Attending meetings and tradeshows without ever setting foot inside a convention center already is an important component of many expositions as virtual and hybrid events become the norm during the 21st century.
Asked why they attend a tradeshow in person instead of participating in a virtual or hybrid
event, most people cited networking opportunities along with a break from the normal work routine, according to results of the study entitled “Measuring and Maximizing the Impact of a Hybrid Event.” The study is part of a multi-year analysis of the exhibitions industry and is co-authored by Todd Hanson, president and founder, ROI of Engagement, and Michael Doyle, executive director, Virtual Edge Institute (VEI).
“Hybrid event strategies have been rapidly adopted in the past couple of years. The burning, unanswered question is: Do they work?” said Doyle. “We are trying to help explore the business use for digital event and meeting solutions and share best practices that earn them a place as a legitimate tool used to move people to action.”
A hybrid event includes elements of a traditional tradeshow, such as exhibits and educational forums, but some components are converted into a digital format and broadcast over the Internet, according to the VEI. A completely virtual tradeshow might include a virtual exposition hall accessible over the Internet and have live events and meetings recorded and scheduled for specific times. Content is made available online for anywhere from a few days to an unlimited period of time.
Digital content generally is provided through a Webcast, which transmits a video file either live or on-demand, or a Webinar, which is an online seminar transmitted either live or on-demand. A slidecast, in which information and images are presented on slides broadcast over the Internet, also is a popular medium for virtual and hybrid events.
Attending a tradeshow or participating in a virtual-only event can each have specific downsides.
Attending in person includes travel, lodging and food costs as well as time spent out of the office, the study indicates. Possible downsides to virtual attendance include missing face-to-face interaction and easily being distracted during presentations.
In the end, the decision to remotely attend via a virtual or hybrid tradeshow often hinges on a desire to save money and time. Nearly 56 percent of those surveyed said they prefer virtual shows due to cost savings while more than 53 percent said they also save time when not attending in person.
Other results from the study include:
•40 percent of virtual show attendance arises from those who just want to attend only some sessions.
•36 percent cited a desire to simply try a virtual event.
•Less than 5 percent of those surveyed said they learn better through virtual show attendance instead of attending in person.
While cost savings and convenience are among major factors cited when deciding to attend a virtual tradeshow, more than 93 percent of virtual attendees said they would not attend an event in person if there were not a virtual option. Conversely, about 78 percent of people who prefer to attend events in person said they would attend a virtual event if there were no in-person option.
Supporting that research is a separate study commissioned by Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and the Sonic Foundry Inc., which provides a comprehensive look at the way hybrid events are currently carried out and how they are perceived within the meetings industry. The study also includes insights and guidance gleaned from experienced hybrid event organizers.
Key findings from the research indicate 93 percent of planners surveyed said they meet or exceed their objectives when organizing a hybrid event, and 70 percent of respondents say hybrid meetings will be an important part of meetings in the future.
“This research clearly supports what we have known but lacked scientific data to support,” said Cindy D’Aoust, COO and interim CEO, MPI. “By strategically using hybrid technology, the planner can expand the reach of their event which increases the ability to drive business results – a far more valuable asset than merely controlling costs.”
The study also pointed toward hybrid becoming the standard. Half of all respondents say they record their conference content for on-demand access – a strong indication that organizations recognize the value of sharing content with those unable to attend in person.
“We firmly believe, and the results of the survey corroborate, that hybrid events will play an important role in the future of meetings,” said Gary Weis, chief executive officer of Sonic Foundry. “We’ve seen first-hand how early adopters of hybrid meeting strategies have expanded the impact and reach of their events, creating deeper attendee engagement and valuable online knowledge while contributing meaningful ROI.”
Some 1,800 meeting professionals, event delegates, technology vendors and consultants participated in the study commissioned by MPI and the Sonic Foundry.