A Virtual-first Event Strategy in a Post-COVID World
Since COVID hit, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about what events will look like when the pandemic subsides. Over the past several months, it has become pretty clear: the successful event of the future will be a hybrid event with both virtual and live components but that starts out as a virtual event. I call this event strategy virtual-first events.
One only has to look to the recent headlines from two event management software companies that announced monster rounds (especially for the event tech category): Bizzabo, founded in 2011, just closed a $138M round funding while Hopin, founded in 2019, just raised $125M (at a $2B+ valuation).
Why are investors betting on event tech all of a sudden? I mean, the category has been underfunded for years and I’d go as far as saying it wasn’t really a category. Rather, it consisted of websites and forms to use before an event; random add-ons available during an event (e.g. audience response, lead capture at trade shows, etc); and surveys after an event.
The answer is that by creating a container that houses the entire event and all of the activities within it, virtual event platforms offer event organizers the opportunity to capture the entire event experience, all attendee data—from registration to engagement and beyond—as well as a bigger share of the money exchanged within events.
Prior to an actual platform, events had a leaky bucket problem. Not all attendees downloaded the event app (or used it), their session data wasn’t all captured, sponsors/exhibitors didn’t uniformly collect leads, speaker management was herding cats, etc. Virtual event software solves for these issues by confining everything to one place and forcing unified processes.
Why will virtual-first be the way forward even when we can gather in-person again later this year? It opens the door for (1) event organizers to hone in on their event’s audience, and (2) fast/cheap experimentation as it relates to hitting an event’s objectives.
Thus, while some “legacy” live events (eg Salesforce’s Dreamforce) will be able to pivot to include a virtual component and become hybrid , most people and companies who want to organize an event will start with a virtual one and move on to a live one once they’ve figured out their differentiators, strategy, audience, and more.