They say adversity is often the catalyst for change and for large-scale events, COVID-19 has been no exception.
With ongoing public health policies, like border closures and social distancing, virtual conferences are fast becoming the norm for Australian business. In fact, 85% of companies are now using digital channels for education purposes.
With live policy debates, expert presentations and B2B networking, a virtual conference has many of the landmark features as an in-person event. But how effective is the virtual event model when compared with its in-person counterpart?
Here we outline ten key benefits exclusive to the digital medium.
#1 Optimised Q&A and live debate sessions
In large-scale conferences, Q&A and live debate sessions can be daunting. Particularly in high-profile events like the AFR National Policy Series, where live TV cameras are often running.
At a virtual event, even stage fright-prone delegates can put forward their burning questions to speakers; simply by punching them into a keyboard.
You won’t have to deal with an awkward three-minute silence, either, whilst an Event Manager runs across the conference hall with a microphone.
#2 Easier networking
Fixating on a delegate’s midriff-height name badge as you decide whether or not to approach is a thing of the past at a virtual event. Goodbye awkward in-person encounters, hello optimised networking sessions.
With each delegate’s name, title and company clearly displayed on the screen next to their face –and a list of present attendees – you can ensure your networking efforts go more smoothly.
A quick web search of a delegate’s name out of camera view and you can improve your encounters, too, making sure you ask the right questions from the get-go.
#3 Better environment for learning
The doors of a conference venue filled with senior executives are rarely closed for long. The higher up the executive, the higher demand for their time.
While ducking out of a conference to deal with an important phone call is considered standard etiquette these days, it can make for a distracting environment.
On a digital platform, this is not an issue. With noisy distractions muted-out, you may be surprised by how much more content you absorb on the day. This means less time transcribing conference proceedings, to report back to your team the following week.
#4 No more running around
Breakout sessions, topic streams and one-on-one meetings can make conferences stressful, particularly in large-scale venues.
Virtual conferences streamline this process, ‘transporting’ you to a virtual meeting room at the click of a button.
With this feature, you won’t be late for your next session, when Mr. or Ms. “Keen-to-impress” over-extends your (involuntary) buffet-side chat.
#5 Better time management
We have all been to an event where an opening speaker overruns by five minutes. And his or her successor by fifteen. By lunch break, it is not uncommon for conferences to be tracking 45 minutes behind schedule.
In a virtual conference, however, session times can be automated, forcing speakers to stick to their time-slot.
Only planning to attend an afternoon session in between your client meetings? With this feature, you can be assured your 4pm talk will actually be held at that time.
#6 More flexible scheduling
Thanks to the digital medium, costly overheads like venue hire no longer dictate how and when your event must be scheduled.
For in-person exhibitions, a five-day event might be prohibitively costly for the organiser. For a virtual event, it is much more viable. Longer events mean greater exposure for exhibitors and more value for attendees.
Virtual conferences could also be restricted to just morning or afternoon affairs, depending on the requirements of your sector.
Perhaps you are a teacher that wants to attend an Education conference, but can’t take time out of lessons? Your next annual conference might be a late afternoon gig, spread over one week – instead of the standard two-day 9-5.
#7 Kinder on the budget
With venue hire, catering and other costly overheads out of the picture, conference providers can also chop down ticket prices.
Combined with the interstate travel and accommodation savings you and your team will make, your company’s conference budget can comfortably shrink, without losing any of the benefits.
#8 Attend sessions at your own pace
With the option to attend sessions live or play them back at a later time, you can consume your conference content in a manner which suits you.
Either binge watch the live sessions – enjoying perks like live Q&A and debate – or listen to the recordings in manageable chunks to avoid death-by-virtual conference.
#9 Intuitive recommendations
Digital conference platforms like Brella have complex algorithms that match your delegate profile with other like-minded attendees.
This will help you to make those all-important new connections and arrange one-on-one meetings with speakers, sponsors, and other delegates.
#10 – Attend more of them
With virtual events being less costly and time-consuming, you can attend more of them. That’s more premium content and more B2B exposure. At a time where policy and best-practice is evolving as quickly as the crisis is taking hold, that is certainly something to celebrate.