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From tired trade shows and one-dimensional webinars to deeply immersive VIP experiences—virtual events are the fixer-upper marketing success story of the decade. And the rest of the corporate world has taken notice.
After seeing that virtual events can be just as valuable as in-person events, companies are doing more with less by embracing digital events as a budget-friendly alternative to pricey event travel.
But the growth in digital events doesn’t mean it’s time to rest on our event marketing laurels (as if we would).
Now that the event marketing community has more experience under our belt, we think it’s time to talk about ways to futureproof your digital events—starting with the latest trends everyone’s buzzing about.
Climb aboard, because the trend train is leaving the station. 🚄
“We can’t ignore the convenience of virtual events.”
Yesterday’s struggle: The virtual event revolution was born from a need to fill the in-person event void during a global pandemic. But as normality returns, the cracks in the event scene of old are starting to show—and for automation ace Grey Idol, “We just can't ignore the reality of rising travel costs and the convenience of virtual events.”
Tomorrow’s trend: Continue to give attendees options. Here’s Grey: “The ability to mingle one-on-one, from the comfort of your office or home, will afford employees at every level the opportunity to share ideas and meet industry leaders and enthusiasts.” Grey believes that at some point, we may even see events entering the metaverse.
💡Top tip: Voxpopme’s Director of Content Strategy, Christoph Trappe, believes that some kind of 360 or virtual reality component can help attendees interact as they would in real life. “The experience would be closer and closer to reality.”
“We’re seeing a move towards shorter, more focused virtual events.”
Yesterday’s struggle: Expert marketer Jonathan Saeidian says it's time to face facts, “No one wants to sit in front of a computer for hours on end.” Attention spans are short, and the time available for event attendees to dedicate to your programming isn’t as flexible as it might have been during the pandemic.
Tomorrow’s trend: For Jonathan, when it comes to digital event formats, it’s short and sweet from here: “The key trend that we see is a move towards shorter, more focused virtual events, so event professionals need to make their events as engaging and concise as possible. Stick to one day or even half a day—your attendees will thank you, and they'll be more likely to come back next year.” He believes a shorter format gives event organizers an opportunity to show off their creativity.
💡Top tip: If you’re hosting a longer event, try breaking your sessions up into shorter blocks and prioritize key content early on in your event agenda.
“No one wants to just listen for six hours.”
Yesterday’s struggle: The average attendee’s attention span leaves a lot to be desired. For internal events expert Michael Alexis, that’s a big problem when it comes to digital events: “No one wants to just listen for 6 hours. So many virtual events are built in a ‘one to many’ format, with a keynote speaker addressing a muted audience.”
Tomorrow’s trend: According to Michael, increasing opportunities for audience participation is the way to go: “Participation makes your event experience memorable for participants while encouraging networking and other benefits. Event marketers that embrace this approach will see happy, engaged participants and repeat guests.”
💡 Top tip: Not sure how to push participation? Every audience is different, and it’s important to know their comfort level. One solution that usually works is to simply move from the traditional faceless Q&A to a dynamic video Q&A that brings audience members ‘on stage’ at your virtual event to ask their questions live.
“Broadcast-style events will become less popular.”
Yesterday’s struggle: Sharing event content on-demand is a great way to get eyeballs on your content and increase brand visibility. But it’s become so ubiquitous that, according to content pro Eric Doty, attendees are less motivated to attend live events. “I know that when I sign up for an event, I’ll get the slides, a recording, a recap blog post… so I don’t show up.”
Tomorrow’s trend: On-demand content isn’t going anywhere—but it’s up to event marketers to give registrants ultra-irresistible reasons to attend live instead of waiting for the recording. Some ways to do this include hyping up the live interactions like chat, offering an incentive or giveaway item for attending, or reminding attendees they can only ask questions if they attend during the event.
💡Top tip: It’s all about keeping your attendees active and engaged. “Events that prioritize participatory experiences like breakouts, networking, workshop activities, and live Q&A will be the best attended.”
“The number one trend is gamification.”
Yesterday’s struggle: Audience engagement is arguably the biggest challenge with virtual events—yet for 49% of marketers, it’s also the number one determining factor for a successful event. Which means this is one problem you absolutely must solve.
Tomorrow’s trend: For Rank Secure founder Baruch Labunski, the solution to the perennial attendee engagement problem is actually pretty simple: ”The number one trend within virtual events is interaction and gamification of the event.”
