for registrants and attendees (57.1%) and creating repurposed content on the webinar discussion (54.4%).
All of the above tactics are clearly playing a part in organizations’ attempts to increase the ROI from virtual events. In order to do this, the largest portion (47.6%) of respondents want to improve the way they maximize engagement with their audiences post-event, while a further 36.7% want to change the format of their virtual events to be more dynamic and interactive.
You can find the full report here.
About the Data: Results are based on a May 2020 survey of 200 B2B professionals across multiple experience levels, company sizes and industries.