Gamification organically motivates attendees to interact, engage, and of course—stay inside your event. The right games also give attendees a shared sense of purpose and create a rich environment for networking. It’s one trend that’s definitely here to stay for event and field marketers alike.
NS1 had a Pacman game at their INS1GHTS event! Attendees could play and engage without losing sight of the main stage. Learn more about gamification apps.
“If I can’t see your face I’m falling asleep.”
Yesterday’s struggle: Watching a voiceover + slide deck for longer than a few minutes? That’s gonna be a no from us—and agency CEO Josh Cremer. “If I am staring at a boring stagnant slide my brain is not being stimulated and I am clicking out of your virtual event.”
Tomorrow’s trend: Put simply, the events of the future don’t involve decks with 85 slides. “I need to see a physical person speaking, making jokes, using hand gestures, and giving me valuable insights,” explains Josh.
💡Top tip: Your event is only as successful as your speakers and presenters. Choosing an event platform with robust support for speakers will set everyone up for smooth sailing.
“Attendees will choose how they want to attend."
Yesterday’s struggle: When restrictions were lifted, event organizers and attendees were ready and raring to get back to meeting in person. But for many, that excitement was short-lived. The reality is, for the vast majority of business professionals, virtual events have offered welcomed relief from a hectic in-person event schedule.
Tomorrow’s trend: Tech marketer and PR pro Omri Hurwitz suggests hybrid events as a digital event format that has something for everyone. "Virtual events will be integrated into physical events. This will lead people to be able to choose how they want to attend."
Today, 86% of organizations see a positive event ROI from hybrid due to the fact they can broaden their attendee base, generate increased pipeline, and even reduce their carbon footprint. What’s not to love?
💡Top tip: Treat your hybrid event as two separate events, each offering its own unique experience. Look for ways to incorporate elements of both in-person and digital events to make your onsite attendees feel like VIPs without excluding your virtual audience.
“Events aren’t just a brand awareness play. You want to meet folks that are actively in the buying cycle.”
Yesterday’s struggle: Hosting an in-person event takes a monumental investment of time and money. And that investment, according to our fearless co-founder here at Goldcast, Kishore Kothandaraman, is wasted for most companies. “There are way more efficient ways to raise brand awareness without spending so much money.”
Tomorrow’s trend: Instead of hosting their own large conferences, brands will look for opportunities to piggyback on existing events with their own pop-ups. With the right hybrid event platform, you can create buzz around your pop-up and pull in a virtual crowd as well as in-person attendees.
💡Top tip: A successful pop-up event is all about building excitement in a short time frame. That means it’s time to call in the ringers from your martech stack. You’ll need the ability to seamlessly integrate live streaming, email blasts, geofenced ads, and social media channels into your hybrid event.
“Event marketers need to shift their focus from attendance to on-demand consumption.”
Yesterday’s struggle: While virtual events are about a million times more convenient than in-person events, some attendees are still simply too busy to sit down for a one-hour webinar. Demand gen pro Joe Kevens breaks it down: “Today’s reality is that many people don’t want to attend your virtual event live. They want to watch the recording on demand when it’s most convenient.”
Tomorrow’s trend: Repurposing event content is already a key event strategy. Going forward, the events industry will strike a better balance between optimizing attendance and content consumption.
If you took your live attendance from 30% to 40%, move on to increasing your on-demand consumption rate
💡Top tip: Always keep your event KPIs and core event metrics in mind. According to 84% of attendee respondents, on-demand content increases view time—which cascades down to your bottom-line goals post-event. “Don’t lose sight of the most important goal: converting your virtual event registrants to qualified pipeline and revenue for your business.”
“If your platform fails, all of your efforts are for nothing.”
Yesterday’s struggle: Digital marketing strategist Shiv Gupta is quick to highlight a virtual event challenge that plagues us all—glitchy tech. “No matter how fantastic your content is, if the platform fails while the event is taking place, all of your efforts are for nothing.”
Tomorrow’s trend: With plenty of virtual platforms to choose from, Shiv believes the key is to “test out various virtual event platforms, solutions, or partners in order to avoid any undesirable circumstances.” Moving forward, providing a smooth and glitch-free online event will be key to positive brand recall.
💡Top tip: Don’t let the sea of virtual event platform options overwhelm you. Get to know exactly what you’re looking for and know that you don’t have to settle for less.
“Mobile is the future of virtual events.”
Yesterday’s struggle: In 2021, 55% of worldwide online visits came from mobile. But unfortunately, many event marketers still don’t have a mobile-friendly tech stack for their digital events. That could end up being a huge potential miss when it comes to building an audience.
Tomorrow’s trend: For Adword Nerds CEO Daniel Barrett, the transition to mobile is simply inevitable: “Mobile is the future of virtual events. If your virtual event isn’t optimized for mobile, then expect low attendance, low engagement, and bad reviews from your target audience.”
💡Top tip: Create a checklist to ensure a high-quality mobile experience for your attendees. For example, don’t forget to add mobile-sized assets to your event’s branding tab.
“Events need to act as matchmaking services for people who can help each other or they’ll struggle in the future.”
Yesterday’s struggle: In the days of conferences past, attendees would spend hundreds (or thousands) of dollars to go watch speakers and hope to meet useful contacts while there. Finance expert Jack Prenter says those days are over. “Unless your talk is revolutionary, most attendees are more interested in who they can meet and work with than they are in learning.”
Tomorrow’s trend: Attendees have spoken, and 90% of them say networking is the top reason they enjoy in-person events. Virtual conferences absolutely must prioritize networking. Jack recently attended InsurTechNY, which offered “speed dating” with other event attendees. “It was the most productive and useful event I’ve ever attended because I could fill my calendar with useful meetings before I even arrived.”
💡Top tip: Including speed networking in your event is an excellent way to quickly get your virtual attendees interacting.
“Now that we’re in an age where more people are using VR and AR, webinars need to be reimagined for this new medium.”
Yesterday’s struggle: Tech entrepreneur Gauri Manglik says it best: “Webinars have been around for decades.” In those decades, online event technology has made leaps and bounds. Yet many digital events still follow the same tried-and-true strategies, which can oftentimes come off as stale and uninspiring.
Tomorrow’s trend: Now, the virtual event tech space is equipped to give attendees a truly immerse experience with AR and VR. “Events will start incorporating these new technologies so that people can see and feel what they’re learning instead of just listening to it or reading about it on their screens,” says Gauri.
💡Top tip: Since networking is a crucial part of a professional event for most attendees, start there with AR and VR. Say hello to the era of the virtual handshake. 🤝
“Virtual events are going to encounter more security threats.”
Yesterday’s struggle: When we asked him what to look out for, security expert Volodymyr Shchegel was quick to remind us of the Zoom 2020 cyberattacks. “It was usually at a prankster level, but a derailed event presentation could cost you clients.
Virtual events are going to encounter more security threats—they are a goldmine of personal and corporate data and are typically run without any real cybersecurity measures in p lace.”
Tomorrow’s trend: Client relationships are all about trust. Unfortunately, even a single security misstep can damage that trust forever. So while security won’t drive instant ROI, it can definitely help protect your relationships (and revenue!) in the long run. Brands will flock to secure and compliant event platforms that treat security as a company value. 💯
💡Top tip: Continue to prioritize, review and iterate your event security strategy on a quarterly, bi-annual, or ongoing basis.
“Expect more features to start dropping.”
Yesterday’s struggle: Zoom fatigue has become an all too familiar ailment for attendees across the globe. With a flurry of virtual event invitations hitting their inbox every day, it’s harder than ever to make your event stand out.
Tomorrow’s trend: For CMO Hunter Mefford, the secret is to: “Look out for more features to start dropping as digital events scale.” He continued, “Contests, interactive chat and games, premium/VIP markers for attendees, virtual/NFT type swag, giveaways, and shared/overlapping event co-streams, to name a few.”
💡Top tip: Make sure all virtual event features can be easily integrated into your virtual event platform. No one wants to be worrying about clunky add-ons during the event!
Learn More: How to Choose the Best Virtual Event Platform
Digital events have come a long way in a short time. What was once revolutionary is now expected. But is your team prepared to deliver on those expectations?
To keep up in the fast-paced world of event marketing—you have to be on the money when it comes to the digital event trends of the future.
At Goldcast, we’re here to help. We know just how fast the world of digital events can change. With our purpose-built B2B event marketing features, we’re here to help you stay ready for whatever comes next.